Windows Phone, meet Cortana (just watch out for Halo spoilers)
I’ve been spending some time with a special lady lately. She’s always with me, and has been helping me organise my life. She’s not all work though, and has shown that she knows a joke or two, she’s sassy, and she loves to talk about Halo. I am of course, talking about one of Windows Phone 8.1’s killer features: Cortana.
With Windows Phone 8.1 being released for Developer Preview, those in the US have enjoyed the addition of Cortana to Microsoft’s OS. However, she’s currently US only. Fortunately, some intrepid users over at WPCentral.com managed to find out that you can get Cortana in any other country just by editing your phone’s settings. So, I changed my phone’s settings and viola, there she was.
Just to deal with, and debunk the obvious comparison straight off the bat. Cortana is not Siri. I’ve been using Cortana for a couple of days now, and she’s already proving to be smarter than Apple’s effort and more in line with what Google have achieved with Google Now. I’m already setting reminders to do things when I leave work (based on location rather than time), to ask a particular person about something the next time I text or call them, working out the traffic for my commute, and so on. Given where Microsoft has suggested Cortana will go: learning your habits and predicting what you want before you ask for it. It’s a long way off still, but the initial impressions are very good. Cortana is a seriously cool feature, and adds actual value to the OS experience as well, rather than just being a gimmick. I’ve already stopped using OneNote and now make all my calendar entries through Cortana.
She’s also got a decent sense of humour, and if you ask her to tell you a joke, she’s got a decent sized repertoire.
Is Cortana REALLY dead?
There are also some brilliant Halo-related easter eggs to be discovered with Cortana, and more are being unearthed every day. When I asked her “Are you REALLY dead?” (following the ending of Halo 4), she replied with the excellent “Yeah, but…it was worth it. The Didact was a jerk.” Well done, Microsoft. Well done. I’ve attached a few more examples in the gallery below.
The version of Cortana available now on WP8.1 Developer Preview is surely only a taster of what’s to come, but she’s already proving to be a hugely useful addition. I’m finding that some requests don’t really work due to the US focus of the current build, but I’m sure that once Cortana rolls out to the UK later in the year, she’ll be even more accurate and awesome. Perhaps she can keep all us WP8.1 phone owners company until Halo 5 comes out.
Are you using Cortana? Let me know what you think, and anything you’ve asked her in the comments below.