Microsoft Launcher beta update cleans up the feed, lets Cortana read texts

Mircrosoft Launcher
Mircrosoft Launcher (Image credit: Daniel-Rubino/Windows Central)

Microsoft Launcher beta testers are getting their hands on a fresh set of new features with the Android app's latest update. Ticking up to version 4.13, today's update includes a couple of major highlights and some smaller tweaks, including a cleaner feed and Cortana dictation for incoming texts.

The most visually striking tweaks are to the Launcher Feed, which will no longer show card headers for widgets. This has the effect of delivering a sleeker look with less separation between different widgets. Moving widgets to the feed can also now be done by dragging and dropping them into place.

Old Feed (left) vs. New Feed (right)

Cortana integration in Microsoft Launcher is also getting a little smarter, with the ability to read incoming texts aloud for you if you're busy doing something else. Parents can also use Cortana with the launcher's family tracking features, with the ability to ask for their kids' locations via voice. Finally, Cortana also now supports English for Indian users.

Here's the full rundown of what's new according to Microsoft's release notes:

  • Now you can drag and drop widgets to and from the Launcher Feed. Widgets also no longer have card headers when placed in the Feed.
  • Updates to the calendar card let you add a new event with one click when you no longer have any more events for the day.
  • Tuning fixes for new app drawer animation.
  • Parents can now ask Cortana for the location of their kids via voice (ex. "where are my kids?").
  • Cortana can now read incoming SMS messages and now supports en-IN.

If you're already enrolled in the Microsoft Launcher beta, you can grab version 4.13 now. Should testing go well, these features should be hitting the release version soon.

See at Google Play (opens in new tab)

Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl

  • Just how do you enable reading incoming text messages? I can't find any option for this. Is it (again) region dependent? (i.e. USA only!)
  • Are you using a Windows Phone? Lol
  • Find the sms reading on the cortana card in the Launcher feed.
  • So am I right in seeing this is a manual operation?
  • Yes, you are correct. It is STILL a completely manual operation. Microsoft remains CLUELESS and adds a fake feature to their Android crap.
  • In this case, it's not MS. They can only give MS Launcher features that are as integrated as the OS allows. That's a deep integration that would likely involve MS having permission to use the ability of the always-listening mic. While you can replace Google or Bixby with Cortana, MS still hasn't been given permission to use the always-listening feature....yet. If and when they are, then we would likely see the ability to use Cortana through voice activation and not require physical action on the user's part. As far as I've seen, no virtual assistant that hasn't been given permission to be deeply integrated into the OS has this feature. As mentioned above, the only two assistants that have this ability is Google's own Assistant (obviously) and Samsung Bixby. Unless Google give MS permission to make an Android phone with true Cortana integration, users of Android phones may never see a completely voice activated Cortana in MS Launcher. Who knows, this may be allowed in the next 2 to 5 years. Lol
  • Your spot on with that. In a way ide love to see Microsoft mare there own phone with all the Microsoft stock apps replacing Googles but then use a continmium type Interface when you plug your phone into a USB to HDMI like you could with the lumina 950XL. I also don't think Microsoft need to look at taking on Google or even apple with this phone but look at talking on the Note. For me a phone the size of the note with a pen using android and all Microsoft default apps could be the phone for bunimess and add continmium to that should give people more reason to look at it over the note.
  • I used the Cortana 'read message' feature on my Dutch messages and it's hilarious! Names are close to understandable but most of the words are not making it rather unusable, except for having a laugh at parties. Or I'll have to ask all my friends to start messaging me in English or I'll wait for a Dutch Cortana. GA is already there :( Could be handy otherwise.
  • Google assistent doesn't know Dutch either or did I miss something?
  • I thought I read that somewhere but I might be wrong. Not really an assistant user myself.
  • Can anyone confirm whether or not the location based reminders work with the launcher version of Cortana yet? The last time I tried (a few updates ago) the launcher version still wasn't able to set reminders like "Remind me to go to the store, when I leave Work". The app based version of Cortana does allow these types of reminders, so I haven't been able to switch to the launcher version yet. Thanks in advance!
  • Glad to see integration of Cortana and MS Launcher (Arrow)! Keep improving!
  • I'm still waiting for Cortana to open the correct default map app.