If you've followed our reviews of the latest Nokia releases you've probably seen a pattern emerging. While we still think the company designs excellent handsets, its approach to the user interface has been slipping further and further behind the competition. While Nokia has been slugging away at a complete Symbian overhaul, a much smaller software company has taken it upon itself to give the current version of Symbian the makeover it so desperately needs.
SPB is a developer with a fantastic range of software designed for smartphones. A while ago we reviewed the SPB Mobile Shell for Windows Mobile and loved it, so when we saw the latest version of this software had been released for Symbian v5 we jumped at the chance to download it. It is designed with Nokia touchscreens in mind, like the N97, 5800 XpressMusic and X6, which we've had a chance to trial it on, but it should also work with Symbian phones from Samsung (HD Icon) and Sony Ericsson (Satio and Vivaz).
The SPB Mobile Shell is a complete home screen user interface take over. Once installed, your home screen looks different immediately, as it replaces Nokia's single home screen with three customisable workspaces. By default you'll start with clocks, weather and a variety of shortcuts in place, but these can be replaced or removed as you see fit. The next most obvious change is the Shell's visual approach to your address book, allowing you to create a rotating Contacts Carousel of your most frequently dialled friends.
The best part is the software's fluid performance. While we found the standard X6 UI lagged a tiny little bit, there were no perceptible breaks in performance with the SPB Shell. Scrolling between the three active home screens is seamless. There is also kinetic scrolling in all lists, which we found was also fast and responsive to use.
Below is a gallery showing off different elements of the SPB Mobile Shell. If you like what you see, you can find out more over at the SPB website.