Spb Software Pocket Plus v4.0
Windows Mobile’s flaws are well known. Issues such as the X button not closing apps and Pocket Internet Explorer not having tabbed browsing have been around for years. To our luck, Spb Software never seizes to keep us on the edge of our seats. Spb Pocket Plus is at it again with version 4.0, and this time, they’ve gone added new functionality and features that even make HTC’s touchFLO seem like an innovation from the past. Will Spb Pocket Plus prove to be a true necessity for Windows Mobile users? Read on for the review, hot off the press!
Spb manages to change the way we see third party apps. Instead of bringing you a separate solution, they work on improving your current Windows Mobile Interface. Old versions of Pocket Plus already included a fully powered Today plugin, enhancements on the Windows Mobile File Explorer, a Battery Indicator, a real closing X button with a Task Manager, Safe Mode boot up and Alt-Tab Program Switching. New version 4.0 improves them all and adds:
- Smart Scrolling
- Tabs on Pocket Internet Explorer (PIE)
- Fast Search on PIE
- Shortcut labels On the Today plugin
- Third party Today Plugin integration to Pocket Plus’ tabs
- File save/open dialog replacement
- Assigning additional actions to hardware buttons while pressed
Though these are all great, probably the best part of it all is Spb’s strong improvement in memory usage and speed. I’ve noticed as much as a 50% decrease in storage and program memory while almost everything runs smoothly:eek:. These are great news for users who like to drive their devices to the limit!
Setup is a bit large. You have to go through eight windows for the setup process to be complete, but these are all good considering the options that are offered.
Out of all the eight, two are important. The fact that you can choose what to install and the option to use a 15 day trial or register.
After you soft reset, you first view the today plugin and battery bar. Your System tab on Configuration now has Spb Pocket Plus’ Settings also. Try to avoid installing it on the Storage card since it runs automatically with every reset. You can do it, but when trying it, Spb brings a dialog box telling you of known problems on devices where storage card drivers run after this app. I don’t know my case so testing this could lead to a hard reset.
One thing I must be honest about is fact that Windows Mobile, though poor in out of the box functionality, does do a good job in being attractive to the human eye. I must say I like Spb’s focus in keeping WM’s looks alive and just improving what the OS lacks. I know many other apps will probably do the same or even provide better features, but to the expense of adding sloppy buttons or plugins to ruin your view.
I must warn you though, some good features Spb had in previous versions are gone, all as part of their space saving strategy. Voice Command’s Program Shortcuts was the first thing I noticed was missing when I said "Start Screen Off", and didn’t work:(. Repeating Alarms is another which though annoying, did a better job waking me up than WM does:D. I wasn’t very fond of the extended themes, but these were also removed. Sources at Spb state these will be available for a free download eventually if anybody’s interested.
Lets start with the new flagship feature. Spb has found a way to simulate HTC TouchFLO’s finger scrolling from a simple software installation. This is a great enhancement for one hand functionality. The following video could probably do a better job in explaining what it does:
Sensitivity is sometimes an issue, but it’s neat to bring finger scrolling to other devices that are not TouchFLO capable.
Probably the only thing I didn’t like of this new feature is that it doesn’t support the whole Windows Mobile Interface. It only works on your file explorer, Messaging (list), PIE, Pocket Outlook (Email list), Programs & Settings, Search and Spb’s own apps. If I mention list or Email list it’s because I was totally annoyed by the fact that I’m able to scroll down my email list, but not being able to scroll within an opened email. This enhancement is good, but could be better.
Spb does a great job in this department. Not only is there help available for every enhancement offered, but Spb also includes a desktop user manual that’s available on their web site with very detailed explanations for everything. Good one Guys :)!
Spb Pocket Plus 4.0 runs on any device with Windows Mobile 2003, WM 2003 Second Edition, Windows Mobile 5.0 for Pocket PC and Windows Mobile 6.0 Professional or Classic. The version we reviewed was designed for Windows Mobile 6.0 Professional and I ran it on an HTC Herald p4350.
Memory wise, Spb did a great job in reducing the footprint almost in half. The size on my device’s storage came up to 2.9mb compared to the older version’s 4.2mb. Running it drains up to 1.4mb as opposed to the older version’s 2.2mb. Definitely a good call if you ask me.
BUGS AND WISHES
Probably the only bug I noticed is the effect of the lateral scroll bar when I send my device to landscape mode and then returned it to portrait. You’ll probably notice that once the scroll bar disappears, the icon remains cut as if the bar remained.
Wishes I have many, and I know Spb can come up with some good solutions for these eventually:
- Though memory consumption has improved, I would’ve preferred if Spb gave users the option separately install enhancements. This would allow the possibility of sending at least some tools to the storage card.
- The Today plugin is sometimes slow to shift from portrait to landscape. I’ve noticed Spb mobile shell doesn’t have this problem so I know it can be fixed.
- The close button should have some sort of icon when you’re in the today screen, much like HTC’s Home plugin does. Many users see a blank section of the task bar and assume nothing works there. I also recommend that the exceptions option gave a list of the programs installed, just like the today plugin allows you to choose from a list of them. Browsing for the .exe file is old school!
- The small, simple mobile phone like battery indicator is great, but they should figure out a way to allow the user to choose which part of the task bar to place it at.
- PIE enhancements are probably the best I’ve seen yet, but the memory footprint taken when you have more than one tab open is enormous! They need to work on this.
- The Hold feature for Button Mapping is a great idea but I’d reduce the amount of time to wait for the action to take place.
- Safe mode used to allow the option to tap and hold the screen when resetting for it to popup. I’d add it again!
- Smart Scrolling is probably one of the best innovations added. I would, however, want it to support everything in my device. Another thing I’d add is an option to determine sensitivity since sometimes it worked well, sometimes too well, sometimes slowly or sometimes not at all.
Spb offers a fully functional 15 day trial that you can download and later buy for $29.95 from their Spb Softwarehouse web site under the Spb Pocket Plus Section. The price tag increases $5.00 from previous versions, something I honestly don’t like but consider decent if you value all the enhancements you get. I would’ve probably liked it more if all my wish list was included :D.
For current users of Spb Pocket Plus 3.2, it’s important that you know that only users who purchased it after July 16, 2007 will get a free upgrade. Customers who purchased it earlier will get a 50% discount ($14.95).
- Great enhancement for the Windows Mobile interface
- Adds tabbed browsing to PIE
- Smart Scroll works generally well
Today Plugin integration with other Spb Apps and third party plugins
- Sensitivity on Smart Scroll needs improvement
- Some good old tools were removed
- Price increase from last version
- No Smartphone/Standard version
Even with my long wish list, this application is a keeper. I enjoy Spb’s approach to avoiding a learning curve with the improvement of Windows Mobile instead of coming up with separate solutions. Spb Pocket Plus does live up to the reputation of being a true Service Pack Enhancement for Windows Mobile.