What’s the key to squeezing the most success out of a mobile service, when you’re also the company behind a smartphone platform? Do you lock it down to just your own phones, trying to use it as a carrot to lure users? Or do you set it free, allowing your competition’s users to access it as well (while helping to raise your own profile, and maybe just make your competitors look bad in the process)? This year, we saw Microsoft begin taking the latter approach, getting cross-platform Cortana access started with a beta program for Android (iOS is due in the next couple months), and while that was a big step for both Cortana and Microsoft, the user experience just wasn’t quite the same as on Windows Phone: you could ask Cortana questions, sure, but what about voice triggering – using “Hey, Cortana” in the same way as “OK, Google”? It sounded like we might not get it at all, but as Cortana for Android beta testers are now discovering, you should never say never, with “Hey, Cortana” support landing now for the app.
While there are some limitations to just how and when Cortana can listen for you to beckon, they don’t sound too bad: you need your phone awake, with the screen unlocked, and the app running.
Admittedly, screen-off or even lockscreen support would have been nice, but this is still a big step forward for making Cortana just as usable on her adoptive home as the service is on her native platform.
If you’re currently testing Cortana for Android, you should be able to find this new keyword detection option under app settings. If you haven’t taken the app for a spin just yet, you can join Microsoft’s beta testing community through the link below.