I am surprised by how useful I find Cortana on my Windows 8 phone.
I have had a Windows 8.1 phone for a few weeks and I think that it is the first time that I keep my phone close to me most of the time. Coming from somebody who worked on mobile devices for many, many years, during which she kept all mobile devices at a safe distance, this means a lot!
Cortana is what really makes a difference in my phone use, because she really is the closest to a personal assistant that you could get right now.
I love listening to podcasts when I do chores, it is a little personal time when I am not “working” working.
Let’s say that I am making dinner and listening to Radio Lab, and my husband sends me a text message. Cortana gently interrupts my podcast and lets me know that I received a text from him. Without stopping my vegetables chopping, I ask her to read me his text and then to reply back. I tell her what I want to say in my text, she reads it back to me, I approve it and she sends it. Once she has done that, she goes back to my podcast exactly where it was interrupted. Notice that in the meantime I have not touched my phone once!
Now, I happen to know a few people who are serial texters, meaning that they love having long conversations by text, sending a small sentence at the time. Which means that for each sentence I would need to interrupt my cooking, wash and dry my hands, pick up the phone, unlock it, pause my podcast, go to messages, read, reply, get back to the podcast; over and over again until dinner is burned.
Cortana does it all for me and I keep on cooking – dinner is spared and so is my temper (and my social life).
I know, it feels like one of those “has this ever happened to you?” commercials, but I am honestly delighted with this feature.
Disclaimer: In my time at Microsoft I worked on both mobile and voice recognition technology.