SPB Shell 3D: Android Launcher Deluxe

There is a huge range of custom launchers on the Android Market, many of which we’ve covered here. SPB Shell 3D is different. It certainly looks the part and boasts some pretty impressive graphics and features, however most people will wince when they see the price: it’s $14.95.

Is it really worth it? Can it beat popular launchers such as ADW Launcher? Let’s have a look to see what $15 buys you.

Introduction

SPB Shell 3D runs on Android 2.1 and above, is designed to replace your stock home screen (such as HTC’s Sense or Samsung’s TouchWiz), and has the same basic features as most other Android launchers, such as scrollable home screens and the ability to drop widgets onto the desktop. It is very simple to use so anyone switching to it from other launchers won’t find it too difficult to get used to.

Features

The default home screen looks pretty much the same as on all launchers. You have the option of creating shortcuts to your favourite applications and the ability to drop widgets (both Android and SPB Shell’s own) onto the desktop. Certain widgets, such as the weather widget featured in the screenshot below, are full-screen and display more information than other weather widgets, for example a four-day forecast and the current wind speed, pressure, and humidity.

SPB Shell 1

The default home screen on SPB Shell 3D along with the full-screen weather widget

The clock widget is also full-screen and displays plenty of information including, curiously, the moon phase. Unless you’re a keen astronomer, or a werewolf, I don’t really see the point of this. The clock is skinnable and you’ve got around 60 themes to choose from.

SPB Shell 6

The full-screen clock widget and a list of the available skins for it

You also have a selection of home screens to choose from, which can be selected in a cool, carousel-style way (more on this later). SPB Shell 3D comes with several “themed” screens, which not only feature widgets that match the theme but it also places shortcuts to relevant applications. The “Travel” screen, as demonstrated below, has a useful world clock widget and features shortcuts to Google Latitude, Google Navigation and Google Places (though Google Maps, in my opinion the key application for travelling, is missing).

SPB Shell 2

The Flickr widget and a themed "Travel" screen, featuring a world clock widget along with shortcuts to relevant travel applications

But one of the best features of SPB Shell 3D (and presumably its namesake) is a slick, buttery-smooth, intuitive 3D interface. To select your home screen, instead of having them tiled out in front you, SPB Shell 3D displays them in a carousel, which you can spin to select. Certain widgets, such as the messaging widget, also display this property.

SPB Shell 3

The SMS widget, showing all of your SMS in a conversation view, along with the carousel selection tool

The animation is extremely smooth (as tested on my Desire HD) and there is no juddering or jerkiness at all when spinning the carousel. You can choose which “themed” screens are included in your stack and you also have the ability, of course, to create new ones. The 3D interface kicks in again here, with your home screens displayed billboard-style (see the screenshot below) which you can flick through.

SPB Shell 4

Selecting which screen you want along with a list of items that can be added to the home screen

There is a nod towards iOS in SPB Shell 3D as well, as the app allows you to create folders on your home screen, keeping it not only neat and tidy but also allowing you to categorize your applications by type.

SPB Shell 5

The various items you can add to the home screen along with an example of application folders

The first application that you drop into the folder will determine the folder’s name, though you can change this later.

Conclusion

So, how well do all these features marry up? The answer is: perfectly. I love SPB Shell 3D. It’s a perfect example of a well-thought out and well-designed application and is a strong candidate for replacing the default launcher on your phone, especially if you are using a ‘vanilla’ version of Android, on which the launcher can seem a little bland.

The only elephant in the room is the price – it is very expensive for an Android application and I can fully understand your reluctance to buy this program. But I’m sure you’ll agree with me that it’s necessary to splash out on something expensive now and again and SPB Shell 3D is certainly a luxury launcher (if such a term exists).

The developers do not, unfortunately, offer a trial version, which I would consider vital for an expensive application — but remember you’ve always got a 15 minute refund window to try out the application (assuming you buy it from the Market).

SPB Shell 3D demonstrates the fact that eye-candy can also find its home on the Android platform as well as iOS. For anyone wanting to replace the stock launcher, or anyone wanting to give their phone a makeover, SPB Shell 3D is well worth considering as a well-designed, feature-rich program. Just don’t look at the price too much.


Summary

A full launcher and user interface for Android devices running 2.1 (Froyo) and above, featuring an intuitive 3D interface.

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  • Brian

    The thing its glaringly missing is landscape support. Totally useless when the phone is docked. I loved SPB on Windows Mobile, but they are still in a WM mindset over there on features and pricing. There are alternatives that work as well for much less.

    • gpmersch

      it does support landscape you have to set it up as it was not default when i bought it. change the rotation setting to “auto” and there you go!

  • http://www.ubayit.co James

    I would love to see a wisbar desktop style launcher with custom dock capabilities. Otherwise Go Launcher works just as well as SPB if not better at times.

  • http://www.tabletpcunion.com tablet

    I have used SPB windows edition. It was goods. I’ll try it.

  • wayne

    A 15 minute return clause is terrible, how can anyone fully utilize the launcher to try it out in 15 minutes??? they should launch a trial version at least, some of us aint milliionairres!

  • Ryan

    Because you have to be a millionaire to afford $15….

    Give me a break.

    I can’t stand when people complain about prices. Especially $15.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamescull James Cull

      $15 is pretty pricey for an Android app.

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  • arisgoku

    are u fucking insane 15bucks on an android app when the 2 best android launchers pro plus and adw ex are 2-3 bucks. do the math a million times 2 is more than a thousand times 15. epic fail doesn’t matter how good it is android users won’t buy it.

  • yilmazeser

    $ 100 is a perfect right to

    100 dolar hak eder mukemmel uygulama

  • Jim Weda

    Personally I really like the look of this home replacement app but as others have said, $15 is pretty high for an Android app. I read a lot of complaints about how it’s very buggy on some phones. Locks up, restarts, memory hog and simple things like no Facebook, Twitter, alternate photo album support etc. Personally I don’t care much about the lack of FB or Twitter but it would be nice to be able to choose what photo album you want on your screen. I seriously think they should have a trial version of at least 3 days if not 7 to fully test out how well it works. There is no way you can seriously see if this app will work for you in 15 minutes. I mean how hard would it be to make a trial version. If it were $5 or less I’d say the heck with it and just buy it, but in a market where $5 is on the high side for most apps $15 sounds like they were drinking/partying or getting their buzz on when they came up with that price. I’m actually surprised at how many people actually purchased the app and then read about how upset they are because of the issue’s or lack of customization it has. There will always be issue’s with apps and I don’t believe there is or ever will be a 100% stable app but you expect to have at least 80% stability if not more on something you pay for. There is nothing to complain about on free apps which is why I get confused when I see reviews about people getting irrate and out of line when they didn’t have to pay for the app.

    This really is an app I would love to try out and make sure works properly on my phone but I’m not willing to shell, (no pun intended) out $15 and hope it works after reading a lot of the reviews recently. Hopefully they’ll eventually wake up and make a trial version as they’ve done on other platforms from what I’ve heard in the past. Unfortunately this is the type of app I can see becoming a victim of piracy if it hasn’t already. Hopefully that won’t be the case but even $.99 get pirated. With a trial version that I can fully test out and see that I have very little issues I would support the developer and hand over my $15 but I won’t take a chance and hope it will work for that price. Just my opinion.

    Jim

    • gpmersch

      I wouldn’t recommend it for anything less then say the Evo 4G as far as specs go. It lagged a bit at first but my phone is pretty full so it had to purge out a bunch of stuff from running ADW EX but now it is flawless on the EVO 4G. Love it and it will be my default launcher until something better comes along. I do also think the price was a bit high but I have used SPB products before and they usually do not dissappoint.

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