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Yandex isn't a household name in most areas, but if you live in Russia, chances are pretty good that you've at least heard of the Google and Amazon competitor. A few months ago we brought you news of an updated version of Yandex's customized launcher and dialer combination, Yandex.Shell, at the time only available in Russia. Today it's free to download for everyone with a spiffy new English localization. New features for the update include the standard bugfixes and an experimental hardware acceleration mode.

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If Yandex.Shell looks familiar, it should: it's made by some of the same talented developers who've been wowing mobile users for years with SPB Shell 3D and related products. Yandex bought the developer lock, stock, and barrel back in 2011 specifically to bring some much-needed usability and visual flair to its mobile apps. Yandex.Shell 2.0 was the first app to see the SPB team's influence.

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Unfortunately, SPB is no longer working on its own apps. The May 24th update to SPB Shell 3D, which added a few final bug fixes, will be the last one for the launcher. It's still available on the Play Store, but with a price tag of nearly $15, it might be wiser to keep an eye on Yandex.Shell instead - it's likely that at least some of the more flashy features will eventually be ported over. 

Yandex.Shell is a free download. Unfortunately, tablets are not supported at the moment.

What's in this version:

- Home Screen indicator for apps and widgets
- Widget panel
- Instant search
- Dialer
- Skins for your phone
- Wallpaper for home screen
- All localizations improved
- An experimental "Use hardware acceleration for android widgets" setting added (Android 4.0+)
- Other improvements and bugfixes

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • http://peoplewho.tumblr.com wireless G

    I was one of those suckers who paid $15 for SPB back in the day, only to switch back to a more conventional (and functional) launcher after a few days. Won't get fooled again, "Yandex"!

    • Ian Santopietro

      Erm... It's free.

    • smeddy

      Me too! As in, I'm a paid SPB sucker. Even worse, it was "refunded" but the money never came back. I've tried Yandex, meh, quite nice but not Nova or TSF Launcher beating.

    • Mastermind26

      I, too, was a sucker for the SPB shell. I tried using for as long as possible since I had paid.

      Reverted to std. launcher and haven't looked back.

  • andrew__des_moines

    Anyone using a replacement dialer should be very certain it is possible to dial 911. This happened to me with Go Dialer -- I had to call 911 and it didn't go through. Beware.

  • gtg465x

    Do not buy. The older SPB shell got like one minor update and was then abandoned.

    • Chaos28

      Duh! It's free

      • Andrew Aiello

        The one he got was 15 bucks. If they barely support a paid app why would they support a free one?

        • Anon

          After Yandex bought "SPB", they updated and published it for free for Yandex Users. What's the problem?

  • Ark

    I'll join my voice to the chorus. This is very pretty, and basically useless. You are better off with Nova/Apex.

    • chris

      Yep tried them, give me Yandex any day over those 2 boring launchers. found them useless.

      • Ark

        Oh sure, if all you're looking for is "pretty!!!!!", then by all means. If it needs to actually do things, then this is shit.

  • http://cashd00d.co.cc/ WHAT?

    Buzz Launcher is still my go-to.

  • cy_n_ic

    "wowing mobile users for years"

    Only thing i was wowed about was the redonkulous price tag. Everything else....meh...

  • hocestquisumus

    Spb was an absolute must-have on Windows CE. On Android, not so much. But I'll check out Yandex. That Widget looks fine.

  • http://www.friv3.co/ friv 3

    This can be seen as a good news, the expansion would bring high efficiency and new values​​.

  • bakemcbride21

    That time/weather widget looks awfully a lot like sense 5....someone isn't going to be happy...lol

  • bakemcbride21

    Unless it just takes your existing icons and widgets and puts them in the launcher...I thought they reinvented the entire wheel with this but I guess not

  • ChangWizzle

    I was going to try it out until I saw the laundry list of permissions it wanted. While they may be required to get all the functionality out of it, I wasn't comfortable with it. At all.

  • Anonrak

    Yandex and it's all services is localised and well-known in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Turkey. Not just Russia.

  • Michael Ta

    can we move on with the 3D space kind of homescreen? It was cool back when Vista appeared, we're now entering a more practical, straight forward 2D era.

  • Tony

    Yandex says it is now owned by the same developers of SPB. Yandex says for consumers to, "keep an eye out" for their latest developments. You might want to consider the possibility that the same developers of SPB will once again abandon its costomers by offering you the proposed, newer and improved version. "Keep your other eye out" for a new company that will one day dominate the launcher world.