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Cortana, still feeling the Windows Phone 8.1 love?

Cortana

The Windows Phone 8.1 Preview for Developers has been in the public's hands for just over two weeks now. One of the more anticipated features of Windows Phone 8.1 is Cortana.

For those just joining us, Cortana is Windows Phone 8.1's intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator. Think of it as Siri's better looking cousin. And while released in Beta form and only in the U.S. Market (officially) many were eager to start asking Cortana everything from "will you marry me?" to "what's the temperature in Kelvin?"

There's a discussion going on over in the WPCentral Forums on new responses readers have discovered during their interactions with Cortana. These new discoveries help keep Cortana fresh but we're curious, how often do you really use Cortana? Is she still feeling the love?

Cortana can come in handy for setting up appointments, hands-free calling and messaging, location or person based reminders as well as the novelty questions. Pin Cortana to your Start Screen and you'll get news items sent to the Live Tile to keep you up on current events.

And while new responses are being discovered help keep Cortana fresh, some readers would like to see Microsoft concentrate on the synthesized voice and further integration. Personally, I'd like to see Bing Vision integrated into Cortana.

But how often do you talk to Cortana? Not everyone is comfortable talking to their Windows Phone in the public and rely on the old-school keyboard method of entering appointments, reminders, and text messages. I have to admit I probably get some strange looks as I create text messages on the run using Cortana but if I'm in a store or restaurant, I keep things low profile and use the keyboard.

If you've discovered a new line from Cortana, this will be the forums discussion to sound off in and we've got an entire forums section dedicated to all things Cortana if you want to strike up a different conversation. Also, don't forget to check out our Cortana Topic Page that has all the latest news, tips and tricks for Cortana.

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Reader comments

Cortana, still feeling the Windows Phone 8.1 love?

336 Comments

In the UK but using Cortana daily, especially in the car.

Found that a long press on my Bluetooth answer button, till I hear a beep then let go, brings up Cortana, from there I can play music, send texts, make calls, open apps, etc etc.

I can answer calls too by just saying answer and a double tap on the answer button re-dials the last number.

Cortana really does make my 920 hands free ❤❤❤

Those are things the phone did before Cortana.  Though, now that 8.1 is here, the list of spoken commends has increased. "Turn off Wi-Fi," for example, along with the afforementioned reminder settings (I especially like the location-based reminders).

 

Yes, some it did, but not so well. We also have play artist, song or playlists in addition to those you mention. Also wake me up at ....

I have a playlist called Latin and just say "Play Latin" and it works.

Pause music and start music also works :-)

She's playing a head game with you and holding back on playlists. Women are like that. She wants you to say or do something but won't tell you what; you're supposed to know. Cortana is awesome, but after all, she's still a woman.

I'm neither trolling nor women bashing. It's called humor and was meant in fun. If you've ever had a girlfriend you know this is true and if you are a woman, you know you've done this. We men have are foibles too and I'm the first to comment on them. Have a smile with it and don't get offended; it wasn't meant that way. 

The speech recognition improvement itself is a huge "feature" to me.  Sure we could do all of these things if we said it just right. I watch Cortana mishear me and then correct it based on context. That's powerful stuff.

Also, being front and center is a feature.  The TellMe stuff seemed kind of buried. 

I have tried them all over the last 10 years. In the car I use a Jawbone - simply the best for sound isolation and that helps a lot when dictating text messages. I drive a 2006 Subaru - so no luxury-level of sound insulation there.  Inside, I use a Bose. I am not a Bose fanboy but the sound is pretty good for a monaural BT unit.  I actually have no idea what a Lumia sounds like when you put it to your ear.  :-)

Subbie & WP die hard fan here; I have no problem in my Subaru Legacy 2005 ( Blitzen ) with an STi conversion mod. ;)

Cool, but there is definitely more background noise to filter in a modded 'Ru than in, say, a Taurus or Camry.

a lot of the time the BT devices do the voice recognition themselves (thats how they work with BT enabled dumbphones).
I dont have 8.1, but in wp8 you have to toggle a BT setting on the phone telling it to take over for the voice recognition. it was under Bluetooth>>advanced>> "Connect in a different way to use Speech with Bluetooth in my car"

Lumia 920 with Plantronics M55.
This also works with the Lumia 920 included buds. Just,long press the button.....

Yup I also discovered that yesterday. I was l trying to pause the music but then I press and hold and it opened Cortana!! I was like that awesome!!!!

I'm gonna try the long press on my steering wheel's talk button. Right now I can't talk to Cortana if I'm connected to my car's Bluetooth. It just keeps listening.

Thanks! That actually helped, although the long press on talk button isn't working. Not sure if that's car dependent. I'd really love to go complete hands free. Also Cortana is substantially louder than music for the same volume setting.

My Bluetooth headset is linked directly to the phone, not through any car system. Don't know if it depends on the make or not.

Discovered this by accident, maybe an article on this subject would be good, cough, WP Central.

A lot of cars, like my moms explorer, treat Cortana differently than Bluetooth. For some reason the car treats the voice commands as a phone call and actually has a separate volume control for this. While Cortana is speaking just adjust the volume and it should level out. Not sure if this is a sync thing or just with her explorer.

Thanks, got it. It does treat it as a phone call. For GPS, it actually shows dialing whenever voice comes over, pretty annoying. I guess it has to do with the change I put in via advanced options under Bluetooth.

In my Audi Q7 (11) works perfectly. In my new Range Rover SS (14) works perfectly. But, I learned both are developed with MS software. Old Merc works but limited. Try direct connect to cars BT. I think Toy uses MS based SW.

Cortana has lots of problems dialing for me. "Call Chris" or other names fails 9 out of 10 times. Used to almost work perfectly. I mostly lost my hands-free dialing capabilities on my BluAnt ST3 and my Camry 2007.

long press on my wired headset which comes with my phone does bring app cortana too. Thanks to you. I've been wandering if how can I bring up cortana using my headset :)

Can anyone confirm that Bluetooth activates automatically once Cortana learns your driving pattern?
I've noticed that bt comes on before my journey, but doesn't switch off after. I don't know whether I am doing this by accident or not!

I've had to take off quiet hours from the short cut s because I keep on accidently switching it on.

It would be nice for an option to download an offline capability pack. For things like asking it to tell a joke. Obviously this would exclude weather etc

Allowing Cortana to run with Location switched off would be especially good when you need to conserve battery. Location is not necessary to do basic internet searches.

GPS location does not effect battery. Cellular GPS is always on, unless you turn off teraserver. SGPS only connects for a few seconds every hour; unless using GPS sensitive apps like navigation/maps or emergancy calls.

I mostly use Cortana for reminders. I make location based and people based ones, but that's what I find I need most often.

Set region to English is enough. Language wise you only have to have the English voice recognition pack installed but not necessarily activated; My phone is set to language German but region US and it works fine.

Which is what I wrote: You have to have the English voice recognition pack installed other than setting the region. And to get this pack you naturally have to set the phone to English once and then you can download the pack. Before 8.1 the voice recognition would also not work if you simply had your phone set to a certain language but did not had the recognition pack installed.

I did checked my settings though and it says I have to restart my phone though and English is set as active; though my phones language is all German atm. Might be a bug.

how did you get that bug? i want that bug on mine! XD

i always prefer Japanese or Chinese as my display language, but whenever i set Japanese as my language, i can set region and everything else to US and keep the display language at Japanese, but the phone just won't save the voice recognition pack to English.

It will still says Japanese voice is active while it is actually selected as English (US)...

I really do not know. :/ But I also do not want to fiddle around to reproduce this and risking loosing cortana in the process and be forced to set my display language to English.

You probably haven't changed your region to the US, our your language to English (US). Either that or over of the three updates is missing. Also worth trying a soft reset. Lots of forum threads on these tricks to get you going :)

If you've never done it, you have to press both simultaneously, and hold them for several seconds until you feel a vibration. Then you can let go and your phone will reset. As mentioned above, none of your data or Apps will be affected or lost.

Έτσι!!!!! Good thing is that you can change the region and language, however it gets somehow frustrating to not be able to use the phone in your natural language (in which you are used to). Also I find it life saving having cortana off, for the batter that is. Main problem is that you simply can't get some app updates like music if switched to other than US location....

Not really using it at the moment, which is what I thought my usage would be. Definitely haven't got time for all the trivial questions that seem to be all the rage in the forums, proving to be just as useless as siri IMO.

much better than Siri ever was - I still have a iPod and I asked Siri the samething I asked Cortana and Siri couldn't figure it out for anything - and when I had a iPhone I never got what I needed from Siri

Though the capabilities are there, Cortana is not meant to primarily answer stupid questions. She is meant to be a digital assistant and help you with more serious tasks like setting proper reminders, appointments, inform you about what the traffic is to & from work, help you keep track of your flights, and being addressed in a more organic way than Siri is capable of. There is no real reason to learn specific command prompts since Cortana is meant to be able to figure out what you want by saying a normal sentence to here including handling apps installed on your phone; which some devs are already actively implementing into their apps.

In the long run, when she is out of beta, you will probably talk to her like you would to a real assistant.

If you use your phone set appts, use the GPS, remind you of anything especially location based, those areas of opportunity to put it to use and you sure will love and appreciate it. The other cool part is setting up your inner circle and give them aliases, it makes uses Cortana for calls much easier. For instance Cortana would find my heavy english accent hard to grasp add that to my wife's Nigerian name, but when I say Cortana please call my wife, cortana called her easy, and now I hardly forget things to tell my wife by telling Cortana to remnd me of something next time I call or text my wife, same deal for grandpas, sons, inlaws etc.

You might just need to invest few minutes in setting Cortana up and see if it could be usefull for you if you try it. It truly is a Personal Assistant.

Note: This is still Beta, but it sure does not feel or work like Beta compared to the competition that have had some head start.

It's not only the region that needs changing, it's the language setting too providing you have a Nokia, my wife has a HTC 8X but can't get Cortana, I presume you are in the UK ?

Depressingly slow.

Microsoft live in a bubble sometimes. They believe if they get feature parity and have a cost effective option they will claw back market share.

Blissfully unware they are in a race. A battle for hearts and minds. Where is the unique? Where is the desire, where is the innovation?

If you only have comparible you need it today, not in months, years. 

They focus on the US, but the US has shown no love for Winodws Phone. If they managed by love, then give the Italians Cortana first, they clearly love WP more than anyone else. With the sad news about Nokia sales numbers, Microsofts slowness is really getting boring.

I had a conversation today about MDM, and Microsoft were boring me about System Centre.

Microsoft, get a clue, MDM = a cloud solution (in total). And some of the API management features aren't there. And while they aren't Airwatch, Fibrelink, MobileIron all win customers from them. I can't use inTune if they are missing features. And what the heck have they been doing, they've know WP feature pack has been coming for over a year. They really need to speed up or risk being irrelvant in the consumer space. And that is where the growth is. Arrhghhh Microsoft <slap>

I agree. Nokia was faster and much more innovative than Microsoft. With Microsoft buying the Nokia division; I fear that, they too, will become as slow as them :(

Maybe I'm a naive optimist but I think the opposite, having the Nokia people move into MS will make them realise they have to be more world focussed. How can they not when suddenly half their staff are from or based in Europe or outside the States anyway.

This. + Set up a destination to navigate to, compose and reply to mails, create appointments, have my flights tracked.

For the future it would be great to combine all capablillities she has to set up chain events to be able asking her something like this: "Could you please wake me up tomorrow morning an hour before I have to leave for work using public transport and set a reminder to leave work to be home again at 7pm?" - That'd be most impressive if she would then ask me when I want to be at work and then offer me the possible connections I could take to choose from and set an alarm acordingly as well as the reminder to leave work on time.

I use it mainly for reminders or long web searches that I don't want to type.  I also use Cortana for launching music in my Xbox Music app.  Still don't feel the need to talk to it like it's a person...

 

The day I start treating it like an actual human being I hope someone gives me a reality check. In other words, slap me. I only ask Cortana basic questions such as reminders, search queries, weather, and upcoming events. All the personal questions are creepy and unnecessary.

Some users want a virtual assistant--which is what Cortana's designed for, to start with--while others seem to want her to be their virtual girlfriend. No guesses which of the two disturbs me the most. 

Didn't know that one, just tried it. If you have an alarm time set up i.e. 7.40, just say wake me up at 7.40 and its done, love it.

You can also say to her: "Please wake me up quarter to 6" or "Wake me up 10 past 5" etc. and she will set up the alarms correctly. It just works remarkably well.

Additionally, you can say set alarm for 10 minutes or set alarm for 7.00. Once alarm is set you can press on it in Cortana and then select the relevant days.

Well after Cortana sets the alarm she displays it for you and you can than make manual changes to it. But agreed, it would be nice if you could also influence the occurrence while asking her to set the alarm up.

everyday she was able to find me the radio station I needed for Minnesota Hockey the other night after a regular search was hopeless

Cortana and quiet hours settings are hidden just like those USB settings. Just bing them in non US regions. Though none of them work, she just says sorry.

I don't talk to her all that much but that app is my first stop of the day and many times inbetween. I like the news aggregation, daily glance and such. Tracking flights has been awesome too. She picked up my flights from email right as they came in. Very impressed. I love her!

+1020

Or any other tickets/reservations/sales in general, like theater tickets or reminders to sales (I often get emails from some clothing brands informing me me of special weekend sales etc.)

You can its in her notebook but it might just be for family all mine in my family room go by nicknames she recognizes both

Cortana needs to really have a way to learn and recognize names and proper pronouns.  There needs to be a spot where you can input phenetic ways to pronounce things.  Cortana will not at all recognize my last name via voice command.

Try manually typing it in the search box a few times and then try saying it later.  It could just be me, but she seems to get better at understanding some things if I do that.

I have also tried spelling the name pronouciation style in the nickname entry. For instance, spelling for my son's name is Doyin, but the pronounciation is Dohyin, so I incerted Dohyin in the nickname and he gets my son's name proniunciation correctly, or I simply say Call my Son and Cortana says, want me to call Dohyin? ((Pronouciation).

I tell you, that girl can learn and I am willing to teach.

When I first set Cortana up and she couldn't pronounce my name (Seun) satisfactorily, she initially suggested that i pronounce it and when she still couldn't get it right, she then suggested that I type it in manually using phonation words. So had to type in "She un" and she was able to get it near correctly. I just hope she can have some offline language pack downloaded just like Nokia maps is so that she won't always have to access the internet for most things.

Wake me up at .....

If the alarm time is set up prior to request, otherwise she takes you to alarms to adjust or set accordingly.

I would, but it seems faster to just have apps pin that I want.  Like, I'll say, "What's the weather?"  But I already know from looking at the live tile before opening cortana.

Also, too many times have a I asked her something and she just brings up Bing search results...

I use her every day. Just yesterday I said, "Cortana remind me to get the clothes out of the dryer in 40 minutes." I've also been using her to add appointments to my schedule that she pulls out of text messages. Awesome.

I use it to bring up medical definitions directly from Bing, setting up alarms when im about to crash and finally toggling the Wi-Fi off instead of the stupid missing feature from Microsoft.

Missing feature? If your using Cortana then your using 8.1, which includes action centre which includes the ability to toggle Wi-Fi on and off

Obviously I know that but when your Wi-Fi is turned on and you wanna switch it off , you open the action center press on the toggle and it takes you to settings (it doesn't switch off Wi-Fi instantly)

I use her for location and people based reminders ALL the time.  Its awesome.  i also use it to send texts a good bit or call people. i do searches occasionally and ask her questions only to show people funny results.

Because it's currently only in Beta and therefore only officially available for the US. However, if you have signed up to the preview for developer program and have updated your Nokia to the 8.1 Windows phone update then you too can make use of Cortana. Simply change your region and language to US English and Cortana will be all yours.

Does to horrible of a job of searching for images. Have the thumbnails show up with just a image icon and half of the ones that do show up, come up as a black screen when clicked.

I used Cortana a ton this weekend. Everything from how many calories in a banana, to asking where I was while driving on the middle of nowhere. I'm super impressed with how will she works.

I use Cortana to play my music playlists.Its super easy, quick and a much better experience than opening the music app which takes forever to load on my 520

I'm kind of annoyed that Cortana doesn't have an answer for "what time will sunset be today". She just brings up Bing search results instead. I have an app on my phone that already has the info (the Weather app from Microsoft) so you'd think she'd be able to find the answer and tell me instead of making me click through links. Outside of that, I've found the reminders features the most useful. :)

News section of cortana doesn't show news of my country..Instead it shows what's happening in USA.Is it because I have changed the region?

I use mine all the time for reminders,alarms but mainly music so I don't have to use that horrible excuse of an app.

Shuffle my music, next song, or play (blah) works flawless for me especially with Bluetooth headphones - plantronics-

I use her a lot when driving and I need to write something down. I just say "note" and whatever I need to say. She's awesome recognizing what I say. I use her for reminders too. It's very easy. Loving Cortana!

Location based reminders came a day late when I visited the same shop
Better late then never

Could do with a bit of work hope they sort the bugs out

Things I would like to see
More included in out and about
Places of interests
Maybe photos of local interests
Shops etc stuff like that

And I know this will never happen
But slide to left to show Cortana pages. A bit like google now on nexus 5
And just showing things a bit quicker

I use her for reminders, weather reports, news, calling, texting...

Yeah pretty much everything. When I'm not taking to her I type my questions. And if I'm in public I show her off. Never heard a negative comment about her yet :)

Yes, still very much in love. I've been usng Cortana a lot for personal reminders that, before I had Cortana, I never would have made. Really digging 8.1.

I use it all the time for scheduling and reminders, especially location based reminders... Remind me when I get to/leave work, etc... I've used person based reminders a few times as well. I also ask her about weather and traffic in the mornings while getting ready for work. Been loving it so far. She does have some quirks that need to be worked out but I assume those will be ironed out by the time they remove the beta tag.

I am based in the UK and had set my region to US so that I could use Cortana but I ended up setting it back to the UK today which deleted Cortana as I only used it twice since the 8.1 release.

The best thing I've seen cortana do is to show the traffic conditions and time needed to get back home to keep  my appointment when I did not ask her for it.

 

Automatically showed me the map and said "with traffic, it'll take 21 minutes to get to"appointment" by 8:30PM"

I checked my appointment because i did not set a specific address. All i had entered was "home" and cortana figured out what address I must have meant by home.

Needless to say I took a screenshot :)

This is the feature I've been waiting to see in action, but it hasn't happened yet. I was waiting to see the traffic report automatically for my trip to work and home from work, but it has not popped up automatically yet. I have several "events", but maybe not specific appointments, that have been set at locations but still no auto traffic report...yet.

I don't know if its just me but how do u bring up more news or make it show again when u hide it, it only shows like 3 topics when u scroll down despite having many in my notebook

BTW, one cool thing that happened recently based on her learning about me is that right around the time I typically leave work to go home she automatically popped up a message that it was time to leave and how the traffic was. Pretty cool if you ask me.

How long before Cortana "learned" do you think? I've been waiting for this and nothing so far

Finding her very useful for reminders, both personal and location based. Wish she spoke more often but I know this is a temporary issue with the beta that will be addressed on the back end.

After a week it understood my commute patterns and predicted when I need to leave the house for work. The live tile is crucial to everyday use. I occasionally use the voice aspects, but the personal assistant is awesome.

I find it anoying I can't go to bing or bing.com with Cortana enabled.

Searching with Cortana is MUCH slower than without. Hope they speed that up soon or I'll be runnin sans Cortana.

I need more flexibility in snoozing reminders (besides editing), such as a snooze button that reveals a few options such as next day, next weekday, 1h, when I'm off the phone, etc. As it is Cortana reminders are a bit of a nuisance. I'd also like to see conflict warnings if you have more than x reminders set at the same time.

I love the daily glance (finally let me get rid of the very outdated Zite) and the ability to type natural requests into the search bar to have her carry out tasks.

I don't talk to my phone much, unless I'm alone and feeling lazy or genuinely busy and can't be bothered to type a request.

What I'd really love is to be able do is type a search query and have results not just from Bing and my phone but also from apps like Wikipedia, Dictionary.com etc.  Launching apps and stuff straight from search is cool, but this is the next logical step and I look forward to it.

One poor little Cortana and millions of her lovers who have been so smitten by her that they just don't care if they are asking a software to "marry" them... Phew...

It can be much more with a little more intelligence, since it's missing easy things "how do I get to my next appointment?" But one problem not due to Cortana is that it's hard to use because of the weird crackling noises 8.1 causes over the BT voice command channel, which make Cortana unable to understand anything.

I love Cortana. Despite it's silly use on finding out if she loves Master Chief, I constantly use her help on setting up reminders "Cortana, remind me tomorrow at 7 AM to call mom" and hands-free calling. As a fellow member sugested, offline support would be AWESOME, at least for calling, reminders and stuff...

Never unfortunately.. Keeping on location services is very detrimental to my battery life. :(

I don't know why location services needs to be enabled for a quick search or to set a reminder..

I use it to set appointments, get directions while I am driving and play music also while I am driving.

I would love to use her more but I since updating to .1 I've had to turn off her background task and keep wifi off every time I'm not using my phone, or it heats up and the battery drains too quickly.

Nope...disappointed as always.....i've been a WP user since launch in 2010. And it isn't all I hoped for time after time...if the iPhone comes with a bigger screen phone..i'm out...Like to be a first class citizen instead of a 3rd class one. To all this isn't trolling, but my feelings after 4 years of windows phone....

+920. Started doing this for me last week at around the time I typically leave the office to go home. Must have developed a trend that put her in motion.

Cortana is awesome. I tried using Siri when it came out but couldn't stick to her. Cortana on the other hand ✋ is the best assistant I have used. She really stands out on the reminders. It's so easy making a reminder with her and even through text. Great job Microsoft!

I use Cortana for reminders, calling contacts, and sometimes composing text messages. Occasionally sports scores and playing music too. Useful feature, but I am more excited about the swipe keyboard and action center.

I use it all the time. I am such a scatter brain, even with a smart phone with OneNote and universal apps like chaos control, I forget thoughts or tasks. With Cortana it is a one button, eyes still on the road natural speak life saver; and it's only going to get better. I just had to say f it, I'm going to start talking to my phone in public.

Deactivated her:
- location based reminders working totally inconsistently,
- time based reminders don't cut it for me! I want to see these on my pc too, so I use tasks, but it is not possible to create a task with Cortana (should have been the default, why did they create something new ??? Ms teams working without talking to each other ???)
- location services are a battery hog! I end up on battery saver at 7pm with those. Otherwise 40% remaining.
- weather, etc, you can get through voice search on Bing.
- already tired of the 'fun' stuff. Ms should spend more effort on serious things like porting their services properly out of US

All of Cortana's features can be typed into the search box, so there's no need to talk to use her features.

However when I'm out and about, she has the best voice recognition I've ever used and I can mumble things to her quickly without being embarrassed.

Love her! Cortana is sassier than Siri, and that's amazing considering she's still on a BETA phase. Use her to play music (she won't play me "sheezus"),set appointments, reminders, alarms, check on the week's weather and answering SMS.The only thing I don't like about her is that she won't open the pod bay doors :(

I find myself surprised to say that I still use Cortana daily. She hasn't lost the novelty and actually remains incredibly useful for scheduling and daily glance type information. Love it!!!

Had some family over this last weekend and a few of them had new iPhones. Showed them Cortana. Raced her against Siri. Cortana blew Siri away on speed, relevance, accuracy. It was really bad actually. One cousin said, she's making my new iPhone look slow. I was thinking Duh. My 1020 with the 8.1 update and custom transparent tiles made me very proud. Easily held its own. Later in the day friends with a 520 and 928 showed up. Comparing start screen layouts was cool along with getting them on the developer program to get the update. Would not trade my Windows Phone for anything else.

Bing is useless outside usa, cortana is DOA for most of us, southest asia, china, korea, japan... to name a few. Just dont know what to do with it.

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