Now, one of the very best thing about the Android OS is its ability to have the GUI customised to almost any degree. The standard, vanilla Android look can be changed in nearly every way, from top to bottom, and many manufacturers take advantage of this by including their own custom take on Android, usually filled with bloatware, on many new phones.
The cool thing with Android is, if you don’t like either the vanilla home launcher or the manufacturers version, there are plenty of apps on the Android Market that will let you mess around and change the launcher to your liking. Some will change just one or two aspects of the interface, but others such as SPD Shell 3D, completely overhaul the launcher and bring their own style and functions to the table.
SPD Shell 3D is one of the most eye catching home replacement apps you can find, with stunning looks and seemingly forward thinking ideas, but does it have the features and performance to match the good looks?
Well, the answer is sadly no, not quite. SPD SHell 3D does have some beautiful features, but most of it is window dressing that you will only use when showing off your phone to a friend.
The centerpiece feature, and the one that you will most likely want on your phone, is the carousel view of your homescreens. This gorgeous looking option moves all your homescreens into a circular 3D shape that can be spun and moved around in 3D. It really is impressive, and even more so if you leave it idle, as any home screens that have SPD’s own widgets on them will put on a display of graphics that actually puts many mobile games to shame. It focuses on each screen in turn and shows you a five second demonstration of each widget, so for the moon phase screen you get a spinning moon, and for the calendar a sweep of dates and paper. It is genuinely impressive, and can be altered to your liking, with options such as renaming homescreens, different backgrounds for each screen and many more all available.
So, it is lovely to look at and and stunning technical display, but it is also unfortunately, completely useless.
When you can just swipe between homescreen the normal way, with even the furthest away only taking less than two seconds to reach, having to press a button to go into 3D view, then trying to select the correct screen is just far too imprecise and slow, and grabbing the selector at the bottom to do it is even worse. Not terrible by any means, but far slower and more inefficient than doing it the normal way, so you will probably use it once or twice and then just end up using Android as you always have.
So, you are just left with SPD Shell 3D’s other features, which do not stack up well against other home launchers. The included widgets are ok, but you don’t get as many as you would hope for such an expensive app($15), and each of them have far better counterparts available in the Market. The lack of an ability to set your own custom icons and folders is regrettable.
The app does allow you to run live wallpaper in the background, which can look gorgeous but does highlight a big problem with this app; speed. I have tried this on several Android devices and the problem is the launcher can be so sluggish, especially on boot up where it can add a minute or two to your overall boot time. I wouldn’t mind this, but the launcher can sometimes need to load even after just playing with an app, taking up to a minute to exit an app and get back to the homescreen. It can take even longer on a tablet, especially if you are waking the tablet up.
Overall, this is a gorgeous looking homescreen replacement that, while it won’t replace your default theme is at least a good way to show off to your iPhone owning friends. Just don’t let them see you come out of an app with it running. The high price prevents me from recommending it to anyone who doesn’t have a top end phone or plenty of money to spare on what is essentially a half hour wonder. A lesson that function is more important than form.
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