By September 23, 2008

Software Review: SPB Online

clip_image002It’s barely out the door, but I have taken a quick look at a piece of software I have been quite excited about for a few months now. SPB Online is a portal to software and entertainment on your Windows Mobile, but is it any good? Read on.

SPB Online is simple software. Of course it is complex given how everything works and the level of service it provides. However, the principal behind it is simple and has the virtue of being the first of several emerging online resources for Windows Mobile needs. Taking obvious inspiration from Apple’s App store and more ambition to the mix SPB are going to be releasing a nice doorway to something useful if a little overpriced.

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The interface borrows largely from SPB Mobile Shell, including the attractive screen transitions. We have online entertainment broken down into several key categories. We will take a look at them one by one.

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First, and most impressively is the streaming television. In this release there was a total of 21 channels. There are 6 Russian stations, 3 German, 4 French and 8 English. As this stands there is a bulletin for you to watch on each channel that changes over the course of the day and a channel guide that is linked to your device’s calendar. I would imagine that the full consumer release will have a wider selection of free digital channels. The streaming is smooth over 3G and there is a forgivable lip sync issue. As in the above screen shot there is a preview and touching this box opens a full screen video with frame rate information at the bottom right (I attempted a screen shot of this however it came out black each time.)

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The Radio application is nothing new. Large finger friendly buttons allow for quick access and the ability to add stations allow for a little personalisation.

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SPB Insight is regarded as one of the more feature filled RSS readers and this is just as competent. I was a fan of Insight for quite a while as there are a great many options to configure the program around your data connection. This incarnation retains these features and ensures you will not be using up any data you may be paying for without you know about it.

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The Weather feature didn’t work for me, I would imagine it is a pretty standard port of the attractive SPB Weather application that has been on the go for some time.

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The feature I was most excited about was the Shop. An App Store of sorts with a bunch of additional categories that iPhone users would probably be annoyed about. Programs-wise there are all of SPB utilities and a couple of other notable titles, namely Agendus, 1-Calc, Pocket Player, Pocket Artist, Microsoft Command, Ringo and IM +. Games include a number of different genre’s with about a dozen games from SPB and some other games companies. Most of this software has a trial which is an obvious advantage but there are a few without. There are some fairly high prices for the content here and it varies depending on the program. Shopping around on the Internet will find you with the same program for a good bit less.

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A nice addition to this collection is the addition of Ringtones and Themes. This appears to be premium software again with most retailing for $0.99. It is a nice thought to be able to change the look and feel of your phone on the fly however, I don’t know that paying for a theme or a ringtone that are so frequently found on the Internet for free is going to be a big hit.

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Another brilliant attraction are the online games. There are only 3 at the moment, however the scope is excellent. You hit the game you want and it looks for an Amateur player somewhere else in the world and a couple of seconds later you are watching them making their move. I have only tried Checkers so far, became engrossed for half of a train ride, then the player quit. I am used to this aspect of online games and I believe this will become a common occurrence given that people will sit down to a night of gaming on a computer or console but not on a mobile phone.

Conclusion

This sets a benchmark for competitors to best. It’s good, not without its problems however. The presentation is strong and I like very much the direction SPB is taking their products. The pricing of $30 might be a little steep for a portal and then you have to purchase extra content afterwards. You get a few nice things for the $30. The streaming will be especially useful once more channels are introduced. The weather app is nice however, depending on your phone, you’ll possibly already have one.
My opinion is to wait and see what happens in a couple of months. If regular updates are made then this will become a must have luxury. Right
now, I’d stick with Kinoma and a Touchflo 3D interface.

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Posted in: Phones

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Seasoned tech blogger. Host of the Tech Addicts podcast.
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