It is quite a conundrum that Microsoft faces, they are working on their own mobile device platform yet need to support their competition. While Windows Phone is still slowly growing it is not growing fast enough that Microsoft can focus exclusively on it as far as mobile apps and games. iOS is currently in a distant second place to Android but it is still a lucrative market, one that Microsoft is not keen on ignoring. For now though I am going to focus on one of Microsoft’s Android offerings. Their Arrow Launcher. For those that are familiar with Android, you already know what a launcher is, probably have one of your favorites too. Arrow may just change your point of view on Microsoft on Android too.
What is a launcher?
A launcher is simply what you see when you turn on your phone, at least after you pass the lock screen. It is what puts the icons on the screen in a particular layout, places your background picture and controls what happens when you swipe on the screen. Some launchers go for a futuristic look while others try to emulate a particular platform (such as Windows 8).
Why is Microsoft on Android if they have their own mobile platform?
Microsoft is transitioning into a services and software company, more focus on the former. With Bing Search Microsoft has to be on as many platforms as possible to maximize their earnings. This is no different from Google’s efforts on Android and iOS- it is all about that almighty dollar and you won’t earn that without being where the people are. The days of supporting one single platform and that being it are over. Some would argue Microsoft never really enjoyed those days as even very early versions of Microsoft Office have supported their biggest competitor in the computer market- Apple and their Macintosh brand.
Okay, what separates Arrow Launcher from the rest?
Arrow features a rather clean design that lists apps on your home screen based on your activity on your phone. Use Facebook a lot more than you do your browser of choice? Arrow will put Facebook in a closer to the top spot than your browser (on my phone the Chrome doesn’t even register on the home screen). This will help you get to what you want quicker, no more having to fumble through your App drawer or across multiple home screens trying to find a particular app.
Well, just like any other launcher. Your app drawer is at the bottom of the screen along with standard icons that you can set. Swiping from the left to the right will give you the widgets screen. Swiping right to left once will give you the people page where you can make phone calls. Touching the name of a contact here will bring a menu up that allows you to pick calling, texting or e-mailing this contact. Swipe right to left again and you will get the Notes and Reminders page. This is my single favorite page in Arrow. You can make lists, duh, and set alarms on them. For someone who writes a lot this is a very convenient thing to have available with just a couple of swipes. No having to search out an App for it. Now if they could just integrate this with OneNote so it is available across multiple platforms.
Your apps are arranged in a manner similar to that of Windows 8 and Windows 10 on mobile devices. There is a search option at the top, an alphabet on the right and the first part you see here is popular, often used, apps. Scrolling from the bottom up will bring the rest of your apps into view in alphabetical order. Immediately after the most used set is a “New” section where any new apps are placed so you can find them quicker. This is nice if you install a lot of apps and forget what you just installed- it is here for easy finding.
Arrow is not perfect, there is room for improvement. You are not able to change the icon pack at this time for instance. Other than that, I really have no complaints about this beta app. I use it on my daily use phone and love it.