I’ve recommended Microsoft’s Arrow Launcher for Android since the first version launched last October, but there’s always been one little gotcha. Well, not anymore: Now, Microsoft is allowing Arrow Launcher users to fully customize the Apps page on the home screen. And that changes everything.
Microsoft first launched Arrow Launcher for Android in late October 2015, providing a crucial piece of the full Microsoft experience on Android. (Microsoft of course makes numerous mobile apps for Android, but it also makes lock screen replacements, and many of its solution integrate with Android Wear too.)
Arrow Launcher was—and still is—a very innovative take on the Android home screen, which like the iPhone before it presents an unsophisticated grid of icons to the user. Arrow Launcher doesn’t completely dispense with the grid, but it does think beyond app launching by providing separate pages for apps, people, recent items, reminders, and documents. The thinking is similar to that for the original release of Windows phone, where Microsoft is putting the user’s needs at the center of the experience.
Arrow Launcher has received several updates since last year, most notably a 2.0 release in July that added integration with the commercial versions of Office 365 and improved performance. At that time, I noted the controversial nature of the Apps page provided by Arrow Launcher, as it automatically arranges apps according to usage.
That’s … weird. I understand why Microsoft might offer such a thing, but smartphones are very personal devices and users typically want things exactly the way they want them. And while auto-arranging app icons based on which ones are used the most might work for some, many simply prefer to place app icons exactly where they want them. And I think this one weirdness turned people away from Arrow Launcher, meaning they’d never benefit from its other unique features.
So Microsoft has fixed that.
Arrow Launcher 2.2—a “MAJOR” update, Microsoft says—finally provides a fully customizable Apps page on the home screen. This means you can place apps and widgets wherever you want, as you do using the normal home screen on your phone.
Microsoft left the old auto-arrange mode in place, so those who prefer to have Arrow Launcher automatically present the most-often-used apps at the top can keep doing so. But if you’d prefer a more standard Android experience, simply navigate to the Apps page (it’s the default for the home screen), choose Menu “…” and then “Customize Apps.” Ah. Back to normal.
Arrow Launcher 2.2 includes a few other useful changes. The “double tap screen to lock” feature is back. (You will find it again in Settings.) There’s a new collage feature on the Recent page, that presents your on-phone photos at the top so you can share them. And it supports live wallpaper.
Put another way, the best Android launcher just got better, and in doing so, it eliminated the only major issue it had.