Critical Development

Language design, framework development, UI design, robotics and more.

Spb Mobile Shell: An Alternative Windows Mobile Shell

Posted by Dan Vanderboom on May 6, 2008

Spb Software House has been creating some great Windows Mobile software for a while now, but recently they released their Spb Mobile Shell, and I’m so impressed that I felt the need to tell everyone about it.  The only reason it doesn’t quite rival the iPhone interface is its lack of scope: it doesn’t (yet?) replace all of the built-in applications for managing tasks, calendar items, file exploration, process/task management, and so on.

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Why am I so enamored with their user interface?  Let me count the ways:

  1. Visual effects such as linear gradients, faded backgrounds for emphasizing foreground popups, fast animated page transitions, and a choice of skin-like color schemes.
  2. Large, touch friendly buttons that eliminate the need to pull out your stylus and poke at impossibly tiny areas of the screen.
  3. A large button bar along the bottom, and the elimination of the start menu along the top and the Windows Mobile menu along the bottom (with only two top-level options).
  4. Selection of phone contacts using photo buttons.
  5. Gesture recognition of finger movements to flip pages.
  6. The ability to customize menus and other settings.

For only $29.95 (or packaged together with three other useful applications for $49.95), Spb Mobile Shell is a steal.  I’ve experimented with a few other shell applications, and had problems with glitch and buggy behavior, but so far this little gem has performed marvelously in all regards.

I hope they eventually provide some way to integrate new applications into their shell.  It would be nice to take advantage of some of their visual layouts, message box pop up effects, and so on, to provide an interface in my own software that’s consistent with their shell.  Better yet, the Windows Mobile team should throw in the towel with their existing shell and buy this one to use as a guideline to replace theirs.  As Mark Miller so rightly observed in the recent Dot Net Rocks episode “The Science of Great UI“, the Windows Mobile 5 user interface sucks.  Companies like Spb wouldn’t be providing alternatives if this wasn’t the case.  From what I’ve seen of Windows Mobile 6, things aren’t looking much better there, either.

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