Key TakeawaysMicrosoft has deactivated the Cortana voice assistant service for Android and iOS devices.I spent dozens of hours playing Halo, and Cortana's image in the game is engraved in my mind. There's a slightly more human quality to Cortana's interactions than rival voice assistants.I'll miss Cortana despite her uneven performance understanding my voice.
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Cortana, we hardly knew you.
The beloved character from the Halo video games that Microsoft borrowed for its voice assistant will be around less than before. The company recently deactivated the Cortana service for Android and iOS devices.
I would miss having Cortana around even if she wasn't as useful for me as Master Chief. I love the idea of voice assistants, and it was a thrill hearing Cortana's familiar tones rather than the more mechanical intonations of Siri or Alexa.
"Was Cortana a great voice assistant? Well, no. She tended to misunderstand me far more than Apple's Siri or Amazon's Alexa."
Cortana Gets the Cut
If you had been using the Cortana mobile app, it stopped working at the end of last month. Microsoft no longer will support the app, and Cortana content that users previously created, including reminders and lists, won't be available.
However, all the information you created in the Cortana app on your phone still will be available to access through Cortana in Windows. Cortana reminders, lists, and tasks will be automatically synced to the free Microsoft To Do app.
It's curtains for Cortana in other ways, as well. The voice assistant is saying goodbye to some headphones and speakers.
Cortana has been disconnected on the Harman Kardon Invoke smart speaker. The Invoke used Cortana, and since it's gone, it's now a dumb speaker pretty much only good for streaming through Bluetooth.
The Invoke is an excellent speaker with far superior sound quality than most of Amazon's offerings. I bought it last year for the bargain price of $35. I was a sucker for a quick deal and didn't do my research to find out that the Invoke was losing Cortana.
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If you own the first version of Microsoft's Surface Headphones, you won't be able to chat with Cortana through them much longer. In an online note, the company says it will be removing support for the previous version of Cortana in the first version of Surface Headphones.
However, you'll still be able to use both versions of Surface Headphones and the new Surface Earbuds to tap into Cortana via Outlook mobile to manage your inbox and schedule with the Play My Emails feature.
Was Cortana a great voice assistant? Well, no. She tended to misunderstand me far more than Apple's Siri or Amazon's Alexa. There were odd pauses when responding to my queries.
More Human Than Your Average Bot
But I will miss Cortana despite her flaws. Maybe it's my imagination, but there is a slightly more human quality to her interactions than rival voice assistants. Speaking to my Google Nest Hub is like shouting into the wind or yelling vaguely in the direction of Mark Zuckerberg's mansion. There's no satisfaction in saying, "Hey, Google."
"I know exactly who Cortana is... She's the one who gets you out of danger when the chips are down and does her best to help on your missions to save humanity."
At least Amazon's Alexa, like Cortana and Siri, has a name. Yet, it's curiously hard to picture what Alexa looks like. Does she have an office near Jeff Bezos, and do they lunch together? I just can't tell with her robotic tones. There's no personality behind the voice with most smart assistants.
It's the same problem with Siri. Her name is vaguely Nordic, and her tone is ever patient. I've tried giving her more personality by switching her accent from the default bland American one to that of a female South African. Apparently, I'm not the only one who wants to change things up with Siri. In the upcoming iOS 14.5, you'll be prompted to pick a default voice for Siri, and Apple is including two new voice options.
But I've nearly given up trying to find out who Siri really is as a person. She's elusive when I ask her personal questions. I ask what her favorite color is and she says orange. A minute later, the answer is green.
On the other hand, I know exactly who Cortana is. I spent dozens of hours playing Halo, and her image is engraved in my mind. She's the one who gets you out of danger when the chips are down and does her best to help on your missions to save humanity. As a voice assistant, she even helped me get out of bed on time in the morning. That is, when she understood my command.