Microsoft Previews Next Major Version of Launcher

Posted on January 13, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 42 Comments

A Microsoft Launcher Preview is now available in the Google Play Store, offering users an early peek at future changes to Microsoft’s Android home screen replacement.

“Be among the first to help us test brand-new early-stage features as we build an improved version of Microsoft Launcher,” the app listing reads. “The goal of this program is to gain your valuable feedback to improve quality, performance and shape the overall user experience.”

According to Microsoft, the Launcher Preview has been completely rewritten in order to make new features like Dark Mode and Landscape Mode possible. It also provides “numerous performance improvements (speed to load, low memory utilization, battery optimization, and fluent animation).” That said, this early version of the product isn’t complete, and it offers only a subset of the features available in the shipping version of Microsoft Launcher.

New features include:

A new look. You can personalize your apps with custom icon packs, and use adaptive icons to give your phone a consistent look and feel. As before, you can use Bing daily images as your wallpaper or use your own photos.

Dark Theme. This feature is compatible with Android’s Dark Mode settings.

Landscape mode. Microsoft Launcher now supports horizontal orientation when the phone is rotated.

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Comments (45)

45 responses to “Microsoft Previews Next Major Version of Launcher”

  1. proesterchen

    I fundamentally don't understand the appeal of a Microsoft launcher for Android. (Yeah, I know, there supposedly is a small group of fans that's far enough off the reservation to actually long for that, yet somehow sane enough to have moved on from Windows Phone.)

    The fact that Microsoft (according to their own PR!) had to rewrite the entire thing to implement a dark theme and the ability to use the device in landscape mode is completely baffling to me.

    Are we really expecting Microsoft (or really anyone) to come up with a meaningful improvement to mobile UIs in the year 2020?

    • suavegav

      In reply to proesterchen:

      Were you sleeping when Microsoft announced the Surface Duo? An Android foldable handheld which will presumably be using this as it’s default launcher..

    • rm

      In reply to proesterchen:

      Most Android OEM's have their own launcher and there are a lot of launchers available in the Google Play store. However, Microsoft's launcher does a lot to tie it to Windows and increase productivity for those that have both Android and Windows devices. It makes real total since and it is a very good launcher. Hopefully, this rebuilt version will be feature complete and working great when it is released. I really like have Bing wallpaper that changes daily as well (same Wallpaper that is on my Windows computers daily).

    • MikeCerm

      In reply to proesterchen:

      Makes complete sense to me. Microsoft Launcher is there to integrate with -- and push users to -- Microsoft's other products. It gives presents users a Bing search box by default, shows you your Outlook stuff, integrates a Microsoft News feed, etc., and it's also highly configurable so you don't have to use any of those things if you don't want it. Also, it fills a hole in the market. Google doesn't let anyone else use the Pixel launcher, so if you want a consistent experience across devices from different manufacturers, then you've got to look at 3rd party launchers. I've used Nova Launcher forever, but a less tech-savvy person might not want to install an app from a company that they've never heard of and PAY to unlock certain features that actually make it work well. Microsoft Launcher is a safe, free alternative, that's better and more customizable than the default launcher that ships with many phones. And when Microsoft launches Surface Duo later this year, they'll already have a launcher to go with it.

      • proesterchen

        In reply to MikeCerm:

        "Makes complete sense to me. Microsoft Launcher is there to integrate with -- and push users to -- Microsoft's other products."

        That's a great rational for Microsoft to have such a thing, and no rational at all for users to care. (much like Edge, for example)

        • MikeCerm

          In reply to proesterchen:

          You may not care, and I don't really care either, but that doesn't mean that there aren't tens of millions of people who might care. There's literally hundreds of millions of people who use or Office 365 for email, and a lot of those users might actually like the experience that Microsoft's launcher provides. Have you tried it? It's pretty nice. I don't use it because I'm happy with Nova Launcher, which I paid for years ago, but I would certainly recommend Microsoft Launcher to people before suggesting that they pay money for Nova. I mean, without question, it's better than whatever default launcher that comes on literally every other handset, including Pixel phones. Even if you don't use any Microsoft services at all, it's worth it for the gestures alone. Not saying that everyone on Earth is gonna run out and download it, because most people probably don't even know that you can install a 3rd party launcher. Hell, hundreds of millions of people are OK with the horrendous launcher on the iPhone, because it literally never occurred to them that there's a better way to do things. But for people who do want a more customizable home screen, and/or people who like Microsoft services and want better access to them (such people do exist), Microsoft Launcher is worth trying.

          • proesterchen

            In reply to MikeC:

            "There's literally hundreds of millions of people who use or Office 365 for email, and a lot of those users might actually like the experience that Microsoft's launcher provides."

            Does it appear a bit far-fetched and widely optimistic to you to suggest that someone having a mail account with Microsoft would provide them with enough momentum to change the launcher on their Android device?

            Cause I agree with most of the rest of your post, but cannot see the pre-existing customer relationship Microsoft may leverage to rack up significant usage of their Android launcher.

            (btw: In the 4 hours since this post went up, the launcher preview went from 10+ to 500+ installs. I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest there's not a huge ground-swell of momentum for this pre-release product as of right now.)

        • Elan Gabriel

          In reply to proesterchen:

          This is true for every product of an eco system, from iPhone to Google Home to Alexa. What's your point ?

  2. ommoran

    Magic words: Bing Picture of the Day.

    I wish MS would release an iOS app that changed the background to the PoD automatically. That would be a good day for me. Obviously you can't get launcher on iOS.

    I use an iPhone because I'm handed one at work. With all the crap that people buy to personalize it, it's amazing that they just accept the grid of icons. Oh look, folders! Woo!

  3. RonV42

    Landscape would be great when I have it sitting in my dock at work while I have my "wired" headset plugged in.

  4. Daninbusiness

    I have given it a go - so far so good thusfar.

  5. Dan1986ist

    Wonder when those beta testing version 5.x of Microsoft Launcher be able to test this out? Also what is the minimum required Android version for this preview version of Microsoft launcher if anyone knows?

    • slerched

      In reply to Dan1986ist:

      You should be able to go out to the Play Store and search for Microsoft Launcher Preview and get it. I was on the beta but decided to go with Preview.

      If you want to go that far, make a backup of your current settings, install the new one, restore the backup, enjoy!

  6. Vladimir Carli

    I wonder if Microsoft will change its strategy when surface duo is released. Typically the only way to obtain the launcher made by a manufacturer is to purchase their phone. The launcher is meant to drive sales. Will the Microsoft Launcher will be an exclusive for duo or will it be available for free for any android phone?

  7. Pbike908

    I just tried it recently. I compared to stock Samsung launcher, and free Nova I would pick Samsung or free Nova anyday over Microsoft launcher. Other than integrating with Microsoft apps and services, Microsoft launcher is second rate at best. I use paid Nova as my daily driver, however, I recently set up my mom's phone with free Nova (replaced Motorola launcher). I can't believe how popular Microsoft launcher is compared to others....

  8. PeterC

    In the style of Bill S Preston esquire; Most Excellent.

    (note: time to start saving for the Duo)

  9. bgoodbody

    Beware, you must re configure the various page(s) with your apps for the new home page(s). Also link to apps is MIA.

  10. Scipio Magnus

    I have it installed now for a few hours and I like the speed of it. And have put in a few suggestions for features that are missing from the preview that were in the previous version, such as recents page that I can swipe right to, and Bing wallpaper of the day.

    I am going to live with this for two weeks and see where it goes.

  11. jlmerrill

    Paul- Do you use Launcher?

    • Paul Thurrott

      I use it on and off. Because I'm often reviewing a device, I keep it on the stock launcher during that time. And that's most of the year. But I did just switch, if temporarily, to this preview MS Launcher.
  12. IanYates82

    Keen to try on my Android tablet.

    I was on the beta program for the phone, but won't switch to this very-new beta app until it's had some time to bake a bit as I can't afford for my phone to be borked.

  13. Rob_Wade

    It's very rough. Landscape mode is absolutely bad. And the date/time/weather widget doesn't scale correctly (try resizing it to half or's just stupid). One of only complaints about Windows 10 Mobile compared to Windows Phone 8 was that Microsoft stupidly killed the white space between tiles. In Launcher they stupidly have way too much white space. And it would be nice if they at least gave us the option for tiles instead the idiotic sea of Dumb Icons. Also, this version is much slower compared to 5, but I expect that will improve over time. Finally, why can't those fools figure out how to add JUMP LISTS? This should be a no-brainer. When you switch the drawer (a stupid name to begin with) to sort alphabetically I should be able to tap the letter and bring up the jump list.

  14. Daekar

    I love the landscape mode idea... that would make screen mirroring to a monitor a MUCH more appealing prospect, for one thing.

    I hope Microsoft keeps it up.

  15. red.radar

    This is cool. But I love to see Microsoft bring the windows store to android. It would be nice to have an alternative to google play.

    I know amazon has tried this with limited success. I wonder if Microsoft could match or exceed.

  16. sherlockholmes

    Paul question: How is it possible to have the Outlook Calendar as a seperated app?

  17. aumha

    Microsoft Launcher has been my favorite for a few years and I just put it in a bew Samsung A50. Love it, highly adaptable, and (my highest priority) integrates almost seemlessly witheverything in my Microsoft world.

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