Cortana is the virtual assistant on Windows Phone 8.x devices that helps with reminders, suggestions, tasks Setup reminders, appointment, music and the like via voice interaction. Though I updated Big Red to version 8.1 recently, I haven’t had access to Cortana because both my language and regional settings were pegged to the UK. The feature is available to the US only for now.
Yesterday, I decided to give Cortana a try just for the kicks, so I dived into the Settings on Big Red and changed Speech, Language and Regional settings to reflect the United Kingdom. Two restarts later, and Cortana shows up on the phone. I opted for the female voice. I mean, how can a Cortana be male? Duh.
Launching the app for the first time, it asked me for permission to collect and use all sorts of information. Oh; it also required me to put on Location services for the app to work. Next up, it asked me to type in my name. I typed in Mister Mobility, and Cortana easily pronounced that. I should have used Oluwayomi Adegboye instead, but I wouldn’t risk having it fry my phone trying to pronounce that.
After that, it asked me a series of questions to have a feel of my tastes, preferences and interests. One of the things it asked me about was food. Me and food? Cortana has missed road. I think I selected an option that indicates I am not interested or so. Anyway, our date progressed to the more exciting parts. Here are samples of our discussions. The entire family had hilarious moments with Cortana getting our local names and terms wrong.
Me: Play Davido.
Cortana: Now playing Ego *cues in Beyonce’s “Ego”*
My kids: ROTFL
Me: Who is Lagbaja?
Cortana: Who is like my job?
Me: What is Skelewu?
Cortana: What is skill head?
After a few tries at getting Cortana to play some of my favourite local music, I gave up and asked for some of my favourite Western labels.
Me: Play “All Of Me” by John Legend.
Cortana: Now playing “All Of Me” *Music starts*
Me: Play “Flying Without Wings” by Westlife.
Cortana: Now playing “Flying Without Wings” *Music starts*
Cortana successfully set up lunch reminders and others without issues.
Me: Setup a reminder for lunch with the boys
Cortana: When is your event?
Cortana: Alright. When is the start time?
Cortana: Sure. I’ll add Lunch with the boys for tomorrow at 2pm. Sound good?
Me: Yes, baby!
Cortana: Great *reminder setup and saved*
Cortana successfully composed, added extra text and sent off text messages to my contacts. What is even more interesting is that Cortana keeps learning about you to make it easier for you to get things done. In one case that I asked Cortana to send a text message to my wife, it replied that it remembers that So-and-so is my wife, and promptly inserted her mobile number in the SMS “To” field. Impressive.
I do wish that there was a way to launch and interact with Cortana without touching the phone. For now, it requires one to use the on-device and on-screen microphone icons.
Success rate for regular English terms is near 100%, but once you throw in a local word, success rate drops. Understandably so. Cortana is currently officially available only to the US market. Cortana will be rolled out internationally later, so everyone can have access to it. Shall we see Cortana with support for Yoruba or Igbo some day?
Founder of MobilityArena. Yomi’s journey in mobile started in 2001. Besides obsessing over mobile phones, he also started creating WAP sites (early mobile-friendly websites created with WML). He began writing about phones in 2004 and has been at it since then. He has owned over 200 devices, from Symbian, Palm, PocketPC/Windows Mobile, BlackBerry/BB10, webOS, Windows Phone, Firefox, Ubuntu Touch, to Android, iOS, and KaiOS operating systems.