Features & Use
Test device 1:Samsung Galaxy S2, Android version: 2.3
Test device 2: HTC Desire, Android version: 2.3.
3D, 3D, 3D... oh yeah, and 3D – it seems like 3D is all everyone ever talks about these days... Which is why I sympathize with you should you be fed up with hearing about it by now, especially when the term is used in conjunction with something completely senseless (3D toothpaste? Come on!).
But let’s get back on topic: while it might seem silly to refer to certain products as ‘3D’ items, it makes perfect sense in the case of SPB Shell 3D, even though what’s being referred to is, of course, a two dimensional UI with pretty nifty 3D effects.
So, what can this app do? Well, there’s a 3D homescreen/launcher, ‘intelligent’ files, 3D widgets as well as an assortment of widgets and panels that were created exclusively for SPB Shell 3D.
There were a few isues when it came to installing the app on the Galaxy S2 (nothing major, but worth mentioning nonetheless). For one, at first the screen wouldn’t react just after I had downloaded the app and wanted to open it. I prodded at my keyboard but got nothing, so in the end I had to restart the whole thing. What do you know, as soon as I rebooted the thing I was greeted with a window asking me if I wanted to keep my old UIs or switch to new SPB Shell 3D ones. I decided to go for the latter, naturally.
First impressions? Really, really good. For me, one of the app’s highlights is the 3D animated carousel. It allows you to comfortably scroll through, as well as access 16 desktop panels. You can also make adjustments to this display: rearrange stuff, change the colour of the panels or remove panels you aren't using.
SPB Shell 3D delivers a few new functions and widgets. The design for the widgets is really nice, e.g. a world time clock that looks like a spinning globe; a widget for messages; a weather forecast with 3D diagrammes; a clock with over 60 different skins and - my personal fave - the option to change the size display of most folders and applications. There are a few steps to be taken if you want to take advantage of the last option, but that didn't phase me because it really does help make the screens more attractive and efficient.
That being said, it can take a while because you have to long press on the folder in order to change its size. Sometimes what happens instead is that the folder will simply pop open. In the end all it takes is a bit of tactile finesse and patience, which is a virtue as we all know. When everything goes well an arrow is displayed next to the file/application; you can then select between three different display sizes.
There's also an integrated Flickr widget with which you can access the photo of the day. I personally don't need this widget; it's also a bit slow.
So far the app hasn't struck me as a major battery life vampire, which is surprising – I have to admit that I expected it to suck up more juice than it does.
SPB Shell 3D is a great intuitive app that guarantees a whole new smartphone experience. It's a great alternative for users who don't know much about rooting or can't be bothered to modify their device's software.
It runs well and it looks good – a nice combo. I was positively surprised by how well the app runs on the HTC Desire.
The only real drawback is how much the app costs: EUR10,47 (approximately US$15) is pretty steep, but if you're looking to give your Android phone a new coat of paint and are prepared to shell out a bit SPB Shell 3D is a great way to make a visual and functional upgrade.
Screen & Controls
SPB Shell 3D gets top marks for its intuitive controls and beautiful design. The 16 panel carousel provides users with loads of space to those who are looking to set up lots of desktops without drowning in an unorganized mess.
The file glitch I addressed previously was a wee bit cumbersome, and the Flickr widget isn't exactly all that, but both those things are minor issues. Still, we're knocking one star off.
Another thing I particularly like is the option to return to the original Android UI, completely hassle-free.
Speed & Stability
SPB Shell 3D runs very smoothly on the HTC Desire, much to my surprise. The app hasn't crashed once so far, and performs really well overall.
As mentioned, this is is where the app's only major drawback lies. SPB Shell 3D costs EUR10,47/+-US$15, but the price seems decent enough when you consider that users are getting a whole new experience on devices they may have been using for ages.