Microsoft Extends Cortana's Reach to iPhones, Android and Cyanogen

Microsoft's virtual assistant is available as a companion app for Apple's iPhone, Android handsets and the Cyanogen OS-powered One Plus One smartphone.

Microsoft Cortana, iPhone, Android, Cynogen

Siri is getting a roommate.

Calling it a companion app for Windows 10 PC users, Microsoft today announced the official release of Cortana for iPhone (iOS 8 and up), Android "Jelly Bean" (4.1.2) and Cyanogen OS. Last summer, Cortana made its debut on Android as a beta app.

"In May, we announced that Cortana would be the first personal digital assistant to help you complete tasks across your devices, from PC to phone and vice versa regardless of your device of choice," said Marcus Ash, group program manager, Microsoft Cortana, said in a Dec. 9 announcement. "Today is a big step in delivering on that promise—bringing even more ways to save you time and effort anywhere you need it."

Cortana, named after an AI character in the popular Halo video game series, first made its debut on Windows Phone last year. Now bundled with the latest version of Windows, the voice-enabled assistant has since made its way onto more than 100 million Windows 10 devices.

Powered, in part, by Microsoft's Bing search engine, Cortana allows users to search the Web, schedule reminders and kick off a bevy of tasks with voice commands. With the new, non-Windows versions of the technology, the company is positioning Cortana as a multiplatform extension of Windows 10 PC experience.

For example, users can set reminders that sync across devices. "Set a location-based reminder on one device and have it pop up on your smartphone when you arrive at the location," stated Ash. Along the same lines, "you'll be able to track flights, packages and more using Cortana on both your phone and your PC, and get the updates on the device that you're on so you don't miss a thing."

Cortana may mimic the functionality provided by Siri on iPhone and Google Now on Android handsets, but there are some limits.

"While the Cortana app is fully-featured, there are some things Cortana can do on Windows phones that aren't currently possible with iOS or Android," Ash stated. "This includes toggling settings or opening apps, and the ability to invoke Cortana hands-free by saying 'Hey Cortana.'"

On Cyanogen OS, the Android-based offshoot most notably used by the buzz-worthy OnePlus One phone, Cortana offers a more integrated experience, Ash said. Uttering "Hey Cortana" activates Cortana on any screen or while running an app.

"The custom integration includes the ability to ask Cortana to toggle network modes, power down your phone, and turn on Quiet Mode amongst other features," Ash said. "With Quiet Mode enabled, all notifications, calls and alarms will be silenced."

Cortana on Cyanogen OS will be enabled on One Plus One phones in the United States when the 12.1.1 over-the-air update is issued later this month. Ash added that "Cortana will be rolled out to other Cyanogen OS powered devices early next year with even greater functionality, and we look forward to doing even more together in the future."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...