Apart from SlideScreen, it seems like pretty much every alternative Android launcher out there is a slightly different version of the same thing; namely, the stock Android launcher. Well, SlideScreen is no longer alone. With Zune Home, we have something rather familiar but entirely different to what we’ve seen before on Android.
As the name would suggest, Zune Home is an homage to the laudably sleek interface found on Microsoft’s Zune HD portable media player. What it does is replace your standard homescreen with a simple list of clickable text labels: phone, contacts, etc. These link to applications of your choosing (apart from phone and marketplace, which are preset), meaning you can have the “internet” label open up your preferred browser, eg Fennec.
Should your favourite app not fit under one of these labels, you can pin its icon to a Quicklist on the left hand side of the homescreen. While this works fairly well for easy access, it does “uglify” the homescreen somewhat, not to mention the icons looking like they belong to the titles to their right. The ability to add custom titles to the main list would be preferable, I feel.
When starting with Zune Home for the first time, the links on the main screen are not tied to anything. You must go into “apps” and manually link them to each title, by long-pressing on the application name in the apps list. This can be confusing initially because tapping “email” or “twitter” or “internet” will just highlight that word without taking you to any program.
While its simplicity sacrifices some functionality, it does deliver on the promise of smoothness. Flicking up and down the text menu is strangely satisfying, and the sudden-stop physics of the Zune menu scrolling have been successfully replicated here. Sadly the impressive 3D rotation animation between screens is not present, with a simple slide or zoom transition having to suffice.
Zune Home has been on the market for a little over a month now, and is still a work in progress. The dev is working on unread message indicators, and I’m sure there’s more to come.
If you’re into minimalism, Zune Home might be the homescreen replacement for you. It is available for $0.99 on the Android Market.