After a slew of leaks and a private beta, Microsoft has now officially rolled out the first public beta of its digital virtual assistant Cortana for Android users. Cortana gets inspiration from the character in the company’s wildly popular gaming franchise Halo, who has the ability to learn and adapt to its surroundings. It’s Microsoft’s response to Apple’s Siri and Google Now, will be able to perform most of the tasks it does on PCs and Windows Phone.
Since the announcement of closed beta, several improvements have been added to enrich the overall experience. For instance, users can now set Cortana as the destination on Home button, and can use the digital assistant for daily activities such as setting reminders and alarms, tracking flights, answering random users queries along with a bunch of other tasks such as web browsing and perform routine voice-powered searches.
However, the Android version will still be deprived of certain key features compared to how it functions on its ‘native’ Windows environment. Notably, the use of ‘Hey Cortana’ voice command to wake up the personal assistant which for now is only limited to Windows. Users will also be unable to open apps via Cortana or toggle settings in the Android version.
“As with all betas, we are continually improving the experience and will incorporate feedback along the way,” said the company. Hence, this a clear indication that Cortana for Android might come with certain glitches, while Microsoft will try and improve the user experience based on the feedback it receives from beta testers.
The beta version of Cortana for Android users is now available in the US, while it’ll be rolling out in other markets as well, says Microsoft. The Cortana app for Android is now available for download on Google Play. Users will initially need to sign up for the public beta, which apparently is not as cumbersome as it used to be, thanks to Google’s new beta signing process for Android apps. Hence, instead of signing up via Google Group or Google Plus to participate in a beta testing program which was the case in the past, users now can visit the sign up page and become a beta tester with just a mere tap.
Meanwhile, the company also said it is prepping an iOS version of the Halo-inspired digital assistant, though hasn’t yet specified when the version will be rolled out.