After a private beta and a few leaks, Microsoft today launched the first public beta of its Siri- and Google Now-like Cortana personal assistant for Android.
Microsoft describes the Cortana app as a “companion to your Windows 10 PC” that extends the service’s functionality across any device you carry (which, of course, implicitly acknowledges that you’re very unlikely to carry a Windows Phone).
Overall, Cortana on Android isn’t all that different from the PC version. You can set reminders, search the web, track flights and do the usual voice-powered searches Cortana has long been able to handle on other platforms.
Because Cortana doesn’t have full access to your Android phone, though, you won’t be able to just say “Hey Cortana” (Microsoft’s version of “OK Google”) to start the app for the time being. You also won’t be able to open apps from Cortana or toggle settings. All of these features are currently only available on Windows 10 PCs.
To get started, you still have to sign up for the public beta, but Microsoft now makes use of Google’s much-improved beta sign-up process for Android apps. Instead of having to join a Google Group or Google+ community to participate, you now only have to click a single button and you’re in.
The app is currently only available in the U.S., but Microsoft says it plans to roll it out to other markets later. It looks like the current version is also only compatible with Android phones (Google Play won’t let us install it on our Nexus 7 and 9 tablets, for example).
As Microsoft reiterated today, it’s also working on an iOS version of Cortana, but it’s unclear when this version will launch.