Cortana announced for Windows Phone 8.1, we go hands on

Microsoft has just announced Cortana for Windows Phone 8.1 at Build 2014. Cortana is the upcoming voice assistant that will compete against Siri and Google Now. We’ve heard rumors and seen leaks over the previous months, but now it’s all official. Cortana will be available soon to users on Windows Phone 8.1.

In the meantime, check out our hands on video of Cortana.

Cortana is definitely one of the bigger headline grabbing features in Windows Phone 8.1. The other being the new notification center.

Cortana is more than a voice assistant though. It’ll bring in the latest news for you and show the weather based on your personal preferences and location. Cortana will also do things like remind you of important dates or meetings.

WP 8.1 Cortana

We’re just getting acquainted with Cortana and we can’t wait to get to know her. How about you? 


Reader comments

Cortana announced for Windows Phone 8.1, we go hands on



What are you, a bot? Same post on every WP8.1 news. Maybe it's a new game for kids. Please mods, baaaaaan this one as well!!! :-P

By the time MSFT delivers the WP 8.1 UPDATE the world will have iOS10 in their hands.... and Cortana will be an OLD LADY, maybe OLDANA??

Way to go MSFT......  in the coming months??

And I'm a WP user but this is a buggy OS and I'm desperate for the update.



Ni kidding. There are features we would like, and that is true if both iOS and Android, but its got so few bugs that WPCentral devoted an entire article to an amusing one last week, because they are so rare!
You want bugs, go play with android a while. And iOS is full of bugs that Apple considers to be optimal UI's!

sign up for the developer preview and install it now. I bet ios will have more psychdelic color options and other gimmicks but won't have anything revolutionary. Of course, that won't stop them from calling every mior feature a revolutionary advance.

file manager is coming too, this is an article about cortana, why would it have file manger info?

Yeah exciting news but I'm curious though, did Cortana eat up LOCAL SCOUT and BING VISION?, because I only see bing music up there cozing with Cortana.

These are actually features that I use quick a lot to get new music and install app using the QRC. I hope that there is a way to still use these features. Goood observation.

DO you people ever actually read this site or watch the videos? THE HANDS ON VIDEO for 8.1 below this, Mr. D SAYS THEY GOT AN EARLY BUILD OF 8.1!!!!! 

Imagine my pain until I get it in my language (German) ... I guess I have to treat myself to a 1020 to sweeten the waiting time. Or a 1520? Or wait for the 930? Damn!

I would go 930, if I were you. Being me, I'm thinking about a 635. A doubt here, apart from LTE any difference between 630 and 635?

Great job having this ready for when the embargo was up! I'm so happy they kept the name and didn't go with "Bing Personal Assistant for Windows Phone".

I don't know, I think it'd be hilarious watching the internet sh*t itself knowing we'd have to say "B-PAWP, text my wife".

"B-PAWP, call Dominoe's"

"B-PAWP, where can I buy an iphone?"

Then people would photoshop fake album covers with saying "B-POP" Tiger Beat style, it would be a whole thing.

/actually glad Microsoft was sensible for once and kept what people wanted

It think and feel Microsoft won't delay getting this signature app to the masses. People with newer devices like the 1520 (me) shouldn't have to wait long or at least that's what I have read. Hopefully that's correct.

Will Cortana get introduced to the surface and tablets? I am going to install a surface 2LTE in my vehicle and cortana will be awesome!

All i really care about is if it actually sounds like cortana from halo. That way I can be like "cortana" and she will reply "Yes Chief?"

They used the same voice actress for some pre-recorded things and a very similar voice for the TTS stuff (if you set you nick name to be Master Chief you'll get a lot of the pre-recorded answers)

Is it just me, or does it go from sounding like a generic voice to sounding like voice actress Jen Taylor..

As MS stated it is a Beta app until later in 2014.  I certainly hope that when it comes out of Beta, Jen's voice will be used.  I'm hoping for that anyhow!  X-D

it's a mix of both, some things are pre-recorded by Jen, some are using a TTS voice that's very similar to her

It's probably going to start as English only first, and update from there over the next few years.  The update schedule is pretty much up to Microsoft's internal development schedule and manpower hours.  Probably won't include Spanish, French etc until WP9 or whatever it'll be called.

The markets will be limited too probably, US, UK initially I suspect.

Seems pretty stupid that its not avaliable in other english countries right away. It would be nice to have a localised UK version but until then I would still be happy using the US version.

Being an indian, I would be elated if i get to use cortana with English (US) Without changing my region to US.

That is all i want MS, Please do not take this away from us.

i'm wondering if they are just releasing the english version in china. if so, it won't be too meaningful except for being cool, given that the english level of the most part of china isn't good enough. but a chinese system is like a-whole-nother project. well, i think siri in china is also in english though.

I see that Cortana can be turned on or off....can it be removed altogether? I have no need for something like that and would prefer saving drive space for tools I will use and do want.

And I have a term for people like you that don't respect opinions of others too...but this is a family site.

Not being negative....just isn't a feature I want so if it is removable that would be great. If not I'll just turn it off.

OS features aren't usually removable, and removing it won't save you any space, it's just code

I'm guessing no. It's built-in just as text messaging and calendar are, and you can't remove those. O doubt the space would be significant anyway.

It's my guess too....but doesn't hurt to ask. Less of an issue on the 1520 since memory is expandable, but the 1020 is a different story.

This feature won't take any memory or storage when it's disabled, it's just some code that's part of the OS.

When enabled it saves some data locally, but that's nowhere near the stoage used by music, pictures or most games, so it's irrelevant anyway

Thans for the info. Didn't think it could be removed by i was hoping. Oh well, I'll just turn it off.

off course, after all the fastest growing WP markets are non US which makes perfect sense to screw them over in typical MSFT way.

I think it is Jen Taylor. From what it sounds like to me, they had her record a bunch of words and phrases and sentences. They then basically insert words depending on the answer. Sometimes its a copy paste type deal and sometimes its a full sentence.

If that made any sense lol.

Eventually, Looking at other OS like iOS I think it will be staggered release to work out the bugs and optimize each language. I don't think you would like a release that does not work.

Will all these features be available in all countries???especially India :P music id is not available on bing outside USA,so m just curious if all these will be available or not :-\ I hope so though :|

I'd be much more excited about Cortana if her voice wasn't so awful). It doesn't help that Siri's voice changed from a robotic woman to a robotic dude (who sounds even worse than the robotic woman) when it was brought over to the UK. Text to speech voices are hard to do well, and even then they cost a pretty penny to license. Still, I would be happy to pay a little extra to listen to a voice that doesn't sound like a cheese grater being applied to my eardrum...

Did touchless voice make it in? Voice interaction is somewhat pointless if I still have to jab at the button to have it listen...

Agreed... they really dropped the ball on this one. The Nexus 5 is magical because all you have to do is say "Ok google" to activate the Google Now.

Yeah, the demo apparently was very rough, and didn't really work correctly.  It's still in beta though, so there's that, but considering how long Microsoft reportedly has had this in the works, you'd think it would be more polished.

For a company of its size, Microsoft seems to be giving Windows Phone and mobile the least amount of mapower.

How will they update Cortana? Do we have to wait for WP8.2, WP9? It doesn't look like it can be updated quickly like Xbox Music (which NEEDS to be updated, immensely)...

Too bad they didn't wait to get it right the first time...

If you watched //build/ (I watched the whole Windows Phone and Windows part), It's all server based. The bugs that you see are the results from the servers. They are updaing the servers so you wont need to roll out a new update to the phones, it will be updated on the server.

Sorry - just watched it. But now that I watched it, while impressed, its pretty embarassing how many times it didn't understand or do what Joe wanted it to do... nice demo guys... can't even ensure that it works with his already prepared speech... sigh...

I too wish it would have been smoother. at the same time, when I consider how easily they could have faked the whole thing and made it fly 100% perfectly with prerecorded responses and stuff, I gained some appreciation for the honesty of it.

Yeah I did appreciate that, definitely refreshing. I didn't count but I think it was around 5 or 6 instances where he tried something and it didn't work and when he re-tried it only worked once out of several times.


At least it is updated on the backend. I expect it to continually improve (err I HOPE) - the live demonstration was much better than the video posted above!

So now voice commands can only be activated by two taps? I liked simply holding down the start button...

I know! This is perplexing, I thought it would have been on par with "OK Google Now" so I didnt have to press any buttons...

Holding the search button takes you directly to the speech input, so it's still one tap.

He didn't point it out on stage, but you could see him hold down the search button to directly bring voice up. That was also shown in one of the leaks.

That was just a joke, but in all seriousness, I'm not sure how you can dismiss a feature you had zero time using. Cheer up nancy

I was hoping Cortana's voice would have more of a personality, like the program from Halo. Otherwise it seems pretty nice, I might be a little underwhelmed until I get to use it myself.

It's tough to make it exactly the same, you can pre-record certain phrases or sentences that you anticipate will be often used, but other than that its a string of pre-recorded words, so it won't be the same as Cortana in a video game which was just reading continuously from the script

as now cortana will be for USA, then my question is still can we get fetaure like quiet hours,etc. for other regions??

I may have had unrealistic expectations, but I expected more. I don't like that you have to press 2 keys to make it listen. It defeats the purpose for keeping your eyes on the road.

Agreed saying "Ok Google" is revolutionary in terms of activating the assistant. That Cortana requires multiple presses is a huge fail.

Keyword is "Still"

This is new tech. I dont want "still"

Not having to touch the phone for interaction is a huge part of a voice assittant.

In the car, in the bathtub, phone charging on the dresser or nightstand. You should be able to have Cortana do things without stabbing at the phone. It's perplexing that this feature is missing. Do they not have the right pattent for it?

If the "at a glance" view isn't intelligent like Google Now cards it's worthless IMHO. The value in Google Now is that it throws cards of information at you without you having to "opt in". It's just auto-magical. If Cortana requires explicit "opt-in" that defeats the purpose. You can moan on about PRIVACY... but the market has spoken. People prefer convenience over privacy. They don't mind Google mining their emails, search history to present USEFUL information. Cortana better do that as well.

Looks good, seems like a feature I will use, I hope they upgraded how it hears you. I use the voice texting in WIndows Phone all the time and overall, if it's quiet (driving or not in a croud) it works almost perfect but, around a group of loud people, it's questionable (infact listing to talk radio show, it copied everything they said for like 5 seconds).

The real test is when it comes here, will it be as great as it looks, or will it be a flop.

If you used iOS's version, it's something that you used when you first got the phone but, after the novlity of it wore off, it's a feature most iPhone users never really use any more (I know a lot of people with iPhones and I can tell you from first hand)...

Cant wait to play with it on my own....

I can't wait either. but maybe it's me, but I can talk to my phone with perfectly in my old road noisey minivan... now around my loud mouth sisters, not so much. perhaps we need a background noise filter, only lets call it the loud mouth sisters checkbox.

As far as i know it'll be available as a beta version in the US first and later in China and the UK. The rest of the world will have to wait forever I fear. Maybe too long.

And all this 2,5 years after Siri. Well done, Microsoft.

I have never had issues with siri understanding me, android version is better, and windows version fails on a lot of words. We can hope this new app works better.

Not a fan of the blue circle. I kinda think Cortana looks more like the Monitor as a circle. That would be cool...using the Monitors voice for the male setting and Cortana's voice for the female setting.

My son is a die hard Apple phone fan and user he saw this and and as a die hard Halo fan he now wants a windows phone so there is that :) 

That crack about Siri being upset was pretty funny.    I'm looking forward to this feature.   Unfortunately I am still tempted to wait for AT&T to release 8.1 OTA, but we will see if I can hold to that decision.  I prefer to have the firmware update at the same time as the OS update.

I have the same question that some other people have, how is Cortana updated?   Will updates need to wait on OS updates, or is it a separate app.  I assume it is too deeply intergrated in the OS to be a separate app, but we shall see.

I'm unimpressed with them going with the voice from calling my voicemail. I suppose that could have been forgiven if cortana actually looked like cortana instead of a rotating circle.

My guess would be that seeing as it replaces Bing on the search button, everyone will have cortana but without the voice interactions in certain countries.

Then, when the servers are updated with the appropriate voice data for each region/country, the voice functions will become available.

Good question, it's apparently US only for now according to Joe Belfiore but it will roll out to other countries. I would imagine that with WP8.1 being available worldwide all users will have Cortana but voice functions may not be available to start with.

I think that's a safe assumption considering most of the things related to Cortana are on backend servers.

Is Xbox music integration baked in?  Can we say, Play Album, Play Song, etc?  I have the Hey DJ app (or whatever it's called now), but I'd like to be able to play any song, any time with voice command. 

Hmm, so it looks like it could be used to some extent without actively talking to your phone? If that's the case, Cortana might actually be useful to me unlike Siri, which I've used approximately twice a year on my iPhone.

One big question: So when the heck will this 8.1 preview be out for people who are in the dev preview program on their phones? I cant wait to give this cool tech a try!

they should have used scarlet johanson's voice. can we make conversations with cortana instead of just asking her to do. not as futuristic as Her but somewhat

It looks good but disappointed with the animation reminds me of Hal just alil to much, i know that's superficial but i was really hoping Ms would of given user the option of using our xbox avatar because right now the avatar doesn't do much.

Can't wait to try it. I just wish it was always listening instead of having to press the microphone button everytime I want to ask something. Hopefully in a future update.

I cant wait to put my windows phone next to an iPhone and try to get siri and cortana to talk to each other... isn't that the true purpose of all of this?

Hmm, only marginally better than siri as is. A great and much needed addition to WP, but not exactly going to blow the socks off iOS users, I think.

I did notice that Microsoft is continuing the trend of not knowing what "hands free" actually means. I look forward to continued sub par Bluetooth experiences.

Looks awesome for v.1.

We can expect it will only grow in features (and reliability), especially once 3rd party developers start using Cortana APIs in their apps' updates.

I just hope 8.1 update will come to Lumia 920 soon. I'm a bit afraid their focus will be on new phones - I know it makes sense, bur reason is rarely stronger than "I don't care, I want it NOW!" emotion :)

Nice cortana, but i don't like the user interface. Very ugly. It looks like its a part of the setting menu. They should have find a way to use a better background or use bing image then put all those info. Black background and white text with colored highlights is becoming boring.

I do not agree...images and graphics without purposes are just a meaningless distractions. Eye-candy do not improve usability by any means...especially on mobile devices which people normally use in variable situations, while walking the streets, sitting in a cafe..you know it is not a desktop experience...normally we use these devices while we are actually doing something else. So what is nice and pleasent for the eye may be subjective..but what is useful and functional remains the ability to access information quickly and clearly. From this point of view WP8 has always been on track...plus Cortana, given the nature of the service, is just a hub...to bring/push other apps or data, it doesn't need to be fancy in my opinion since is just the bridge between the OS and external contents or apps.

U can be functional and at the same time pleasant to the eye. And that what all users across any platform deserves. No body would say oh please give us all the functionality and we just don't damn care how it looks. U cant excuse its functionality from it looking ugly. That's two different aspects. If they become a conflict to each other then a balance should be sought. No balance in that design.

I think that Cortana and other features that 8.1 offers will live up to it's hype. This may be a start of something new and I'm sure upcoming updates following that will only better these features. I like how it's so intuitive for the do not disturb calls that it sees a pattern when a number is calling more than once within 3-5 minutes to make you realize it's an emergency call. And the swipe feature, something iPhone still lacks after all their device upgrade.


Looks good, but from video, you still need a lot of key press interaction. I'm looking toward to trying just to see if it understand non-usa words ;), downside is probably it will rape the battery.

OCR is now part of camera apps (office lens) so I guess barcode scanning will be moved as well...

Let's hope so, because I wouldn't want to miss the (occasionally) ease of use with the code scanner.