Microsoft's Cortana crosses over to iOS and Android

Due out this year for Android and iOS, the voice assistant will bring some competition to Apple's Siri and the Google Now app.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

Microsoft is bringing its Cortana voice assistant to the iPhone and Android phones. CNET

Look out, Siri. Move over, Google Now. Microsoft's Cortana voice assistant is coming to iOS and Android.

The upcoming launch of a Cortana app will give users of iPhones and Android phones the option of a companion to Cortana on Windows 10 PCs, Joe Belfiore, head of Microsoft's Operating Systems Group, announced in a blog post published Tuesday.

The move is part of the software maker's efforts to better compete in the mobile arena by making its apps and services available to users of the rival devices that have proven vastly more popular than Microsoft's own Windows Phone offerings.

And with Windows 10, due this summer, Microsoft is also looking to make up in a big way for the misfire of Windows 8.

The new Windows 10 Mobile version, for instance, will run Microsoft's so-called universal apps, which are designed to work across all devices. It will also make use of Microsoft's new Continuum feature to automatically switch an app's layout when the phone is plugged into a PC monitor and communicating with a mouse and keyboard.

As part of Microsoft's goal to connect your Windows PC to whichever smartphone you own, Belfiore said Tuesday, a new Phone Companion app will allow you to install and use Cortana for Android and iOS. The app will be available in a few weeks to members of the Windows Insider Program, while the Cortana companion will roll out to Android phones at the end of June and to iPhones later this year.

How will Cortana, Google Now and Apple's Siri all compete or co-exist as your voice assistant? That's up to you. iPhone users will still be able to use Siri as always, and Android users will still be able to rely on Google Now.

In the initial going, Cortana for Android and iOS won't have all the same capabilities as the version on a Windows Phone. For instance, Cortana won't offer voice activation and other handy features, which may lessen its appeal. Both Siri and Google Now are designed to respond to your commands, answer questions and provide information. Google Now is also available for iOS devices since it's baked into the Google search app for iOS.

You also won't be able to use Cortana to open apps or change settings in the Android or iOS editions. And the ability to use Cortana hands-free by saying "Hey Cortana" will still be limited to the Windows Phone and the Windows 10 PC versions.

But Microsoft clearly aims to build and enhance Cortana for Android and iOS as much as possible, so it could eventually turn into a more formidable rival. Neither Siri nor Google Now offer notifications, so there's an advantage for Cortana, which can remind Android and iOS users of meetings, air flights and other activities in your schedule.

Also on the plus side, all the information in Cortana's Notebook, which keeps track of your reminders, interests and settings, will sync with and appear on all of your devices -- desktop and mobile alike.

It's through that integration between Windows 10 and your mobile device that Microsoft is hoping to convince more users to give Cortana a shot. The app will alert you to reminders and act as your personal assistant across both your Windows 10 device and your mobile phone, so you're covered whether you're at your office or on the go.

As a further step toward integration, the Phone Companion app on Windows 10 PCs will help you set up your phone so that all of your content -- documents, music, photos -- will be available on both your PC and mobile device via Microsoft's OneDrive online file sharing.

And in another tidbit, an updated Xbox Music app for Android and iOS will let you freely listen to your music from OneDrive.