Cortana lands in the UK and China in Windows Phone 8.1 Update

Windows Phone 8.1 OS
Microsoft has announced the first update for Windows Phone 8.1, and that it will be made available to developers, and anyone else running the pre-release version of the OS, next week. Known as Update 1, the new version concentrates on bringing the Cortana virtual assistant to new markets, and added a few cool new features in for good measure too.

Cortana gets the most attention inside Update 1. She will be officially available in both the UK and China, and has been localized to provide relevant information. In the UK, Cortana will get a British accent, and support British spellings and word pronunciations. She’ll know more about UK-specific sports, understand the London Stock Exchange, and help users keep up to date with local traffic reports. According to Microsoft, Cortana’s personality has been “tweaked to be more locally relevant” too.

The Chinese version of Cortana has been given the nickname Xiao Na, along with an entirely new alternative look, complete with a cute face, new audio and special animations. Again, local relevancy is important, so Cortana will help out with air quality updates, report on any driving restrictions, and keep users up to date with local television shows. She understands Mandarin, and has an English dictionary on hand too.

America’s Cortana has also been treated to an update. You’ll be able to use her through your in-car hands-free system, provided it can access your phone contacts, plus her natural language ability has been improved. These changes include some fun hidden features, and Microsoft says you should remember to ask Cortana to do an impersonation. Finally, Cortana will also be visiting Canada, India, and Australia, but only as an opt-in “alpha” program with UK or U.S. English language support.

There are a few cool new features elsewhere in Update 1, with one of the standouts being the introduction of folders on the Start screen. Drag a Live Tile over another and like iOS and Android, a folder will automatically be created, ready to be given a name of your choice. Microsoft has updated Xbox Music, reinstating several older features, and generally improving performance. Other small tweaks in Update 1 include a new Windows Store Live Tile which will display the latest Store news, plus SMS merging, SMS forwarding, and security updates relevant to VPN and Wi-Fi Hotspot connections.

Microsoft will send Update 1 out to developers in the coming week, but hasn’t confirmed which day, while those without access to Windows Phone 8.1 Preview will have to wait several months for it to arrive on their phones. Windows Phone 8.1 was officially revealed in April, and you can read about all the other changes in our full report here.


Our favorite Windows apps will help you get the most out of your new PC

Not sure what apps you should be downloading for your newfangled Windows device? Here are the best Windows apps, whether you need something to speed up your machine or access your Netflix queue. Check out our categories and favorite picks.

Stop your PC's vow of silence with these tips on how to fix audio problems

Sound problems got you down? Don't worry, with a few tweaks and tricks we'll get your sound card functioning as it should, and you listening to your favorite tunes and in-game audio in no time.

Want to set up your own virtual private network? Here's how

Take a look at our walkthrough for creating a virtual private network and why it is beneficial for more than just increased privacy and security. We go step by step, detailing how to set up a VPN in both MacOS and in Windows 10.

Sending SMS messages from your PC is easier than you might think

Texting is a fact of life, but what to do when you're in the middle of something on your laptop or just don't have your phone handy? Here's how to send a text message from a computer, whether you prefer to use an email client or Windows 10.

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for November 2018

Smartwatches make your life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. So if you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, read on for the best smartwatch deals.

Bigger than Black Friday: Don’t miss the best Single’s Day deals

Thanks to AliExpress, Single's Day – the world's largest retail day – is no longer a foreign affair. If you're ready to do some early holiday shopping or want to score some discounts ahead of Black Friday, we've rounded up some of the…
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Our favorite ebook reader is not a Kindle. Here are all the best options

If you're a bookworm, an ebook reader can be an important part of your life, one that allows you to read your books whenever and wherever you like. But which should you get? Here are five of the best ebook readers available.

Samsung made a $2,700 flip phone with the brains of a smartphone

The Samsung W2019 is a high-end flip phone that comes with flagship specifications such as 6GB of RAM and Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845. The device features a pair of S-AMOLED displays, a dual rear camera setup, and an eye-popping price tag.

Google, Samsung, OnePlus, and Huawei face off in an Android battle royale

The good news is that there are some great options in the Android smartphone market right now. The bad news is that too much choice makes it tough to decide. We compare the Pixel 3 XL, the Galaxy Note 9, the OnePlus 6T, and the Mate 20 Pro.
Product Review

It's so fast it has a clip-on fan. But the Asus ROG phone isn't just for gamers

Is a gaming smartphone only something a mobile gamer should consider buying? In the case of the Asus ROG Phone, the good news is the device is so capable, and a genuinely impressive all-rounder, that everyone should take a closer look…

Apple to boost its Amazon presence with listings for iPhones, iPads, and more

Apple is about to start offering more of its kit on Amazon. The tech giant currently only has very limited listings on the shopping site, but the deal will see the arrival of the latest iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and more.

Black Friday 2018: The best deals so far

Black Friday is the biggest shopping holiday of the year, and it will be here before you know it. If you can't wait until November 23 to start formulating a shopping plan, we've got you covered.

Get your gaming on the go with this list of the 25 best Android games

The Google Play Store is loaded with both terrific and terrible gaming titles. We vetted the store to bring you some of the best Android games available, whether you're into puzzles, shooters, racing games, or something else.