On 30 August 2011, a leading mobile software development company announced the release of SPB Shell 3D for Symbian^3 smartphones (with graphic accelerators). This unique 3-dimensional user interface provides a “best-in-class” user experience and visually is most appealing. Smartphone owners will enjoy this convenient, fast and easy to manipulate user interface with great personalisation features. SPB Shell 3D completely transforms the Symbian Home Screen with its astonishing 3D visual effects and highly responsive and natural user interface. Initially released for the Android market, Shell 3D became a revenue-generating hit with US$ 750,000 in earnings within just three weeks.
In December 2010, I discovered SPB Software when I purchased and installed Mobile Shell v3.7.2, the predecessor of the newly released SPB Shell 3D. Mobile Shell is the recipient of five awards including the Russian Calling All Innovators award by Nokia. SPB Mobile Shell was initially launched in 2007 and achieved global success with several million licences being shipped by more than 15 device manufacturers. In 2010, SPB Mobile Shell won the Marketplace Race to Market Challenge in the category “Most revenue made by paid application”. SPB Mobile Shell v3.5 for Symbian S60 was released on 25 May 2010 and updated on 17 June 2010 to v3.5.5. SPB Mobile Shell for Symbian achieved #1 best selling position worldwide, only one day after its initial release! On 12 October 2010, version 3.7 was released which included support for Symbian^3 devices such as the Nokia N8.
Since December 2010, I have become a huge fan of their software and am an avid user of SPB Wallet, SPB Time, SPB Wireless Monitor and SPB Puzzle. If I were the CEO of Nokia, I would be very tempted to purchase the SPB Software company and include their famous Mobile Shell user interface and most of their applications as part of the core Symbian^3 OS. In my opinion, the Mobile Shell user interface gives Symbian^3 the “face lift” it so drastically needs.
I installed Shell 3D v1.1 (Build 2382) onto the C: drive just before the Anna update, replacing the previous Mobile Shell v3.7.2. I chose to install the 6.2 Mb user interface to the C: drive to avoid having to exit the application each time I placed my N8 in mass storage mode via USB. The disadvantage of this is the inability to “mod” the user interface (unless you have a hacked N8). If Shell 3D is installed to mass memory (E: drive), it is much simpler to mod. Simply download skins.zip from this forum (also visit this website) and follow these steps:
- Make sure SPB Shell 3D is installed on Mass Storage (E:).
- Exit the Shell 3D user interface with a long press on the “desktop” and choose Settings.
- Connect to PC via USB in Mass Storage mode, not the default Nokia OVI Suite mode.
- Navigate to the E:\private\20028b16 folder.
- Replace the existing skins.zip file with downloaded version.
- Re-start SPB Shell 3D and enjoy!
Compared to Mobile Shell, Shell 3D brings some new features including folders. A folder can store up to 12 applications (3 rows each with 4 icons) that can be viewed in three different ways. The 3D Carousel is easily customised with different panels which can easily be re-ordered, a nifty new feature! Animation of the 3D Carousel is serious eye candy and shows off the 3D richness of the user interface without touching the screen.
The user interface is packaged with only 13 widgets, far less than Mobile Shell. However, this is only version 1.1 and I’m sure the widget list will grow substantially with each update release. I particularly enjoy the Gallery, World Time and SMS widgets. However, a notification widget is sorely missing which informs the user of incoming e-mail messages and SMSs as well as missed calls. At present, Shell 3D only works in portrait mode (and not landscape).
Each fully customisable panel can be populated with folders which logically group applications together. The folder name can also be renamed which is handy. I have created folders to “house” application icons related to:
- Favourite Contacts and Business Contacts,
- Connectivity (Bluetooth, WiFi, USB, SPB Wireless Monitor etc.),
- Phone Control (BackLight, SmartLight, QuickRotate etc.),
- Favourite applications (SPB Wireless Monitor, SPB Time, SPB Wallet, Camera, JbakTaskMan, MobileGuard),
- Music (Music Player, Shazam/Soundhound, OVI Music, Moodagent, Podcatcher, Play via Radio, Radio, Internet Radio),
- Photos (Photo Gallery, Camera, Photo Editor),
- Videos (Video Player, YouTube Player, YouTube Downloader, Nokia Big Screen, Video Editor),
- Travel/GPS (Garmin MobileXT, Nokia Maps, GPSToolBar, PhoneLocator, SportsTracker),
- Blogs (GSM Arena, All About Symbian, Nokia Beta Labs, Nokia News, OVI Blog etc.),
- Weather (AccuWeather, ForecaWeather, Nokia Maps Weather, Weather SA, Weather Norway),
- The Internet (Web Browser, Opera Mobile, OVI Store, WhatsApp, Skype, Social, Intranet),
- Bookmarks (saved bookmarks),
- Games (Angry Birds, SPB Puzzle, Need For Speed etc.),
- Business (SPB Wallet, Adobe Reader, QuickOffice, Sugarsync, Dropbox),
- Device management (JbakTaskMan, Mobile Guard, Track & Protect, MemInfo, PhoNetInfo, Energy Profiler, Profiles, Themes, Settings etc.) and
- Software management (Device Updates, Software Updates, Nokia Smart Installer, Swype settings, Nokia Notifications etc.).
The bookmarks folder is extremely useful and is populated with my favourite bookmarks saved in the default web browser. I was very pleased to see that I could move a bookmark out of this folder into another folder. For example, I moved my two favourite weather-related URLs (www.weathersa.co.za and www.yr.no) into my Weather folder.
The Favourite Contacts folder is somewhat disappointing as you cannot create separate shortcuts to landline and mobile numbers for the same person. For this reason, I have gone back to using the standard Speed Dial. I created a Business Contacts folder and moved business contacts from the favourites folder.
Another limitation of Shell 3D is the inability to add any system shortcut to a panel. Only applications shortcuts can be added. For example, in Mobile Shell I added a shortcut to the Application Manager which I found most useful. I now have to rely on JbakTaskMan to provide Quick Launch shortcuts to Menu items such as the Application Manager. Shortcuts to the Task Manager and the default Home Screen are also sorely missing!
Although the eye candy is really nice with impressive animations, there is a marked contrast between the Anna OS and the Shell 3D user interface. Hence, moving between the rich 3D user interface and standard Anna applications like USB Connectivity, you are constantly reminded how simple the Symbian OS user experience really is. Some users may take some time getting used to this contrast.
Overall, SPB Shell 3D shows great potential, especially if all the limitations mentioned above can be addressed timeously by the developers. For those of you easily disappointed by the lack of widgets, you may wish to continue using Mobile Shell v3.7.2 and wait for the next update release of Shell 3D.
SPB Shell 3D consumed 6.2 MB of space when installed on my Nokia N8 and the main app consumes less than 5 Mb of RAM when running. SPB Software offer a Rewards Program for loyal customers and hence I was offered a 20% discount on my Shell 3D purchase since I had previously purchased Mobile Shell. Since I purchased SPB Mobile Shell from the OVI Store, the SPB website did not recognise me as an existing or returning customer. However, I sent a short e-mail to Support explaining my situation and within a day, I received the 20% discount coupon by e-mail. The level of user support provided by SPB Software is most impressive. This experience has taught me to rather purchase software from the original vendor than using OVI Store. Finally, since Shell 3D is still in its “infancy” (i.e. version 1.1), don’t forget to check out SPB’s Product Upgrade Policy regarding the cost of future updates.