You’ve upgraded to the Windows Phone 8.1 Developer Preview – but where is Cortana, the Google Now and Siri rival? If you’re in the USA, it may just need pinning to the Start screen, but if you’re in the UK, the setup is a little more complicated.
Cortana Is In Charge
With Cortana activated on your Windows Phone device, you can put the finding of news items, weather, calendar management and more in the hands of your phone. Like Siri (which you should be using) and Google Now on iOS and Android, Cortana is capable of integrating with apps and has its own shortcut button, activated by tapping Search.
Once installed, Cortana can help you make a phone called, send a text message, make notes, reminders and calendar appointments, play music, get directions and set alarms.
Currently, Windows Phone 8.1 isn’t available to most users, with the roll out not expected to commence until late May. This would indicate that the majority of devices should have the update by the end of the year. If you can’t wait that long, our recent guide to setting yourself up as a developer and installing the Windows Phone 8.1 Developer Preview should enable you to install the early version of the update, where Cortana can be found.
Getting Ready: Find & Launch Cortana
By default, Cortana can be found in the apps list of your Windows Phone 8.1, listed under C.
Unhappy with this? Not a problem – just long-tap and select pin to Start to create a Start screen tile. You can also use the Search button to launch Cortana.
Now, this should be simple enough if you’re in the USA. Launching Cortana for the first time, you’ll find the app holding your hand as it guides you through the various voice commands that you can use to organise your life.
But what if you’re in the UK? Is Cortana missing from the Windows Phone 8.1 Developer Preview?
Fool Windows Phone, Activate Cortana
To activate Cortana in the UK, you’ll need to trick your phone into thinking you’re based in the USA.
We do this by changing the regional and language settings.
First, open Settings > Speech and switch the Speech language to English (United States). This will require a 66 MB download followed by a restart, so wait for this to complete.
With your phone now restarted, open Settings > Language, tap +add language and select English (United States). This will need to be listed first, so tap and hold, selecting move up to place it at the top of the list if this doesn’t happen automatically.
When this is done, you’ll need to restart your phone a second time.
This time, when the phone is ready, open Settings > Region, and under Country/Region select United States. Leave the Regional format option set to match phone language. For the final time, restart your phone.
When Windows Phone 8.1 has loaded up, you’ll find Cortana in the app list, as described above.
Note that there is no confirmation of this working in any other countries.
Getting To Grips With Cortana
Getting started with Cortana means a small amount of training and configuration. The tool will ask you for your name, which you must enter by text – you can then confirm whether or not Cortana is pronouncing it correctly.
Designed (and named) to resemble the AI system in the Halo series, Cortana can also be configured to find news that you’re interested in and share it with you. Other things such as reminders, the people in your “inner circle” (that is, the ones you’re happy to be contacted by) and favourite places can be set up, while Cortana has its own settings for whether it should use your name and operate under low battery.
The notebook can be used to configure your Cortana preferences, but you’ll need a few days use to train it up.
Cortana Has Your Data In Her Hands
With Cortana up and running, you can begin to utter voice commands, instructing your Windows Phone 8.1 device to play music, book appointments, send text messages and answer questions.
The similarity with Siri is considerable, but Cortana’s links to Halo (particularly using the same voice artist, Jen Taylor), give it a personality of its own, making it sufficiently different from Apple’s groundbreaking entry in this field.
If you’ve followed our guide to upgrading your Windows Phone 8 device to the new developer preview, then the next step has to be activating Cortana!