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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.

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

235 Comments
  • AAH SO EXCITED. 
  • Looks like your selected colour theme is used too.. Be fun to try Cortana......waiting.
  • He's going with the eye of sauron theme!
  • Looks like soft buttons for back, Start, search on that phone.
  • What about ability to save games on sd card.?
  • 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
  • You again...
  • Done, I actually just watched a demo on it before replying it.
  • 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.    
  • this OS maybe underdevelopped, but it's not really buggy
  • 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.
  • But Apple invented colors, right?
  • Where is  the File manager. Shit again fooled. damn windows phone
  • file manager is coming too, this is an article about cortana, why would it have file manger info?
  • They are like kids who want a cookie. They don't have it in them to let it go...even for a second.
  • How much Data will Cortana require? Check your data plans looks like whole lot to me.
  • 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.
  • i'm sure Local Scout would've been integrated into Cortana. You'd simply just ask her "what's best places to eat nearby" or similar and it'll pull up those results you used to see in Local Scout. Bing Vision is now a Camera Lens app. You can see it in the video here: http://www.wpcentral.com/new-camera-app-windows-phone-81
  • video of file manager y http://sayannet.ir/81A78C84-85868CAC...
  • You guys getting these articles out really quick, great work!!
  • I bet they got 8.1 early, and made these articles already, waiting to post them...
  • Yep, usually how it goes.
  • That's probably how they have their hands-on video already.
  • 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!!!!! 
  • With an emphasis on 'DO'!
  • So, they have a copy of WP8.1? It all feels very ambiguous at the moment.
  • Now that we have seen it, it is going to be painful waiting for the update :'(
  • So TRUE!!!
  • Hell yes!!
  • 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?
  • What do you need it in German for, Your english looks good.
  • Yipeeeee!!!
  • Hollywood next for Daniel. Awesome actingskills on show here. :)
  • *weeping* I can't with all this, I need Windows 8.1 and I want it now #SoDarnBeautiful #SlayYourFaves
  • Stay cool, brother.
    #keepingitreal
  • Oook, breath in, breath out...... Eeeaassy Now. You'll get it.
  • 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
  • Haha, that would brilliant lol
  • 1520+ NICE :DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD
  • 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.
  • Itll be US only f1rst :/
  • 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!
  • Can we get a 'yes!' to this?
  • It will eventually, no idea where though.
  • So is it the same voice?  It's hard to tell from the video.
  • Yes, it's the same voice as in WP8, however, you can configure the voice either to a female or male voice setting. 
  • 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..
  • In the search results it's Jen Taylor. And in the Cortana UI it is another voice.
  • 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
  • I hope they do this soon, actually.
  • uouououoouoo!!! SUPER DUPER EXCITED
  • Is it US only then? Or English speaking countries only?
  • 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.
  • belfiore mentioned in the keynote that UK won't get it right away
  • 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.
  • US and UK first with China up next.
  • 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.
  • They said US and UK first, then China, then other countries.
  • 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.
  • There's always one in the group. :)
  • I like to call them Debbie Downers
  • And I have a term for people like you that don't respect opinions of others too...but this is a family site.
  • Debbie...shhh.
  • 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
  • for reals? that sounds cool...
  • +cortana
  • 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.
  • US only??
  • Looks like it.
  • of course, its not like windows phones have a bigger market share in europe or anything. oh wait
  • It's not like Microsoft is a company based in the US. Oh wait
  • With paying customers all over the world ...
  • off course, after all the fastest growing WP markets are non US which makes perfect sense to screw them over in typical MSFT way.
  • So was the voice sampled from Jen Taylor or not?
  • 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.
  • In some cases it's Jen Taylor and sometimes its a generic voice. My guess is is that it's not done yet.
  • i want on my lumia 1520,now,please?pretty please?
  • Lol, same here. Not now, but RIGHT now!
  • probably US only and where is Bing search?
  • This is all I have to say:   SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!
  • they will take our money and keep the good features for them selves...
  • Only one problem, I'm on Windows phone 8.
  • Will India get cortana? Anyone plz say
  • It will be .but not sure of all the features :P as always :D
  • 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.
  • No, By 2015 or 2016, we may see a beta version, and that's me being optimistic.
  • Yes, but the voice will be Kareena Kapoor. :D
  • 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 :|
  • Ridiculous that it will only be out for US first. Microsoft fucking over its customers again
  • 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...
  • It wasn't that bad. In some instances it's Jen taylors voice.
  • LOL @ the cheese grater joke
  • So intelligent :)
  • This is awesome!!!!!
  • AAAAAAaaaaAaAaaaaAAAAA!!!!!!
  • 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.
  • With Kinect in my living room waiting for me to say xbox on, you'd think it be so in the works.
  • Pretty disappointed with the voice. Definitely sounds the most robotic out of the three.
  • They use Jen Taylors voice in some elements.
  • I'm impress!
  • Is that jen taylors voice km the video??????
  • Really nice..
  • Color me very very very unimpressed. I'm hoping this is the alpha before the beta.
  • 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...
  • actually it's "OK Google" which can be disabled but it's ON by default if you've got Android 4.4.
  • Holding the search button takes you directly to the speech input, so it's still one tap.
  • Oh phew, awesome!
  • 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.
  • When will it come to other counties? India as an example?
  • I'm not sure it was worth the wait, but better than nothing it is.
  • that's what your mother said after giving birth to you...BOOYAAAA
  • oh, internet insult. that's the best you got apparently.
  • 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
  • Daniel, what phone are you using? I read "Nokia Proto"... I don;t recognize that shape/size  
  • That's the 630.
  • 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
  • You're correct, and you make sense. I suppose I felt the speech would have a little more personality, featured here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=nX9P6skzZNU#t=65
    They wouldn't have to pre-record phrases but rather every sound in the english language, which isn't too bad.
  • Is Cortana going to be able to be updated independent of a larger OS update? My guess is no. Too bad... looks very half baked.
  • The Cortana voice sounds too human :(
  • Man my first question will be "How's the weather in New Delhi....... in Kelvin?"
  • as now cortana will be for USA, then my question is still can we get fetaure like quiet hours,etc. for other regions??
  • I was going to ask the same question also.
  • nice feature, but talking to your phone is weird, I can´t get used to it.
  • If I can carry on a conversation with my 2 year old, I can carry on a conversation with anything.
  • Reading to us would be great for commuting.
  • 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.
  • I ain't got to touch shit on my Moto X. It Doesn't Even need to be on. But I live 200 years in the future.
  • Agreed saying "Ok Google" is revolutionary in terms of activating the assistant. That Cortana requires multiple presses is a huge fail.
  • It's still 1 key press. Holding down search launches straight into speech.
  • 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?
  • Does it have recognition for English (India)? Does it give Local results in India? If not then FAIL..!!!
  • Can't wait to try her out!! Hope she surpasses Siri and Google in terms of awesomeness!!
  • 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.
  • OMG I CAN'T WAIT SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY
  • Dude its FREE. But have to wait.....
  • Love it! The voice will eventually be all Jen Taylor's voice in due time.
  • 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.
  • Same old from MS.
  • Why dont release it in The 10 major countries at The Same time...FAIL..
    EPIC FAIL
  • Always US first... Its been a long history though
  • Looks good. Uk here hope it understands us , because siri is shit
  • 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 totally going to talk to her about Master Chief!
  • ... Not Jen Taylor...
  • 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.
  • Will ALL features be available world wide???