Windows Mobile eye-candy: Spb Mobile Shell 3.0

The Facebook photos, smooth navigation, and widget customizations found in Spb's mobile interface alternative go a long way towards making Windows Mobile engaging.

Spb Mobile Shell: Professional view
Make your home screen all business. (Credit: CNET/Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt)

I'm no cheerleader for most Windows Mobile interfaces, and that goes double for phones like the Samsung Omnia, with its widgety sidebar of management tools that rubs me the wrong way. A decently designed theme is typically an improvement.

Swooping to the rescue, the recently released (and awkwardly named) Spb Mobile Shell 3.0 lays out a heap of good-looking screens, shortcuts, and widgets onto the mobile dashboard without ever deleting the default Today screen. There's a professional layout, casual themes, room for customization, and an extended mobile desktop that triples the real estate when you swipe left or right.

The professional view sports a clock and weather widget, your various voice mail and message in-boxes, alarms, and the calendar on a glossy background whose maroon default you can change (the black looks especially snappy.) Clicking a widget launches a similarly skinned window for further management. Below is a contact icon that opens your contact list. Newly added Facebook integration lets you set your friends' profile picture or take a new one. There's also a launcher that pops up a skinned view of your recently used apps, plus shortcut icons to take you to your full program list, the settings, and the task manager.

Press another icon to see a stylized 3D carousel of screens to swipe through, like the Spb settings menu, your call log, or what's called the Lifestyle layout. This is the theme aimed at casual users, or for off-the-clock business types. Here you're able to change the background and add widgets--like a battery meter, a mini media player, the weather, and clocks. You can drag and drop them around the screen to place them where you'd like. This view also supports that expanded screen I mentioned above, where swiping to the left or right reveals two more panels as large as your main screen. While spacious in theory, widget pack rats will find ways to clutter it.

Spb Mobile Shell: Contact card
Add Facebook photos to the contact card. (Credit: CNET/Jessica Dolcourt)
Spb Mobile Shell: Carousel
Switch among tools and views. (Credit: CNET/Jessica Dolcourt)

Spb Mobile Shell navigates smoothly and intuitively, and the app goes a long way towards making Windows Mobile interfaces engaging and attractive. The color settings should be easier to get to, but the biggest drawback for some may be the price. $30 is more than most cosmetic apps, but the trial download gives you time to decide if the sleekness is worth the dollars. It's tempting at the very least.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.