Elias Pelcastre

Cortana for iPhone, Microsoft´s latest take on Siri (Update)

It took a long time, but Microsoft´s digital assistant Cortana is finally available for iOS. Before today, you needed an exclusive beta invitation from the Redmond-based company to get early access to the app.

Cortana is available for iPhone and iPod Touch as a free download. You will need to enter your Microsoft ID – in other words, your Hotmail, MSN or Outlook mail – and grant Cortana access to Apple´s mobile system. (Microsoft could potentially ask you to verify your email through a code sent to your backup email address.)

Cortana will display the local weather, provided you give the assistant permission to locate you, as well as the popular news around you, and the top stories around the world. In the bottom, Cortana has a search bar where you can manually perform a quick search or tap the mic to do a voice query, again, with your permission.

Ask things like, “What´s the time in New York?” or “How much is 10 dollars in British pounds?”. There´s also a left hamburger menu to check your reminders and open a “notebook” to toggle different aspects of Cortana, including the details it can pull out from your emails, such as reservations, event cards and packages shipments.

In the Settings section, Cortana enables you to set a strict or moderate “SafeSearch”, as well as change the language from English to (what appears to be) Chinese. I hope Microsoft adds more languages, like Spanish or Swedish, soon.

The app is available for iPad, although on a 2X pixelated version. It´s a shame Microsoft didn´t decide to offer native support for Apple´s tablet.

Apart from the fact that there´s no iPad support, and you can´t replace Siri for Cortana, the most disappointing thing is the lack of a “Hey Cortana” command inside the app to invoke the assistant with your voice. Every time you want to ask something you will need to tap the blue mic button, an action that gets annoying with time.

Cortana´s feminine voice sounds very natural, probably more that its Apple and Google counterparts. The assistant performs searches at a reasonably fast pace, and the app´s interface is simple and easy to use. Nonetheless, I don´t think it will replace Siri as your go-to personal helper anytime soon.

Download Cortana for free for iOS 8 or above, and please leave your thoughts and comments below.

Update

Cortana is now available in the Play Store, although you need to be in the United States to officially try it. Find out how to install it in your Android smartphone or tablet outside the US and read my review here.