SPB have been making software for smartphones for years now, they started with Windows Mobile, they recently have been making software for Symbian and in the last year or so have been making software for Android. SPB Shell 3D is their latest creation. The name may sound familiar as they had something for windows Mobile and Symbian with almost the same name.
SPB Shell 3D is a home replacement app. It will totally replace whichever launcher you have, be it Sense, Blur or just the stock launcher. It has five unique points that SPB are hoping will push them ahead of the competition. The five areas are the launcher, panels, 3D carousel, intelligent folders and SPB Widgets. I will have a look at each area one by one.
The launcher lets you have shortcuts to icons, folders and widgets much like any other launcher. It does not support live wallpapers and it does not support scrollable widgets apart from their own. It will let you set up about a dozen screen all full of widgets and shortcuts, you can swipe across the screen to move from one to the other. It does have a few unique points. The first is a button in the bottom right of the screen this is the app drawer button. The next is the button in the middle of the dock, you can either tap it to trigger the 3D carousel or slide it from side to side to pick a different panel.
The 3D carousel is a 3D overview of all of the currently loaded panels. You can swipe across the screen to spin the carousel or slide the button at the bottom to move between them as well. When you arrive at the one you want you tap it and it loads up. The 3D carousel will also displays a 3D animation of what each panel can do, for instance if you hover over the clock panel you get a 3D animation of what a clock does best! The same applies to the weather panel, the calendar panel, pictures panel or any panel that contains spb widgets really.
Panels are what SPB are calling homescreens. There are several panels that are just one big widget, such as clock, weather, calendar and pictures. You can also create your own panel made up of shortcuts, widgets, SPB widgets or SPB folders. When you are in the carousel view you can re-arrange the panels into a different order. You just tap the symbol in the bottom right and it goes into edit mode, this will also show you what other panels are available.
Android has always let you create folders on your home screen. SPB Shell allows you to create folders, it then adds it’s special touch to them. Basically as soon as you add an app to the folder it creates a name for it, ie you put Tweetdeck in the folder and it calls the folder “Social”. The more apps you add it will rename the folder if your tip the balance towards “Games” for instance. The folders give you four different views, 3 most popular, 7 most popular, folder and scrollable expanded. This allows you to take up as much or as little space on your current panel. You can even add certain widgets and shortcuts, ie wifi toggles and favourite contacts.
SPB Shell includes several unique widgets. You get weather, wifi toggle, bluetooth toggle, flight mode, battery gauge, signal strength, birthdays, volume, gallery, world time, call log, clock, calendar, backlight and messages. Most of these come in two or three variations of size. When you press and hold on the widget a green arrow appears meaning you can change it’s size. These widgets also have 3D animations on the carousel view. Some of the widgets have a 3D view when you tap on them, such as messages which allows you to scroll through recent messages.
So that pretty much wraps up SPB Shell 3D. It is a great home screen replacement, which once you get used to how it works can easily rival it competitors. I reviewed the final release candidate on an Htc Desire Z running Android 2.2. Once up and running it was very smooth and transitions were fast. It did not like Htc’s hibernation fastboot thing, it just would not load I had to reset before it was useable. They are aware of bugs in this version so hopefully things will be ironed out by now.
There are three final points I should point out. 1 – You can’t use scrollable widgets apart from their own. 2 – At the moment it does not support themes, the old Windows Mobile versions were popular because of this feature. 3 – The price is £9.31 which puts it way ahead of other premium launchers. So do you like what you see and can’t wait to install this? Or do you think SPB have lost it?