The battle of the digital assistants rages on, and the most recent update to Cortana for Android gives the app the power to replace Google Now as your robotic helper of choice. The tool is still in the private testing phase (sign up here if you want in) but the new functionality is a sign of Microsoft’s commitment to getting Cortana just about everywhere it can.
At the Build conference in May Microsoft officially announced that Cortana would be making its way to iOS and Android this year. This follows the decision to bring it to the desktop with Windows 10, the idea being that you can get at Microsoft’s voice-activated smart assistant no matter what type of device you’re using and no matter what platform you’re on. Thanks to Android’s openness, you can set Cortana as your default assistant app (the one that appears when you press and hold the Home button).
Google Now is of course also on iOS, albeit in a more limited form thanks to the restrictions Apple puts on non-native apps; once Cortana makes the move too, there’ll be three similar apps vying to take control over your life and pop up with important information before you even know you need it. Siri isn’t available anywhere else, however — you need to buy Apple kit if you want Apple’s virtual helper.
Ultimately the choice is as much about the ecosystem you’re invested in as it is about the digital assistant with the best features. If all your emails are in Gmail then Google Now is the sensible choice, whereas Outlook fans are more likely to gravitate towards Cortana. What’s certain is that these assistant apps are becoming more and more important, and are already one of the key differentiators between Android, iOS and Windows Phone.
We’ll be sure to bring you the news when Cortana apps for Android and iOS are officially released, but Microsoft is obviously intent on getting as far into Android as it possibly can. Only last month the Redmond firm released an alternative launcher app that replaces the core Android interface, and it looks like it’s not finished yet.