Pros: Innovative homepack concept; Gorgeous themes; Intuitive UI; Customizable widgets; Shareable homescreens
Cons: No tablet support other than Nexus 7
Verdict: Buzz Launcher is the most innovative Android launcher we've seen yet, featuring an intuitive UI, customizable widgets and drop-dead gorgeous themes.
Prepare to have your mind blown. Buzz Launcher is perhaps the most revolutionary Android launcher we've seen yet. Where others like Nova, Apex and ADW seek to re-create the aesthetic of Jelly Bean with a few twists, Buzz Launcher sets out in an entirely different direction -- with remarkable results. Android users looking for a dramatic change to the look of their device will find a lot to love with Buzz Launcher -- just don't expect to load it onto your tablet.
Themes and Appearance
Words seem inadequate to properly describe the beauty of Buzz Launcher, which is undoubtedly the most highly customizable and visually stunning Android launcher we've tested. The sheer variety of dazzling user-made themes nearly boggles the mind. Perhaps the most amazing feature of Buzz Launcher is that when you're using many of these themes, it feels as if you've installed a unique operating system.
The innovative "homepack" concept lies at the heart of Buzz Launcher's malleable UI. The launcher allows you to download user-made homepacks that contain custom widgets, themes and configurations in a single package. After downloading, simply tap "apply to my home" and, voila! your desktop has been completely transformed, with unique icons, widgets, wallpapers, transition effects and more. Moreover, the desktop configuration sets up automatically, saving you the effort of hunting for the themes and widgets on Google Play.
Buzz Launcher boasts a huge array of custom homepacks, most of which differ dramatically from stock Jelly Bean and each other. Most Android launchers share certain design features, such as an app dock at the bottom of the screen and a notifications bar at the top. Among Buzz's homepacks, however, there are no such sacred cows. You're just as likely to find a pack that uses a custom dock and icons as one that dispenses with those concepts entirely, like the beautifully minimalist "Calvin & Hobbes" homepack. Only Jelly Bean's three virtual buttons remain unchanged among all homepacks.
In addition to the virtual buttons at the bottom of the screen, another universal concept is Buzz Launcher's Home Menu, which can be opened with either the Home Menu button or -- if the homepack you've installed doesn't use the Home Menu button -- by double-tapping the desktop. From the Home Menu, you can access the app drawer and a number of sub-menus.
Decor/Wallpapers lets you customize the theme. As with most Android launchers, you can change the wallpaper, increase the size of the desktop grid (up to a maximum of 12 rows and columns) and adjust the size of the margins. Buzz Launcher also lets you enable or disable the status bar, the page indicator, the dock bar and icon labels. From this menu you can also enable infinite homescreen scrolling or lock the desktop.
From the All Screens menu, you can switch the position of homescreens or delete them entirely by long-pressing and dragging the screen to the trash. Additional screens can be added by tapping the plus sign.
The Contents/Upload menu serves as the hub of Buzz Launcher. From here, you can view homepacks you've downloaded, upload your own pack, and browse the "Buzz picks" -- the developers' favorite homepacks. The Contents/Upload menu also lists your most frequently used apps and apps that have recently been installed.
Homepack Buzz lets you browse for homepacks in an elegant, vertically scrollable menu. The menu itself is subdivided into sections for staff picks, trending packs and the latest uploads. The homepacks can also be browsed according to categories such as Character/Cartoon, Simple/Modern and Classic.
Finally, the Buzz Settings menu lets you adjust the launcher's special features, set Buzz Launcher as the default launcher on your device, and send suggestions and bug reports to the development team. We especially appreciated the menu's highly detailed Help section.
Like most Android launchers, Buzz Launcher allows you to change the size of your icons and widgets. Long-pressing on apps and widgets opens a popup menu with options to resize, edit or remove them.
The app drawer can likewise be customized. You can sort your apps according to title, date of installation or frequency of use. Buzz Launcher also lets you hide unwanted apps -- a feature most other launchers only provide in their paid versions.
Good luck if you want to replace the TouchWiz UI on your Samsung Galaxy Tab, as Buzz Launcher almost completely lacks tablet support. When we searched Google Play for Buzz Launcher on our Google Nexus 10, it didn't even appear in the search results. The development team recently unveiled compatibility with the Google Nexus 7 -- we just hope it's working to bring Buzz Launcher to other tablets as well. However, the device will need to be running Android 4.0.3 or later.
Widgets and Plugins
Buzz Launcher takes the concept of widgets a step further, allowing you to create your own unique widgets using the Buzz Custom Widget app. The number of modifications you can make to the widgets is astounding: The app lets you adjust the size of the widget, as well as its color, borders, fill and shadow. Moreover, you can insert and edit text and images, assign the order of object layers, and rotate objects 360 degrees. Anyone hoping to create an advanced widget such as a music player will be disappointed, however: The Buzz Custom Widget app allows you to only create calendar widgets, battery indicators and digital or analog clocks.
Once you've created a widget, Buzz Launcher lets you share it with the community via Homepack Buzz. Custom icons, wallpapers and themes can be shared the same way. Other users' custom widgets can be downloaded from Homepack Buzz, and applied without additional settings.
In addition to the amazingly innovative homepack system, Buzz Launcher provides gesture support, allowing you to open apps or perform actions like "toggle status bar" using gestures such as Swipe Up, Double Tap and Long Press Menu. Although the types of gestures can't be programmed like they can on GO Launcher EX, Buzz Launcher offers a sufficiently wide variety so that you can map your most frequently used apps and actions.
Like other launchers, Buzz Launcher also sports a backup/restore feature that allows you to save your settings to a microSD card. This feature will be a welcome addition for anyone who's had to re-create their settings after wiping their phone.
Buzz Launcher performed slightly faster than stock Jelly Bean on our tests using the Google Nexus 4. The launcher unlocked the phone, launched the desktop and opened the app drawer in 0.38 seconds, 0.34 seconds and 0.36 seconds, respectively. These times narrowly beat Jelly Bean, which completed the same tasks in 0.42 seconds, 0.4 seconds and 0.5 seconds. The launcher proved similarly swift when opening apps, launching Google Maps in 2.3 seconds (2.23 seconds on Jelly Bean) and Gmail in 1.50 seconds (1.54 seconds in Jelly Bean).
Using Buzz Launcher for everyday tasks like gaming and browsing the Web was a pleasure. We didn't experience any stuttering or hang-ups when using Chrome with 13 tabs open, and we could switch seamlessly between the games "Eternity Warriors 2" and "Angry Birds: Star Wars."
"Revolutionary" is not a word bandied about lightly, but it's hard to find a more fitting description of Buzz Launcher. The multitude of varied themes alone would earn it a place among the best Android homescreen replacements, but the innovative concept of homepacks, the custom widget editor and an intuitive user interface set Buzz Launcher head and shoulders above the competition. Our only beef is that Buzz Launcher is essentially limited to just phones, and not tablets. But anyone looking to break out of the Jelly Bean mold is virtually guaranteed to find a design they'll like.