You could call me a fanboy, but I am not a fan of the AOSP launcher. If you are aware of my ROMing needs, you can probably guess that I am a person who uses Nova Launcher. However, I tend to stick to Trebuchet at times, too. I don’t need too many customization options, but the state of the AOSP Launcher is pathetic, and it’s good to see serious competition in the launcher space.
Here are my initial thoughts after playing around with the Microsoft Launcher for the past couple of hours.
Setting it up for the first time is very easy: It will take you through the basics, explain why it needs all the permissions, and then it proceeds to ask you for the permissions that it would need. You are greeted with a home screen which you can immediately start customizing.
As you start swiping left or right, it explains to you where you have landed, and what you can do. A bunch of extra permissions is needed in order to make these work.
- You need to give it usage access, in order to change certain settings.
- You have to let it read your notifications so that it can show you your recent messages, texts, and all other notifications in one place.
Once you are all done with that, you can select your choice of icons or customize your feed. You can add pages, rearrange the sizes of icons, and more.
The home screen is simple; you can add your apps and you can add folders if you are like me and you like to group your apps. If you swipe up from the home button, you are greeted with this:
You need to give it permission to change settings first, which I did. Once that is set up, you can even set these toggles or re-arrange them, whatever your wish is. You can even add some extra apps in there. Kind of handy.
We have so painfully described how Google’s feed has become mostly click-bait articles and that the quality of recommendations has gone down. Well, there isn’t much difference here, but you can customize the kind of articles that the feed will suggest. You cannot change the sources, though.
The left pane also contains frequently contacted people and recent notifications. You can add more widgets here such as notes and integrate your Microsoft Account in this launcher.
On your home screen, a settings shortcut is added, and on clicking that you are greeted with this.
You can change the size of the icons. You can also select the icon theme that you would like to use the launcher. The notification badges are off by default, and I turned them on. You can also lock the desktop if you don’t want to make any changes on it. You can also hide your apps, or select a high-performance mode, which will disable all the suave transitions and will increase the speed of the launcher.
There is not a lot of gesture support here, but I definitely like the way I can swipe down to trigger a search, or I can swipe down to check notifications. This is something that is default behavior on the MIUI launcher, and I certainly dig this. The double tap to sleep is off by default and you can either set a timeout to make it dim and lock or give it admin access. Note that if you give it admin access you have to enter a password and the fingerprint won’t work with that.
Search: Definitely customizable
One of the great things about this app is that we definitely have a choice of which search engine we use. The default is Bing (go figure) but you can change it Google or Yahoo.
Apart from the lack of options, in customizability, this launcher is pretty good. However, my only complaint is this:
There is some sort of RAM booster widget inbuilt into the launcher. This might be appealing to some, but to me it is complete nonsense. Thankfully, it is not on the home screen by default, and you can choose to ignore it.
- You can change Bing’s search to Google in the options.
- A good competitor to Google Feed because it’s more customizable and actually shows up on your home screen without opening an app.
- Customizable to some extent, but definitely not a large extent.
- Comes with some kind of “Booster,” which is pretty useless but I can understand why MS would include it.
The software team at Microsoft is definitely doing great things, and I can’t wait to try out Edge browser when it debuts, and I can definitely see how this has an appeal to non-nova launcher fans. The UI transparency all reek of Microsoft design, and the fans of the company will definitely enjoy this.