Arrow Launcher (for Android)
If you use a skinned Android interface like that on the popular Samsung Galaxy S6, you know that it’s not exactly straightforward. When you swipe in either direction on the home screen, you get pages of widgets, icons, and settings, but never, it seems, what you need. Enter Microsoft Garage‘s Arrow Launcher app, which is designed to simplify this experience. Given that Arrow has had more than a million downloads, it seems that I’m not the only one who wants more clarity in the Android experience.
You find and install the Arrow launcher just as you would any other Android app, from Google Play, where it’s just a 7MB download that runs on Android 4.0.3 and later. When you first run the app, it analyzes your installed apps to find which you use most. It then asks you to confirm at least five of your most frequently used apps. On my test Samsung Galaxy S6, the TouchWiz option from Samsung also shows up in a panel as an option when I hit the home button; unless you want to have to make this choice every time you hit the button, you can set Arrow as the default. If you’re on a stock Android device, however, you won’t see TouchWiz as your other option, but rather a cleaner, more Arrow-like experience.
The interface is much simpler once Arrow is set up. Though it maintains the left and right swiping from the home screen, Arrow takes the clever approach of surfacing your most frequently used apps. All your favorite apps show up on the start page, and swiping right takes you to your most-contacted People. Another swipe takes you to Notes and Reminders, the next swipe after that leads to Widgets. Finally, one more swipe takes you to Recent, which includes things like recent photos shot. At the top of this last page you see your most recently used five apps.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? After using Arrow, I started to wonder why the OS doesn’t already work like this, and why other launchers don’t follow suit. Of course there are plenty of other excellent Android launchers, such as 360, C, Cheetah, and Smart, but none of those lets you order icons automatically by the most frequently used apps. Most of them do offer more customization and larger views of the time and date, though. But Arrow’s main goal is to reduce, rather than introduce, complexity.
The center All Apps button shows you alphabetized groupings of your apps. It’s not quite as efficient as Windows 10 Mobile’s alphabetical index, which lets you zip right to the letter that starts the name of the app you want. With Arrow you can also swipe up on the All Apps icon to reveal quick-access items like Settings, Phone, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Airplane Mode, Flashlight, Rotation Lock, Calendar, and whatever else you choose to put there.
The People page, in addition to housing your contact list, lets you open the phone dialer. If you don’t want any of Arrow’s default pages, you can hide them using the Edit Pages option of the overflow menu.
Though Arrow’s most noticeable change to Android is how it rearranges your app icons, widgets, and home pages, it also has its own Reminders feature. You can set a date and time for a reminder, but these are separate from the Google Now reminders—those won’t appear on this page.
Arrow comes with numerous customization settings, such as checking for updates, unhiding apps you’ve hidden from the home screen, and choosing custom backgrounds for the start screen, including the gorgeous daily photos from Bing. You can also select third-party icon sets from the Play store. Additionally, you can access Android system settings from Arrow’s Settings as well as providing feedback to Arrow’s developers.
A More Straightforward Android
The Arrow launcher makes using Android an easier experience. I still prefer both iOS and Windows 10 Mobile smartphone interfaces, as both seem clearer and simpler. But Arrow does bestow some clarity and simplicity to the Android interface. For Android users wishing for a more helpful start screen, Arrow is definitely worth a try.