Pocket PCs with phone functionality are great, but out-of-the-box, Pocket PC Phones miss a couple of useful, sometimes even essential, applications. There are a couple of software packages available, all with their various advantages and disadvantages. Today, I will be looking at Spb’s Phone Suite.
Off the hook
Right from the start, you can tell that Spb’s Phone suite means business. As the name implies, this is more than a simple application, it is a full fledged suite, containing photo dialing capabilities and a notification system, mixed with black / white listing functions, and topped off with both a manager for profiles and a manager for connections. Finally, the mix gets sprinkled with a few extra enhancements to complete the whole thing.
Much of the functionality that is included in the suite, is available from the Today plugin, which has two main purposes:
Besides from supplying you with important information in the form of showing you missed calls and messages (SMS, MMS, email) the Today plugin also gives you one-tap access to a connection manager and a profile switcher.
Visual Call Indicator
By default, the second row features the photo dialing function, which in itself is very extensive and contains an array of enhancements that make it a lot more useful than comparable photo dialing applications. For users that would rather have a bit more privacy (or simply save some more screen space), you can change the display mode of the photo dialing function to be drop down activated. This will add a third icon, right after the profile icon, but will still provide you with the same functionality.
In its most simple form, the Photo Speed Dial function requires you to select a contact and it will be displayed on your Today screen. In today’s age and time, many people have more than one number they can be reached on, so Spb Phone Suite lets you select the (primary) number you want to call.
To make the photo dialing even more useful, Spb Software House includes a whole set of avatars, but you can always use your own pictures. Either way, the photo speed dial function is that Phone Suite hooks into the Outlook contacts and does not require you to re-create your photo contacts database, contrary to other applications.
Once you have selected a handful of contacts, they will be displayed on your Today screen.
Tap the name, and you will be asked to confirm the calling, one might argue that this could save some calling cost…
Distilling your calls
Apart from providing you with picture dialing capabilities, Spb Phone Suite also includes a black / white list module. While the available options are rather limited, the function in itself is powerful enough to keep pesky, unwanted callers from getting through at inappropriate times.
Profiling your needs
Besides the Today screen integration, which provides you with quick access to a couple of your profiles, there is a second, much bigger part of the actual profile part of the Phone Suite:
Every profile contains a host of settings, such as changing Bluetooth, WiFi and cellphone connectivity as well as adjusting backlight and, of course, ring and speaker volume.
By default, Spb Phone Suite includes a diverse set of profiles that will most probably fit most users without a need for adjustments.
Next to a host of big features, the suite also includes a number of small, but useful enhancements:
The Phone Notification feature will continuously remind you that you missed a call or text message using whatever method you like.
The Dialer Extension displays pictures (if available) in your call history as well as adds the possibility to quickly reply to a rejected call with a short message.
While I could probably go on explaining why SPB Phone Suite is useful, it would make more sense if you would just go and download the trial version from the SPB Softwarehouse website..
For $20, this application provides you with a toolset that should actually have been included by default. SPB Phone Suite, once again does what it is supposed to do and does those things the right way. This application is a no-nonsense way of enhancing the way you communicate with and via your device.
After more than seven years since it’s first release, six full releases and lots of time to improve, the default Windows Mobile setup still looks a bit bland. Even though there are thousands of themes, extended themes and a handful of Flash themes, the overall look and usage of these devices has not changed all that much.
If you have never heard of Spb Mobile Shell, you might be wondering why (and probably if) you would need it. Let me preface this review by stating that the Pocket PC interface, per se, is not bad, but I think we can all agree that a lot of stuff is missing.
Officially, Spb Mobile Shell is categorized as an UI enhancement tool. Many Windows users are already familiar with this kind of tools and might be reluctant to try it out, due to bad experiences with memory usage. Contrary to its bigger brethren however, Spb Mobile shell is very memory conscious and does not delay the execution of applications at all.
The first thing you will notice after installing Spb Mobile Shell is the beautiful main screen. All the icons are big enough to be used with your fingers, but you can also use your stylus or your D-pad and buttons.
The content of the various menus is highly dynamic and depends on the applications you have installed, however, it is also filled with various enhancements from Spb Mobile Shell:
Spb Mobile Shell also contains a small camera utility that even works if you do not have the camera software that originally came with your device installed.
It should be noted that on my XDA Flame, the camera application always selected the front side camera and I had no way of switching cameras. This maybe related to the lack of an original camera software though.
The time is Now
The feature you will see the most, unless you change the settings, is Spb Mobile Shell’s Now Screen. The Now Screen provides you with all the information you need at a quick glance:
The top most row contains battery information, signal strength and the name of your MNO. Below that is a bar that displays the latest weather information, your missed calls as well as your unread text messages and emails. The last icon in the listing is a shortcut to your profile settings.
If you have multiple Spb applications, you will appreciate the work that the Spb Mobile Shell development team has put into various integration features:
For example, if you have Spb Weather, the weather forecasts will contain a lot more information. If you use Spb’s Phone Suite, you will be provided with a couple of extra options too. The same integration is also available for Spb Time and Spb Diary and, in fact, virtually any other Spb product.
Feels like Today
Not unlike Spb Pocket Plus, Spb Mobile Shell adds a couple of tabs to your today screen.
The primary row contains information about your battery, the current time, a weather forecast as well as a picture dialing extension that works with or without Spb Phone Suite.
The various tabs themselves contain additional information, such as a listing of recently used applications for the battery tab or World Time in three different cities, which can be selected from a huge listing.
I personally found no need to change the order or content, however if you need to alter the information that is displayed, Spb Mobile Shell provides you with an extensive menu with various functions. The only thing missing is a way to delete a tab.
By default. the bar auto-collapses and thereby saves a lot of space. If you need it, just tap one of the big icons and the linked menu will pop up.
Other than modifications to the Today screen and the addition of a Now Screen, Spb Mobile Shell also provides a way for you to change the color scheme of your device. A very simple feature, but if you are not looking to create your own Themes, this is a nice alternative.
If you are looking to beef up your device with a collection of useful tools, Spb Mobile Shell is the application you want. Even thoughh Spb Mobile shell is not particularly cheap, at $30, the various features definitely justify the price.
Spb Mobile shell provides great enhancements and little overhead. Every function in this software is done the right way with no half-hearted attempts at adding extra functionality at the cost of usability. Spb Software House is known for their solid applications and Spb Mobile Shell is no different.