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Cortana for Android hands on: A viable Google Now alternative?

by Brandon Russell | July 21, 2015July 21, 2015 5:00 pm PST

Google Now is the intelligent personal assistant to beat. Introduced in 2012, the software is at its best when it proactively predicts what a user needs before they ask for it. Directions to a meeting, a baseball score, package tracking information, and more. By utilizing a natural language UI, Google Now has become a priceless part of the Android ecosystem, and is set to get even more powerful with Now on Tap.

But it’s no longer the only notable digital assistant in Google’s playground. Set to be available around the time Windows 10 hits next week, we installed the leaked Cortana beta that’s been floating around the past few days, curious to see how Microsoft’s technology fares in a foreign ecosystem. The results? She feels surprisingly comfortable behind enemy lines, though to truly utilize her strengths, users will find that Cortana is still best on a Microsoft device.

Microsoft has been clear about its mobile ambitions, scooping up services left and right, and Cortana on competing platforms signals yet bigger ambitions to leave the confines of Redmond. By offering yet another piece of its ecosystem, Microsoft is attempting to entice customers to frequent its playground more often, hoping Cortana is the drug that gets consumer re-addicted to the Windows universe. A big ask, but not out of the realm of possibility. Even though she’s in beta, Cortana for Android works very well, and any persistent problems can most certainly be fixed with a little polish.

To see what Cortana for Android is capable of, check out our hands-on in the above video. Because Cortana can’t integrate herself on Android the way she can in Windows, the service is inferior to what you’d get from Google Now. But try her out, and her abilities might surprise you. In addition to arriving on Android, Cortana is also on her way to iOS, so iPhone owners will soon know the joys of the platform’s prowess.

Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell likes to rollerblade while listening to ACDC.