This is a review of Handy Shell from epocware.com.
I installed the beta version of Handy Shell on my Nokia E71, which is a S60 3rd Edition FP 1 device.
Installation is simple and straightforward. The binary was installed using Nokia’s PC Suite running on the Windows desktop.
What is the purpose of a shell over a mobile operating system? Usually a shell presents a customizable home screen that gives very easy control and quick access to several applications.
When used along with themes and ringtones, it reflects the personal preferences of users and lets them make a statement to other mobile enthusiasts.
Nokia devices with Symbian OS have a native shell called Active Standby which has been improved much over the years. Symbian OS 9.3 with FP1 has a pretty slick Active Standby that can be customized to have up to 6 applications shortcuts on the home page and numerous other notifications like calendar & to do, phone events, messages and email, WLAN, multimedia, and so on. Almost any application can be added as shortcut to the home screen.
Some new devices like the E71 and E66 also support a Switch feature, which allows the user to change the contents of the Active Standby screen, theme, type of notifications, etc at the click of a button.
The Switch function could be enhanced to have more features in future making it a very vital usability parameter for evaluating devices.
Handy Shell goes one step further and provides a more customizable shell, which completely replaces the native Active Standby screen.
The Handy Shell provides 3 views: Today View, Application View and Contacts View.
The home screen on Handy Shell is called Today View. It provides 5 plug-in on the home screen. They are the Clock, App shortcuts, Phone indicators, Calendar and Handy Weather.
I didn’t have Handy Weather installed. So I couldn’t test the plug-in.
The Clock plug-in lets you access the OS’s clock and alarm functions in a single click. The good part is the it’s bigger and appears prominently in the top, with the date and alarm on either side.
The app shortcut plug-in on the home screen offers 6 shortcuts which can be changed to any application installed in the OS.
The Phone Indicators plug-in, as the name suggests lists has a link to the call register, the messages, email, themes, profiles and Bluetooth. These shortcuts cannot be changed.
The call register shows the number of missed calls, the messages shows new messages and new email. I noticed that sometime the message indicators were wrong. Messages always showed a new message even after I read all of them.
On all the Views, the left soft key has options to configure the settings and also create new messages, alarms, to do items and new contacts.
In addition Handy Shell gives the power user two more views, called Application View and Contact View. These Views can be toggled using the right soft key!
The Application View gives 16 more application shortcuts.
The Contacts View gives 16 contact shortcuts.
This is probably to compensate for the fact that speed dial isn’t supported by Handy Shell.
I would have liked to retain the option of speed dial also.
Handy Shell also allows the power user to configure the RED hang up button and the HOME button. I could toggle between the Active Standby and Handy Shell using the RED button. The HOME button can be used to switch between Menu, Handy Shell and Active Standby.
You could also configure the RED key to either send apps to the background or close them.
After the app is closed, the HOME and RED buttons are still mapped to Handy Shell key map. You press the RED key and Handy Shell is back on. This is a good thing. You don’t have to start the app explicitly from the installation folder.
Handy Shell is quite easy to use. You only have to setup shortcuts for contacts and applications and you are ready to go.
In this section, I’ll list out what I liked about the application, what I didn’t like and what I missed from Active Standby.
What I really liked:
- + Large clock plug-in on top
- + More apps in a single click
- + RED & HOME key customization
- + Intuitive and easy to use
- + Contacts View
What I didn’t like:
- - Typing names / apps on home screen seems buggy; sometimes only numbers are seen, after a few tries alphabets are seen;
- - To do items do not appear in the calendar plug-in
- - I cannot customize phone indicators plug-in; seems like a place holder now
- - No keyboard shortcuts available
- - Speed dial doesn’t work
What did I miss from Active Standby:
- - Missed call, message and voice mail balloons on Active Standby
- - Cell info does not appear on Handy Shell
- - The current profile that is configured is not shown on the Today screen. I didn’t know the phone was in Silent mode until I changed to Active Standby.
- - Notifications of Enhancements connected to the device, like headsets are not shown on the Today screen.
- - Music player / Radio indicators are not shown on the Today screen.
Overall Handy Shell is a good application that gives the user more flexibility in using the shell and gain faster access to applications and using the Smartphone better. It’s definitely worth a look. You can buy or download a trial version of Handy Shell at Epocware