When Apple introduced Siri for iOS, it started a new trend that was previously shared by individual apps, but nothing system-wide. Google answered soon with Google Now, and while it didn’t have Siri’s finesse, it still did the job. For quite a while, it was between these two that the battle raged on, until Microsoft entered the foray with Cortana – a virtual assistant that in some ways was arguably better than both Siri and Google Now. After first launching on Windows Phone and then later on Windows 10, Microsoft committed to bring Cortana to iOS and Android, and back in July, a leaked APK became available that gave users hope. Today, however, Microsoft has released an official beta version of Cortana for Android, and it’s available for you to download and test away right now.
The new beta app is the extension of the same test program that Microsoft launched last month for a set number of users, with the prime difference being its public beta status now. Also, since the leaked version got out last month, one major improvement, with Android users will greatly appreciate, has been the ability for Cortana to replace Google Now using the Android home button long-press shortcut. That makes Cortana a truly useful experience for Android phones in our opinion.
Other notable features of Cortana beta on Android include the all-too-familiar notebook that allows the software to learn better about you and evolve. It can keep tabs of your events, give suggestions for nearby places of interest, keep you abreast of news, keep track of your favorite sports and events, provide weather updates and inclement weather alerts, and all the usual shebang.
The one thing that Cortana still cannot do on Android, which has been on Windows Phone for quite some time, is the Hey Cortana feature, which is like an always-on listening mode for the virtual assistant to jump into action. The reason that this isn’t supported is attributed to fragmentation within Android, and a varying degree of configurations that Android phones at the moment boast. We hope that as the app matures, Microsoft will be able to port this highly-coveted feature to Android as well.
Cortana public beta is available in the U.S. only for now, and can be downloaded from Google Play Store here if you are in the region.
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