Use Cor­tana on an An­droid de­vice

Google al­ready has its own as­sis­tant, but now Mi­crosoft’s Cor­tana is here for An­droid users. MAR­TYN CASSERLY re­ports

Android Advisor - - Contents -

Mi­crosoft’s Cor­tana is avail­able on An­droid phones. It’s in­ter­est­ing that rather than be­ing ri­vals, we’re see­ing voice as­sis­tants pop­ping up on other plat­forms more are more. The lat­est news is that soon – prob­a­bly by the end of 2017 – the Cor­tana be able to com­mu­ni­cate with Alexa, Ama­zon’s as­sis­tant built into Echo and Fire de­vices.

The two com­pa­nies are work­ing to­gether so that you’ll be able to use the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of both as­sis­tants re­gard­less of whether you’re us­ing a Win­dows or Ama­zon de­vice. For ex­am­ple, you’ll be able to ac­cess Cor­tana (even on an An­droid de­vice, we pre­sume) to check and sched­ule meet­ings through an Ama­zon Echo, or turn on your smart lights when sit­ting at a Win­dows 10 PC, via Alexa.

Get­ting started

To find the Cor­tana app go to the Google Play Store and search for the name, then hit the in­stall but­ton. When you first launch Cor­tana you’ll be asked to grant the app ac­cess to your lo­ca­tion and to your files. Both of these are nec­es­sary for the app to be able to be able to work fully, so agree to the re­quests.

You’ll also be asked to agree to ac­cess to a long list of things in­clud­ing your cal­en­dar, search his­tory, voice

in­ter­face, among other things. This is due to Cor­tana be­ing a voice as­sis­tant rather than a stan­dard app, so when you tell it to do some­thing it needs to be able to do it with­out pop­ping up a per­mis­sion box. Tap agree and then you’ll need to log into your Mi­crosoft ac­count. If you don’t have one then you can tap the ‘Cre­ate one’ op­tion.

Now Cor­tana will be­gin a setup process that asks you to en­ter the name you want the app to call you and the colour of the back­ground. Once these are de­cided you can run through a quick tu­to­rial with the app that sug­gests dif­fer­ent things it can do. If at any point you are un­sure about com­mands avail­able you can tap the mi­cro­phone in the bot­tom right cor­ner and ask ‘What can I do?’, Cor­tana will then tell you about the var­i­ous op­tions.

Fea­tures

You can do a num­ber of dif­fer­ent things with Cor­tana, just as you can with the Google As­sis­tant. Tap­ping the square of nine dots in the bot­tom left cor­ner opens up a list of func­tions you can try out.

My Day

The first op­tion is My Day. This pro­vides in­for­ma­tion that the app thinks will be rel­e­vant to you each morn­ing. It in­cludes ap­point­ments, news head­lines, weather, places to eat nearby, and other ephemera. As you use the Cor­tana more fre­quently My Day is de­signed to learn your likes and dis­likes so that this fea­tures be­comes more use­ful.

Re­minders

As you would ex­pect from a dig­i­tal as­sis­tant Cor­tana makes it easy to set up re­minders. It does this in two dif­fer­ent ways. When you se­lect the New Re­minder op­tion you’ll be given the op­tion of ei­ther en­ter­ing the time when some­thing is hap­pen­ing, or to be re­minded of a task when you ei­ther ar­rive at or de­part from a spe­cific lo­ca­tion.

So if you know you have to pick up milk on the way home you can en­ter that the re­minder needs to warn you when you leave the of­fice. Clever and use­ful.

Meet­ings

Or­ga­ni­za­tion is at the heart of any dig­i­tal as­sis­tant, so to com­pli­ment the re­minders there are also Meet­ings. When you first tap on this icon you’ll be asked to give per­mis­sion to ac­cess your cal­en­der. Once you agree to this the Meet­ings sec­tion es­sen­tially turns into the agenda style ver­sion of your cal­en­dar.

Tap­ping on any of the sched­uled ap­point­ments will open them up in Google Cal­en­dar or what­ever app you nor­mally use. You can also link dif­fer­ent cal­en­dars to the app – say a Mi­crosoft Ex­change ac­count – by tap­ping the Con­nect Cal­en­dar op­tion and then select­ing the app you want to at­tach.

Ex­tra fea­tures

There are also op­tions for Weather, News, Alarms, and you can even ask Cor­tana to tell you a joke or sing you a song. She’s got a sur­pris­ingly good voice, too.

Change set­tings

In the top right-hand cor­ner of ev­ery screen you’ll see the icon of shoul­ders and head. Tap this to open up the set­tings menu. In here you’ll see a cou­ple of sec­tions – Note­book and Set­tings.

Note­book

Note­book (see the above screen­shots) is where you can con­trol the in­for­ma­tion that Cor­tana learns about you and the kind of rec­om­men­da­tions you’ll re­ceive. Tap­ping on it brings up a list of ar­eas that in­clude Events, Nav­i­ga­tion, News, and a num­ber of oth­ers.

Each sec­tion has set­tings within it, so if you tap on Eat and Drink you can then tell Cor­tana whether you like to eat out of­ten, how far you’re will­ing to travel, and the pre­ferred price ranges of restau­rants.

Set­tings

In here you’ll find the set­tings that per­tain more to the look and feel of Cor­tana. You can cre­ate a short­cut on the home screen for the voice in­ter­face, turn on the ‘Hey Cor­tana’ fea­ture so that when you’re in the app you can say that phrase and im­me­di­ately is­sue re­quests with­out hav­ing to press a but­ton, plus you can sync no­ti­fi­ca­tions to Cor­tana on your PC.

So that’s it. A whis­tle-stop guide to Cor­tana. Mi­crosoft has built a very in­ter­est­ing app with per­son­al­ity and use­ful, gran­u­lar con­trols. Whether it can knock Google’s own of­fer­ing off the throne is some­thing that re­mains to be seen, but it’s a good start.

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