One of the best reasons to choose Android over iPhone is how you can customize every bit, especially the default launcher itself. It’s an easy way to give a whole new look and feel to your smartphone, and even extend its functionality. Now, the latest and greatest launcher comes from an unexpected source: Microsoft!
While Nokia launched its Z Launcher last year, this is Microsoft’s first attempt at making a launcher for Android. Surprisingly, Arrow Launcher is pretty awesome. In fact, there are plenty of reasons to make this your default launcher on Android.
Three Home Screens: Apps, People, To-Do
Most Android launchers let you add a number of home screens and set up a bunch of widgets in them. Not Arrow Launcher, though. You only get three home screens, one of which has contacts, another has notes and reminders, and the main home screen for your apps. Unfortunately, this means you can’t use any of the best widgets for Androids.
This is the central home screen, which shows your most frequently used apps and your most recently used apps. The tray at the bottom displays five apps by default, but you can slide this up to reveal five more apps as well as your five most recent contacts. The apps here can be customized, so treat this as your “favorites”. Of course, you can add folders instead of apps.
Swipe left from the main home screen and you’ll get the “People” screen. Why do you need this when you have the recent contacts in your main home screen’s tray? Because People is where your frequent contacts reside. You can access the dialer too.
Your most recent action (call, text, or email) with a person is presented as the default means of communication. But if you tap on their profile picture, you’ll find shortcuts to all three actions. It’s not the best contacts and dialer app for Android, but it’s still pretty handy to have it on your home screen.
Notes & Reminders
You can find fantastic to-do list apps for Android, but the convenience of having a home screen dedicated to your tasks can’t be beat. Swipe right from your central home screen and you can see your to-do list. Add an item quickly, press the item to set a reminder or star it, and check it when you’re finished. Of course, you can delete it whenever you want to.
Auto-Updating Bing Wallpapers
Microsoft’s Bing is renowned for the lovely background images it uses in its search engine homepage. It’s a wonderful way to get a new wallpaper on your Chromebook every day or even setup a Bing wallpaper slideshow in Windows. Well, now you can automatically get those on your phone!
Arrow Launcher’s wallpaper settings let you enable a daily Bing wallpaper, which is automatically rotated. Plus, to make sure you don’t waste data, you can set it to auto-download only when you’re on a Wi-Fi network.
You should also look through the existing collection of wallpapers that Arrow Launcher comes with, though, since they’re gorgeous!
Arrow Launcher vs. The Best
Arrow Launcher is new and wonderful. In our round-up of the best free Android launchers, we thought Nova Launcher, Apex Launcher and dodol Launcher were fantastic. How does Microsoft’s effort hold up against them?
- Customization: Arrow Launcher loses the battle here. You have a limited number of home screens which you can’t change, which also means a limited number of apps visible at a time. You’ll be reliant on the App Drawer more often than not.
- Widgets: Arrow Launcher does not allow widgets. That alone would be a deal-breaker for many of our readers.
- Performance: In this aspect, Arrow Launcher scores. It’s as light as Apex Launcher or Nova Launcher, while looking a lot better. Microsoft has done well here.
How to Install Arrow Launcher
There are two ways you can get Arrow Launcher right now.
- Join the Google+ community and get it officially. It’s unclear who they are accepting, but the plus point is that you will get the official app from the Play Store, which means updates are easier.
- Download the Arrow Launcher APK and then manually install it on your Android phone.
Microsoft Hearts Android Productivity
This isn’t Microsoft’s first foray into the world of Android. Last year, it introduced Microsoft Office Mobile for Android [No longer available], which compares favorably to Google Docs.
Before that, Microsoft’s lock-screen replacement Next Lock Screen impressed us with its productivity-focussed outlook.
That seems to be the underlying theme to Microsoft’s Android apps. Office is all about productivity, Next Lock Screen is about productivity, and now Arrow Launcher has a focus on getting things done with its built-in tasks.
Do you think Microsoft’s approach of focusing on productivity will help it make an impression in the world of Android?