I spent a few minutes today actually playing around with Cortana on my Windows Phone. I will say, I am genuinely impressed! It’s not very often you run across excellent software which people clearly put some thought into!
What is it?
It’s the “Siri” of Windows Phone. You can use voice or text commands to have to search for things or do things on your phone. But it’s not as simple as that!
I found this after-the-fact, but here is a page on the Microsoft site which sort of walks you through some of the features: http://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/how-to/wp8/cortana/meet-cortana
Should I enable it?
Well, I was suspicious when it said I must agree to the terms of service. Not because that is rare, but because it was likely to have some crazy language. On my PC, where I’m writing this, I can’t find the Cortana terms of service – I can only find this: http://www.windowsphone.com/en-US/legal/wp8/windows-phone-8-1-privacy-statement#Cortana which is worded much more friendly. On the page I saw with my phone, it said that Cortana could send messages to people without telling me, in addition to capturing any voice input that I make and selling it to 3rd-parties. All the typical, disgusting things companies do.
So, I bring up “should I enable it?” because although this app is very impressive, it comes at a significant cost of privacy and control. It’s up to you.
What can it do?
Well, I was expecting what was already in Windows Phone: I could say a short phrase and it would go look something up on the web or show me the weather. However, Cortana does a LOT more than that. I discovered this from the main screen:
See the “see more” link in the middle? When you click that, you see:
and from here, if you go into each one, you start to see the breadth and depth of what this can do:
And what is crazier, is these actually work – VERY WELL!
Some common uses…
As you can see from above, you can do some pretty cool things. Things that you can do “by hand” with several swipes and taps, but it’s cool to be able to do in one step. Here are some of my favorites:
- “Remind me at 8am on Monday to bring out the trash” (sets a reminder which will popup at 8am on Monday)
- “When Jim texts me, remind me to tell him about the project” (when Jim sends me a text message, I also get the Cortana reminder)
- Notes: (this saves the transcribed text AND the audio clip of you speaking, to your default “QuickNotes” in OneNote)
- “Note: I parked in section G11”
- “Take note” (then it prompts you for a longer message to save, maybe :30 seconds of audio)
- “Set an alarm for 8pm”
- “Show alarms” (shows all current alarms)
- “Turn off 8pm alarm”
- “Directions to 123 main street” (launches your default navigation app with the new route in place)
- “How long does it take to get to Ruth Eckerd Hall?” (shows map of route, time, and distance)
- (from the results screen) “Get directions to Ruth Eckerd Hall” (launches navigation app with new route)
This is pretty impressive app! For someone who lives on their phone, I can see this being very useful. The only thing I was hoping for – was to be able to do more with the phone. For example: “set screen brightness to high” or “turn off wifi”. Aside from that though, what it does do – it does very well! And, it’s a pretty polished application. Again, you can really tell this wasn’t thrown together – you can tell people spent time on making it nice!