Microsoft gives Android a facelift with its Arrow app launcher

Microsoft's latest Android app, the Arrow launcher, has arrived to demonstrate how your homescreen should be organised.

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Microsoft's Android Arrow launcher. Image: Microsoft

Microsoft's Arrow launcher for Android is out of beta and available for installation from the Google Play store.

The app, officially launched by Microsoft on Wednesday at Google Play, promises a "radical simplification" of Android.

"Your relationship with your phone doesn't have to be complicated," says Microsoft, heralding its take on how a home screen on Android should be organised.

The app was discovered a few months ago but the only official channel to obtain it was via an invite system. Similar to Nokia's Android launcher Z, Microsoft's Arrow improves the more it's used, arranging apps and contacts based on their importance to the user.

Just like many Android launchers, Arrow helps to rearrange pages, organise widgets, add third-party themes, and customise the dock. It also offers an integrated notes and reminders feature.

While Microsoft is doubling down on Office, Cortana and Outlook for iOS and Android, Arrow notably doesn't attempt to guide users towards these apps. That could change in the future if Arrow becomes a hit, but for now only the feature drawn from Microsoft's other products are Bing wallpapers, which are refreshed daily in the app.

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What wasn't known when the details of the app's existence emerged was from where in Microsoft it was being developed.

Today Microsoft revealed Arrow is actually a project from Microsoft Garage, a hacking lab at Microsoft responsible for numerous experimental apps for iOS, Android, and Windows devices. Apps such as Android Next Lock Screen, Twist for iOS, and Snip for Windows are among numerous other cross-platform projects showcased at the Garage portal.

According to Laurence Ripshare, "founder" of Arrow, Microsoft Garage has big plans for the app.

"We have added a number of smarts under-the-covers to learn your preferences and we will continue to invest heavily in this area," said Ripshare on the dedicated Arrow website.

Ripshare said to expect new features to be rolled out in the coming weeks.

So far Arrow has been installed as many as 50,000 times from Google Play, while the Next Lock Screen has attracted as many as five million downloads.

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