Cortana for Android syncs notifications, lets you leave your phone in your pocket

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At Microsoft’s Build conference this year, the Redmond-based company announced new “cloud notification” integration that’ll see Android phones gain the ability to mirror incoming messages, calls, and texts to a paired Windows 10 PC’s tray. It didn’t take long for the feature to appear in an updated Cortana app for Android and a beta build of Windows 10 in early April, but it appeared unfinished; only battery and missed call notifications could be enabled. A new version of the Android Cortana client released on Thursday, though, is significantly more robust.

Most notably, the latest Cortana app for Android adds several toggles to the “Sync notifications” tab within its Settings menu. In addition to familiar options for mirroring notifications about your phone’s battery level and incoming phone calls, it’s gained a setting to mirror notifications to a Windows 10 PC on a per-app basis. Enabling the new setting requires a few steps, including updating your PC to Windows 10 Insider build 14342 or newer, associating your handset with the Microsoft you use to sign into your PC, granting the Cortana app access to your phone’s notifications, and enabling notification syncing on PC. But once the prerequisites are met, getting phone notifications through your PC’s a seamless, hands-off affair: they appear in your notification drawer as a native app would.

Notifications come in relatively quickly — in a manner of seconds, on average — and convey the gist of your Android phone’s messages, but they aren’t perfect. None of the notifications are actionable, which is to say you can’t reply to e-mails or dismiss bothersome Facebook app pop-ups from your computer — those sorts of tasks have to be performed on your phone. And many apps, including Gmail and the organizational app Trello, mirror only bits and pieces of messages: Gmail, for example, indicates the number of unread e-mails in your Inbox (e.g., “3 new messages”) in mirrored Windows 10 notifications, but doesn’t provide a preview of those messages.

It’s the early days, of course — Android notification integration’s not slated to hit stable builds of Windows 10 until this summer, likely to coincide with the firm’s Anniversary Update. But the feature’s nowhere near as robust as the sort of mirroring enabled by apps like Pushbullet and AirDroid, both of which allow you to dismiss notifications. Still, if native, if you’ve got an Android phone and native, free notification mirroring’s a must, Microsoft’s solution represents the cream of the crop.

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