This week saw Microsoft Garage bring its first Android launcher application, Arrow Launcher, out of beta and into the Google Play Store. It’s a no-frills alternative to the stuff you’ll find pre-loaded on your Android handset but it does allow for a moderate amount of customization. If you’re in the hunt for something that freshens up your smartphone’s home screen and app launcher, this might be worth a try. We spent some time playing with it and are happy to walk you through some of the basics of Arrow Launcher for Android.

First time through

microsoft_arrow_launcher (2)Upon opening, the first thing that Arrow Launcher asks you to do is select your top applications and games. You are instructed to confirm at least five of your most used apps; these will be made readily accessible in the launcher experience. Once you’re set, it’s on to the new home screen.

Look around

Swiping to the left from your new home screen will bring up recent activity including applications used, pictures taken, call log, and more. Swipe to the right and it shows people that you are likely to call.

Generally speaking, Arrow Launcher is a rather straightforward layout with nothing too elaborate to worry about or configure. There are some nice animations to be found throughout, albeit they are subtle and won’t distract. While it does feel a little foreign foreign at first we can imagine that users will come to enjoy the simplistic design.

The bottom row of icons from left to right for us was emergency alerts, Chrome browser, the application tray, contacts, and general phone settings. Your results or settings may vary. The bottom five icons can be swiped up to display another five. It is possible, if you prefer, to pull out or swap icons for other applications.

microsoft_arrow_launcher (5)The center home screen showed our top applications at the top followed by a number of others which looked to be arbitrarily picked. While some of these are used on a regular basis, some of them are not. We suspect these apps will change with time. After all, Arrow Launcher claims it will get smarter the more you use it.

If you’re the type of person who does not like a cluttered screen this one may take some getting use to, at least in the early setup.

Indeed, users can customize the home screens by rearranging them in any preferred order. One panel, which was turned off by default, can be use for widgets while another (also preset as off) offers up notes and reminders. This page can be helpful if you like to keep a running list of things to do or jot down ideas and tasks while you’re on the go. As for the standard three pages, they are specific to recent apps and activity, all applications, and contacts/ people.

Inside the app drawer

microsoft_arrow_launcher (10)Tap the home button in the bottom row and your apps are delivered in an alphabetical manner that scrolls vertically. There is a search bar at the top of the app drawer so you can type in letters to more quickly pull up your apps. This will be helpful if you have a lot of applications or games loaded on your smartphone. Swiping to the right inside of the app drawer brings up your widget options with previews available for many of them.

Swiping up from the bottom row also results in some handy and useful settings: airplane mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, flashlight, and screen orientation. It is also here where you can adjust brightness and hop into additional settings within Arrow Launcher.

For those of you who like to tinker a bit and prefer a specific aesthetic, you’ll be at least somewhat pleased. As you’ll find with other app launchers, users can opt for icons from downloaded icon packs. 

As an intial public release, you’ll find enough here to make the launcher feel unique to you. Moreover, the app learns and adapts over time and gets more intuitive. It’s not as full customizable as, say, Nova Launcher, it’s easy to set up and still provides a one-of-a-kind experience.


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