Microsoft launched the first public beta version of its Cortana personal assistant for Android phones on Monday, meaning anyone can now download the app and start using its voice-controlled features after months of speculation and leaks.
But don’t count on much of an improvement over the Google Now talking assistant already on your device.
Cortana for Android — at least in this beta form — is a watered-down version of what you may have already gotten used to on Windows 10. Microsoft is a third-party app builder for Android, which means its personal assistant won’t have access to all your apps, it can’t be used to change a phone’s settings and it can’t be activated with the normal “Hey Cortana” voice command.
It’s great for finding directions, looking up simple things like sports scores and routine tasks like texting. But Google Now can already do all that on Android devices, plus it has the advantage of coming baked in out of the box.
But Cortana is about more than just replacing its competitors’ personal assistants.
Microsoft plans to bring it to all Android and iOS devices as a way of connecting with people who use Windows on their computers, but most likely don’t have a Windows phone. The company is calling Cortana for Android the “companion to your Windows 10 PC,” because it’s supposed to be part of the bridge that makes a common experience across all your devices.
Cortana has been a major area of focus for Microsoft, as the company has been busy adding features like new languages, touting the service in commercials and making it one of the centerpieces of the Windows 10 operating system launch. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates even revealed on Reddit in January that he’s been personally involved in a project to build a “personal agent” — which basically looks just like Cortana.
The app may not give Android users a whole lot of reasons to ditch their built-in personal assistant right now, but Microsoft certainly seems to be pushing to try to get there someday.