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Cortana Hands-On – Windows Phone 8.1 Takes on Siri

Microsoft officially released the Windows Phone 8.1 Developer Preview this morning, so we jumped at the chance to install it on our Nokia Lumia 1520. If you need instructions on how to do that, we created a guide to do so. One of the biggest features in the update is Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant that will compete with Siri and Google Now. Cortana is pretty good, so we wanted to show you you how it works.

You can ask Cortana pretty much anything, like the weather, how to travel from one place to another, the nearest point-of-interest like a movie theater, to schedule an appointment or reminder and more. She can even be customized to serve you the latest scores from your favorite teams, the headlines you care about and can help filter out unwanted phone calls and text messages from people outside of your “Inner Circle” during certain hours.


Cortana is not perfect, though. If you want to know the Yankees score, for example, you’ll need to deliberately ask “What was the Yankees score last night?” A question like “What was the Yankee score last night?” Or “What was the Yankee score?” won’t return the correct response. Also, you’ll need to make sure you have an app like Nokia HERE or Waze installed to take advantage of directions, otherwise Cortana just crashes. Finally, while we like that Cortana delivers results on four-star restaurants from Yelp, this doesn’t necessarily mean good restaurants. Subway, the fast food sandwich shop, for example, returns as a top-rated eatery. It’s good – but it’s not a four star restaurant.

You can see how well Cortana works in our demonstration above, and stay tuned for comparisons between Cortana and Siri, and Cortana and Google Now.

Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...