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Microsoft Launches Arrow, An Android launcher

There are a number of ways to customize an Android smartphone, but one of the more unexpected tools to emerge earlier this year was Arrow, an Android launcher application designed by Microsoft. This summer, an unfinished version of the launcher was discovered by way of a Google+ group for beta testers. But, today, the app has gone live on the Google Play store for all to try.

Arrow Beta

Arrow’s main goal is to organize all your apps and files based on real life use. That means the homescreen is organized for you based on which applications you use the most. You can’t move icons around or create folders, though there is a customizable dock of apps, folders and shortcuts that slides up from the bottom of your screen.

Microsoft included a special page just for widgets. You can add as many as you want and scroll up or to see them all. It’s an interesting spin on how Android widgets usually work, though it might be annoying if you have to swipe around just to check the weather or view your calendar.

There’s also a Recent page that shows a vertical list of all your latest documents, photos, app installs and phone calls in one place. Finally, a People page keeps track of who you talk to the most.

Arrow Launcher

While it may seem surprising to see Microsoft building a tool that lets you customize the way you use your Android smartphone, it’s reflective of the company’s new strategy to embrace cross-platform development instead of trying to lock everyone into Microsoft’s own software and services. You can see this with the release of its flagship Office application for competing platforms like iOS and Android, for example, as well as with its virtual assistant app Cortana.
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