Microsoft Launcher for Android takes over for Arrow with new features, design tweaks

Mircrosoft Launcher
Mircrosoft Launcher (Image credit: Daniel-Rubino/Windows Central)

In late 2015, Microsoft surprised many with its very own Android launcher (read our review) dubbed "Arrow." Although not an official application, Arrow was instead part of Microsoft's Garage cadre of apps that its employees developed on their own time.

Today that all changes, as Arrow is now just Microsoft Launcher for Android. But there is a lot more than a name change, including some new features and the first application of Microsoft's Fluent Design System outside of Windows 10.

What's new with Microsoft Launcher for Android

Microsoft is continuing to build new features into its Android launcher, including a focus on "Continue on PC." Instead of using the share target, which is not intuitive, those using Microsoft Launcher for Android can long press on documents, images, and more to directly continue the experience on their Windows 10 PCs.

That feature requires users be on the forthcoming Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, which is set to be released on October 17. You can read our guide on how to link your phone to your Windows 10 PC to get started.

New features in Microsoft Launcher for Android include:

  • The Feed — Info at your Fingertips. With just a quick swipe-to-the-right, Microsoft Launcher offers a tailored feed of your important events, top news, recent activities, favorite people and most frequently used apps.
  • Beautiful and customizable — Launcher has wide-ranging ways to let you personalize your phone, it's easy to set colors of backgrounds, and new "gesture" support will let even hard-core customizers create the environment that makes them most productive.
  • Continue on PC — And of course, Microsoft Launcher has been designed to make it easy for you to continue what you're working on seamlessly — whether it's photos, documents and more — on your PC

One of the more familiar features that Windows 10 users will appreciate is the ability to pin contacts right to the main launcher. Options let you open the contact's full information or immediately dial that person. Later on, Microsoft expects to have notification support for pinned people reflecting the My People feature in Windows 10.

New "Continue on PC" built right into the Launcher.

New "Continue on PC" built right into the Launcher.

The Feed is also very impressive. Fully customizable, the Feed shows you the recent activities, latest news, calendar events, contact information, weather, and it even has a delightful greeting for you based on the time of day. Users can set the background to be translucent, dark, or light themed with customizable colors like accent colors in Windows 10.

The Microsoft Launcher for Android is fast, and those who already use Arrow will be very familiar with the layout and settings. Users can still customize the grid, swap out icon packs, log into their Microsoft Accounts, back up and restore, disable animations, and more, which makes the launcher very much your own.

Where to get Microsoft Launcher for Android

For those who are already enrolled in the Microsoft Arrow beta program, an update to the launcher to make it Microsoft Launcher for Android should go live today and happen automatically. Your app layouts, wallpaper, and more all remain the same, as this is just an app update, not a reinstallation.

Microsoft Launcher for Android

Those who have Arrow launcher installed from the Google Play store can sign up for the beta today to get the new Microsoft Launcher for Android right away. If you have never used Arrow, you can get into the Microsoft Launcher for Android preview and get the new experience now. Just download the app.

Get Microsoft Launcher for Android (opens in new tab)

Today's announcement follows the similar one that Microsoft's Edge web browser is coming to Android in the coming weeks. The combination of Microsoft Launcher, Edge, Skype, Cortana and more on Android should make Windows 10 fans with Android phones quite pleased.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • You can never clone android into Windows Mobile.
  • Nobody's trying to do that.
  • I am.
  • I am!! And using SquareHome 2, and a few other apps, I've done it! 
  • I use Launcher 10 with IconChanger and GlassArt Icons, Glance Plus and WaveUp. Which ones do you have? And Cortana of cause.  
  • I second "SquareHome 2"; i recently got two S8+ and put it on both of them. Absolutely love it. Almost like using Live Tiles; could use a little polishing as far as tile info updating but still beats the static icon screen on standard iOS or Android screens.
  • Im sorry, I hit the report button by mistake,on your comment I love squarehome have it on my Edge 7  
  • Launcher 10 mimics Windows 10 really well. If Microsoft did the same thing, then I'd consider using their launcher.
  • I used SquareHome2 when transitioning and also tried Arrow Launcher. I landed on Nova, because it's fast and has good customizability. 
  • Yep, I went through the exact same apps...Nova's been great.  
  • Arrow is a way better launcher than WP ever had.
  • I use Arrow Launcher for a year and it is hands down the best launcher on Android. I am really glad that Arrow is getting promoted as official Microsoft Launcher. Now they should make it their launch vehical for all of their AI innovation in mobile as AI is now getting very big and Microsoft should atleast try in this segment.
  • I used it for a while since it was initially released but still can't permanently leave Nova Prime which is my favorite all-time launcher on Android. Arrow though is hands down my favorite next to Nova and really good in many ways.
  • Arrow shines if you are knee deep in the MS ecosystem.  It offers much better integration with MS services than WP ever did.  The only thing that is missing is Cortana.
  • I am ok with this 
  • Surface Phone - Powered by Android
  • Doesn't seems a joke anymore.
  • I've never seen a company change names of their products more then Microsoft. Also, in this pic you will notice that Edge is in the frequently used apps.
  • Edge is coming to Android soon, and I believe it's available right now on iOS.
  • Well....if Microsoft believed in Live Tiles for phones, the Microsoft Launcher would also have a mode that enabled Live Tiles, better than all of the Live Tiles launchers for Android. As a Windows 10 Mobile, Android and iOS user, the broken Microsoft experience on Android and iOS leaves me unimpressed since the Microsoft Account is not the main account for the OS. No matter how many apps Microsoft makes, the OS ecosystem and default account integration still belongs to Google and Apple. Example: I buy games from the Windows Store because my progress and purchase follow my Microsoft Account (MA), running accross a wide range of devices. Example game: Iron Blade. If I start playing the same game on iOS, my purchases and progress only goes to the iPhone and iPad, possibly Apple TV at times. If I start playing the same game on Android, my purchases and progress only goes to Android phones and tablets (possibly a Chromebook, that I will never buy) and other niche possibilities. Playing the game on Windows, via integration with the MA, I can play on my phone, desktop, laptop, tablet, 2-1, convertible hybrid and more. The Windows ecosystem is now anchored on the foundation of the Microsoft Account and that is the core to the Windows experience. matter how many Microsoft apps I have on my iPhone and Android phones, the Microsoft Account experience, the Microsoft ecosystem is forever disjointed and broken. My progress is lost, my money spent is lost as soon as I leave that vast Windows device ecosystem. If I invest in iOS or Android games, apps and services, my money is lost, my progress is lost as soon as I get on my Windows desktop, laptop, tablet....and so forth. Unfortunately, most consumers never experienced going all in with the Microsoft ecosystem and therefore have 0 experience with the Microsoft Account tying in all of their devices, purchases and progress accross every Windows device, including their phone. Maybe it is that I own too many Windows devices, making the benefit of the Microsoft Account integration in Windows immediately obvious. I don't want to go back to a broken, expensive, disjointed experience. I don't want to play a game on my iPhone and Android phone and when I am on my Windows computer, I cannot play the same game with the same progress with improved controls and graphics. I buy a movie and I cannot easily watch it on all of the Windows devices and device types. I don't want to take a step backwards, losing all of the benefits and progress that the Microsoft Account in Windows has brought, when the use case is fully realized. Unfortunately for me, Microsoft is pushing full steam ahead into the old fashioned, disjointed system where the MA is just a former shell of itself, dilluting the value and the efforts of the app developers that utilize the MA in the Microsoft ecosystem. As I type this on my desktop computer, I can open up Iron Blade and pick up where I left off from my phone at home, then pick up on a Windows tablet during lunch and continue on my phone later or get on another computer. If I am exclusive to Android or iOS, I lose that ability and now I am back in the year 2007, when my phone experiences, apps and purchases were completely seperate from my Windows computing experiences. Oh well...who knew progess for Microsoft would mean going backwards.    
  • Then drop your Microsoft account. Things are only going to get worse. Windows will be just a niche desktop experience in the future. Might as well get used to it now. I think this was quite obvious even 10 years ago. After seeing how good Gmail was and how Microsoft had no answer I started transitioning then. Once the iPhone and Android were released and Microsoft again had no answer, it was painfully apparent Microsoft had no hope in the future. Do yourself a favor and move out of their ecosytem. It isn't getting any better and Windows 10 still works fine without Microsoft services.
  • Can't... Lots of my Microsoft certifications are tied to my MS account... Azure as well. MS offers an almost great ecosystem, sadly one vital part is missing: mobile. 
  • "Windows will be just a niche desktop experience in the future."  What does that mean?  The keyboard and pointer for doing real work aren't going away anytime soon.  I would hardly call the Enterprise desktop realm a "niche" market.  In the consumer space?  Yes, the mobile experience will continue to grow and the desktop market will continue to decline, but the need for volume touch typing along with precise pointing will continue to be around for some time, unless you think some type of disruptive technology will replace them in the near future.  
  • Simple solution: get a Vita, 3ds, or Switch if you want to play real mobile games. 
  • Who is that solution for? It isn't for me. Good job at furthering the step backwards. I don't want more devices to carry around to play mobile games, while you're at it, you might as well suggest solutions to seperate the camera, music player, camcorder browser and more to get "real" versions of those too eh? Last time I checked, the games I play on my phone are not fake mobile games and I like them and the benefit of playing them on my phone, via my Microsoft Account. I don't recall me saying anything about wanting to play "real mobile games" or that there is a distinction, as you so proudly, with elitism, try to make. The solution you mentioned....since you claim it is a solution, you're saying that if I get a Vita, 3ds or Switch.....the "real mobile games" will tie into my Microsoft Account...and I will be able to play them accross the Windows device ecosystem? No, I know they wont and you know they won't either. Not only was what you wrote not simple (buying more devices, figuring out how to store and carry them, more to charge, more money to spend, broken ecosystems, games I like are not available..) it was NOT a solution to what I all. Good job at replying with snarkiness that totally misses the point.  
  • If it doesn't have buttons, then it isn't a real game.  Unless you're playing simple games like solitare or taipei!  Your problem stems from the fact that you have an android, a w10m, and an ios for some reason.  And yet you snub your nose at my recommendation of getting a real mobile gaming device, because it's just another device to carry around.  lol.  You make no sense!  Pick one, ios, android, or w10m... don't expect them all to play nice with each other.  
  • I don't think you understand what I originally wrote because: 1.I clearly gave an example of a game that I play and it isn't "solitare or taipei". 2. You list a problem and say it stems from a fact. That is not my problem and it doesn't stem from any facts you have listed. I clearly state what my concern, issue or as you say, problem is. I don't understand why you insist on replacing what I said with whatever you think. 3. I didn't snub my nose at getting a real mobile gaming device because "it's just another deviec to carry around". I listed the reasons why a dedicated mobile gaming device is not a solution for me when I said: "The solution you mentioned....since you claim it is a solution, you're saying that if I get a Vita, 3ds or Switch.....the "real mobile games" will tie into my Microsoft Account...and I will be able to play them accross the Windows device ecosystem? No, I know they wont and you know they won't either. Not only was what you wrote not simple (buying more devices, figuring out how to store and carry them, more to charge, more money to spend, broken ecosystems, games I like are not available..) it was NOT a solution to what I all." So again, why do you insist on changing what I said and replacing it with whatever you want to say as if we are talking about the same thing? 4. "lol. You make no sense!". I can't say anything clearer that what I said in my previous comments. It is clear as the electronic black text on this white background what my concerns are. It is also clear that your comments, with what you deem as "solutions" are not solutions to my original comment as they do not solve anything that I am concerned about. 5. "Pick one". Why? That does not solve anything for me. I use multiple OSes to stay up to date personally and professionally, to stay unbiased in my recommendations. How can I accurately recommend an iPhone as a solution to someone if I don't use an iPhone. How can I provide Android support when I don't use Android? I teach classes for each OS as well, yet you provide another "solution" for me to pick one. My recommendations are deeper than "I heard that would work." No, I give demos, seminars and more that demonstrate option A, B, C will meet what you are looking for. So, according to you, I should pick one? Riddle me this..when I was at Microsoft Ignite 2017 in Orlando last week and had a conference call with a user in Ohio that needed assistance with Office Lens on their iPhone, was I supposed to say "Sorry, I can't help because I only have an Android phone or Windows phone? No! I put down my Windows phone, pulled out my iPhone 7, opened Office Lens so that I could see the exact iOS specific UI in real time and helped them set up what they needed. As before, your solution doesn't work for me, doesn't apply to me and is just that, a solution for you (and others that it works for). If your solutions work for you, that is great but they do not work for me and that is ok too. Not everything works the same for everyone as the needs and scope of needs vary per individual. I will keep using Windows, iOS, Android and more, helping as many people as I can, staying knowlegeable as I can while giving unbiased recommendations according to the needs of the person on the other side of the conversation with the grand by product of furthering my career.    
  • We are trying to help you with your issue. You can wish to have everything in one ecosystem, with one device, but its just not happening. Tell Microsoft and Nadella that you are mad at them. Or you could look for soloutions to your issues.  This is a small portable that will let you play everything in the Microsoft world (Steam games too!) and fits in your pocket. its not perfect but nothing ever is.  
  • Thanks for trying to help and I appreciate the link. That device definitely looks interesting and fits a lot more of what could be useful for me into one device. Honestly, I do appreciate the help and link.
  • call me crazy but i see ms building a uwp>android bridges using xamarin or their own fork of android. Edge coming, Microsoft launcher, selling the s8 in ms stores...i think it's coming folks. Android is the Windows of mobile 
  • That would be nice, because then, in a view years, Android might get an update turning it to be very good (Win7 level), and maybe later to awesome level (Win10).
  • Do you honestly think existing Android devs would move to Xamarin?  Not gonna happen.  Our best hope is that HTML5 with Progress Web Apps may someday supplant today's platform-specific app dev platforms.  
  • Four dimensional chess... I think not.
  • Wmr where the pieces are actually people
  • microsoft has actually always supported development if tech like office for the mac and the same with android UNLIKE THE TYRANT GOOGLE . Support bing search and use ad block on YouTube.
  • Does it have a metro live tile look option ?
  • No
  • Others have done it, why can't MS incorporate it into thiers.. >.< 
  • Because it failed and they are moving away from it. Expect Live Tiles to not be included in Windows Core. I bet it will be adopting Fluent design similar to this launcher.
  • Completely agree with bleached on this one.  Live Tiles have seen their day.  They never moved beyond cute little eye candy that flips through a few headlines or whatever aspect of dynamism that's relevant to the underlying app.  Well executed Android widgets are far more capable.
  • Android widgets have a lot more potential than Windows live tiles, but very few apps have good widgets. Tons of Windows apps have live tiles. Almost all of my apps had them on my Lumias before I switched to Android a few months ago. Widgets never have a unified design with each other and are almost all a fixed size (the fixed sizes rarely match up with others too). I think a good solution is one that some launcher already implement. You can swipe up on icons to see their widgets which allows you to have quick access to a lot of widgets without filling pages of home screens with them. I miss real live tiles so much on Android; while they didn't do much, they worked flawlessly and almost every app had one!
  • Perfect launcher, I can now finally move to Android (with Edge). Thanks Microsoft!
  • Curious if we can merge some of the Arrow features with some of the SquareHome features to build a closer to a WinPhone on Android ? At least now they have the people pinned to the home feature. 
  • Why not an Android ROM with cshell UX ?
  • Hmm, I'm curious to try this out. I have Arrow on my other phone so I'm waiting for this update to come to it. I can wait for it though.
  • I will be using this when I get my Android device
  • I might have to try this out later. Sweet. 
  • 👍
  • Great, having replaced my Lumia 1520 for an LG V20 half a year ago. But, could we get this versatility on Windows 10 as well please, with Live Tiles of course.
  • Still curious why Livetiles are so hard to replicate the same way as WP does it on Android.. Doesnt seem like it would be hard. But I dont code.. so 
  • They aren't hard to implement, Live Tile functionality is just pointless when you have the full power of widgets on Android.
  • This is a bad joke, right? Why use widget when you have the full power of LiveTiles without eating any battery or wasting screen space.
  • Because Live Tiles have no power. Random bits of information you cannot interact with at all is just pointless. They are just a poor duplication of the notification center. There is a reason every Windows version with Live Tiles at the forefront has failed. The experience is terrible. There was nothing more frustrating than actually seeing something interesting on a Live Tile in Windows 8 and then not being able to actually find the post or article when you actually open the app. After that happened a couple times, I know I stopped paying any attention to them. It isn't 2011, battery life impact of widgets is minimal with the power efficiency improvements in Android.
  • Never had this issue. LiveTiles give me a bunch of relevant information just by looking at the screen. By tapping the app (most of them, except some poorly designed ones) show me details on the information with the full power of the app (doesn't even have to be the app, website notification work also). In addtion, individually designed widget make the screen look messy, while Tiles perfectly fit to the whole screen. It surely is a poweruser feature to grab all information at one glance, but still it's much better than to have Notification for all types of stuff (even VPN needs a notification that it's running. On Windows there's just the tile saying "connected / Disconnect 80Kbit/s).    
  • Random information without any interactivity isn't a power user feature. Power users wouldn't care about aesthetics even if your assumption is true. Again, Live Tiles failed for a reason.
  • I wouldn't agree with bleached that the Live Tiles experience "is terrible" - just promises unfulfilled.  Sorry, Urbautz, but bleached is right in his/her assertion that Android widgets are far more capable if properly implemented.  Live Tiles are, IMO, little more than eye candy, as I mentioned above.  
  • I have a suggestion for you guys. Rename this site to Microsoft Central. Windows Central doesn't fit well since you are also posting other Microsoft related news on different platforms, not only for Windows.
  • Incorrect. This app ties directly into the Fall Creators Update with the "Continue on PC" feature. It's very Windows 10 related ergo we keep the name. Also, who really cares.
  • Hmm! it still looks like an android device (which is a problem), is there anyway to totally remove all google stuff from an andriod phone? Otherwise my next phone will be a tablet.
  • Yes. Just install a Lineage ROM and don't install GApps. There are tons of phones that are compatible with Lineage. Find on that is well supported and go with it. Nexus phones are probably your best bet or Pixel.
  • I disagree with a Pixel. You can try with some things but you can't change default email cilents, for example or the default voice assistant like you can with some other phones.
  • I am sure that isn't true with a Lineage Pixel. Google Assistant wouldn't even be an option without GApps.
  • I just threw up in my mouth.
  • Getting promoted to Microsoft brand means that it will soon be dropped and discontinued, as with Groove Music and so many other official Microsoft products.
  • I know it's just been a few days but the joke is old.
  • It may be "old" Daniel, but he's not wrong.
  • He's gone from "hitting refresh" to "hitting DELETE"
  • Live Tiles the ultimate one on Windows. Can't get used to this launcher no matter how hard I want to be. Still not feels right. 
  • What are you going to do when Windows Core doesn't have Live Tiles?
  • My ********* side will take over, and swallow it...  
  • I'm using squarehome2 on my android and I've pretty much duplicated the live tile experience of my 930. In fact, once you learn how to customise it, can do more my orginal windows phone. I tried arrow a few times, but felt it lacked customisation. Might have to try the new one. If I were MS, I'd offer a quick skin in arrow, that can mimic WP, iOS and Android, so those that enter the 'MS world' start with some familar surroundings. If the goal is to drive traffic accross their apps, hide the pain of change.
  • Will this work "WITH" the Cortana app on Android?
    I just HAD to move from my 950XL and I don't know much about Android... but so want to keep my Microsoft experiences and just installed Cortana app... so now wondering if this launcher will work with it or I have to choose one or the other?
  • Cortana is just an app, so yes, of course you can use it with the new launcher. It's the perfect launcher for someone coming from Windows, in my opinion!
  • Nice! Can't wait
  • thanks for the info; i downloaded the launcher...not sure if i have the latest version... had to click a link in the store also which took me to a sign up page, but i think i still have v3.8.1 but either way, it does look good... and i can confirm Cortana and the lockscreen with Cortana works also... Arrrow launcher looks far
  • The writing is on the wall. Microsoft is done with Windows Mobile, having already made it clear that support will end in a year or so. Their apps for iOS and Android have almost always been much better than on Windows Mobile. They are killing Groove. They are also bringing Edge to iOS and Android. All this along with the rebrand and updates to Microsoft Launcher show where their priorities are in the mobile space. They haven't told us or even hinted at anything that would indicate they are intending to "reinvent" themselves in the mobile space with new handheld tech - all we have is rumors an speculation. But we don't need Microsoft to tell us or promise us anything. Just observe what they are doing. Follow the evidence. Android devices are clearly the best option for those who prefer to use Microsoft products and services. Microsoft obviously thinks so, too.
  • WOOOOOW. I love Arrow launcher. I can see that the name in the play store has already changed to "Microsoft Launcher", and it's updated, but nothing has changed in my phone so far... I'm waiting
  • Make sure to sign up for the beta program if you want it immediately!
  • .
  • Now only if we can get all of the 3rd party YouTube apps to come over to Android but also stay ob Windows, that would be awesome!
  • It actually looks nice but as long as Google mandates their services on Android with the only app store that matters, this seems a bit pointless.
  • I've never liked the Arrow launcher due to the limitations of apps available in the drawer (no I do not want you to pick my most used and hide the rest) and the limitations of available home screens (nope, I refuse to stick to 2). If they've expanded both of those, I'll consider using it more often.
  • You can use it like a regular launcher now, since an update at the beginning of the year in fact. No longer do the icons move around out of your control.
  • Nice. Been using it for around a year and it's fills my needs. Glad it was graduated into Microsoft's property (instead of garage apps).
  • This seems like the groundwork for a fine replacement for my 950XL... The Nokia 9 can't come soon enough!
  • This means Windows 10 Mobile is dead, that means they intend to make Android more Windows compatible and Windows Like
  • Can you tell me what the lottery numbers are for tomorrow?  You were on the money with your "Windows 10 Mobile is dead..." comment. :)
  • As someone who is fully in Microsoft's ecosystem, and have a Lumia 950 and a Nexus 5X with stock Android, the stock Android personally just looks cleaner to me than Microsoft/Arrow Launcher. But maybe I'll give it a chance again
  • This is a very nice launcher. I'm impressed. I just wish there was a way to adjust the clock and weather widget to make it stand out better against the beautiful Bing wallpapers.
  • It's a fantastic launcher and I even have it on my tablet but the one thing I really dislike is that the reminders still link to wunderlist without to-do integration. I'd tried to move from wunderlist but have to keep it there and on my other devices for this. 
  • Square Home 2, baby! Works like a dream on my Xperia XZ Premium. Gives me about 80% of the function of W10M, with certain Android widgets even improving on W10M. I get my app list by swiping right just like W10M.
  • Microsoft for once in their existence should be consistent and shut down that horrible Bing search engine. I can't imagine, it makes profit, although one is forced to use it in the search bar of the launcher, that can't neither be removed, nor customized to use a decent search engine.
  • Really? I find Bing to be far superior search engine, although I do dislike their app on Android because it's pretty sluggish.
  • All I need now is the Windows mobile tile system so it looks and feels like a Windows phone.  That would work.  I hate the tiny Android icons.