Microsoft publishes Microsoft Launcher preview for an inside look at its phone future

Think of it as the Windows Insider program for phones, but without Windows Mobile.
  • Mark Hachman (PC World (US online))
  • 14 January, 2020 06:37

Windows fans helped develop Windows 10 and its related apps and services via the Insider program. But with Windows Phone dead, how can enthusiasts help guide Microsoft’s presence in phones like the Microsoft Surface Duo? Via a new preview of the Microsoft Launcher app for Android phones.

Microsoft published a preview version of its Microsoft Launcher to the Google Play Store for Android. Note that Microsoft has already published what you might call a “stable” version of the Microsoft Launcher to the Play Store, which you can download and use. In contrast, the preview is designed to be a testing ground for new features and UI elements, and comes with all the risks of beta software—i.e., it might break something.

microsoft launcher preview new look Microsoft

The Microsoft Launcher Preview app allows you to use Bing images as your phone’s background.

Because the Microsoft Launcher Preview is still in its early stages, don’t expect it to break too much ground; in fact, the “key features” number just two: the oft-requested dark mode, and the ability for the launcher to rotate into landscape mode. The latter replicates what the Launcher would look like on a PC, and might be helpful for the Windows Your Phone app.

microsoft launcher preview dark theme Microsoft

Microsoft Launcher in dark mode, along with a summary of your screen time.

In any case, it’s likely that the Microsoft Launcher preview will be where new features appear on the phone, just like the Windows Insider program also provides access to new capabilities. Microsoft Launcher Preview is also potentially a testing ground for the dual-screen features that will appear on the upcoming Surface Duo Android phone, due this holiday season. (Microsoft also teamed up with Samsung for the Galaxy XCover Pro phone on Monday,  which includes support for the Walkie Talkie feature in Microsoft Teams.)

If you’re considering buying a Duo or are just interested in seeing what Microsoft’s up to, Microsoft Launcher Preview might be worth a quick install.