In line with their recent trend of developing for all platforms, Microsoft has quietly released a semi-private beta of a launcher app called Arrow. The early release sports an interface reminiscent of Aviate, but appears less devoted to contextual recommendations. While the current version is fairly basic, the big ideas may still be on the horizon.
The first thing I noticed is that Arrow replaced the stock icons for system apps like Phone and Messages, which isn't in and of itself a bad thing but an unexpected behavior.
Action Launcher is getting an update as we speak with a completely new feature. It's called the Quickbar, and it finally puts that search bar on the home screen to good use. In v3.5 you can add your own shortcuts and custom actions to the bar for easy access.
At this point, there is no real shortage of "smart" launchers in the Android ecosystem. Of course, we have to put "smart" in quotation marks, because there still is a void in terms of truly good products trying to do that. So when I tell you that Bento is a new entrant in this bustling market of context-aware launchers, you shouldn't ask, "do we need another one?" You should ask, "is this the one that will really do a great job?"
Bento is a venture capital-backed project that is in a semi-private beta at the moment.
Most of the AOSP-based custom launchers operate in roughly the same way, but Action Launcher has always been different. Right from the beginning it offered cool ways to manage your apps and widgets, and it only got better over time. That app was based on the Jelly Bean-era Android launcher, and it was time for an update, according to developer Chris Lacy. Action Launcher 3 is a complete rewrite of Action Launcher that brings with it new features, but also drops a few (at least for now).
Nokia doesn't have much to do with Android, but it does make those super-cheap Android devices with the wonky interface and no Google services. That's not the extent of Nokia's Android ambitions, though. There's a new launcher from the company called Z Launcher, and you can try it right now. Make no mistake – it's basic, but kind of neat.
Your phone probably has a lot of stuff on it, right? Terrain Launcher (funded by Samsung Accelerate) claims it helps you stay organized like no other launcher. A dubious claim perhaps, but early reviews are positive. Terrain focuses on three features: a sidebar, universal search, and an enhanced app drawer.
We've got more choices than ever when it comes to launchers, including Google's own search-infused option. The top third-party launchers have been mostly the same for the last year or two, but Inspire Launcher is a head-turning new option. It's based on the stock Android 4.4 launcher, but it has a GNL vibe with bright colors and some neat features.
Google has pushed out an update to the Google Search app, which now means there's also an update to the Google Experience Launcher. We've got the APK for you to install below, and this is looking like a substantial update – it looks like the new (and probably official) name for the Google Experience Launcher is Google Now Launcher.
Action Launcher is one of the more distinct alternative home screens for Android. Instead of grafting new abilities on a standard launcher setup, the developer has created some innovative features that change how you use apps and widgets. Version 2.0 is just out and it's adding even more goodies.
Google finally unveiled KitKat last week, but you may have noticed something was missing. Yes, there was no news on the so-called Google Experience Launcher. Earlier leaks led us to suspect that Google's homescreen experience was coming to more Android devices, but the big day came and went with no mention. Recent revelations about how the Android 4.4 homescreen works breathe new life into the possibility of a more Googley experience for all.