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Microsoft's Cortana mobile beta adds conversational voice control

Conversational commands and music control are some of the upgrades.

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Jon Fingas/Engadget

Microsoft just made Cortana considerably more useful on smartphones -- provided you're an early adopter. It has announced a version 3.0 beta for Android and iOS that delivers a major interface overhaul with some valuable features. Gone is the blue-laden (and slightly dated) look you see above. Instead, you'll see a more modern-looking (if slightly plain) design with a prominent voice command button. More importantly, the interface now enables "conversational experiences" (that is, a more back-and-forth chat) with Cortana as well as a dedicated place to set up your Cortana-capable devices.

The beta also introduces some valuable new controls, including music and podcast playback for Spotify, iHeartRadio and TuneIn, as well as meetings, reminders and timers. Workers can even join Skype and Teams meetings with spoken commands, not to mention fine-tune calendars and send quick emails.

You have to be part of the beta programs for Android or iOS to try the new features, and Windows Central notes that the test release doesn't appear to be available yet. When it does come, though, it might give you a reason to try Cortana if you've been sticking to Alexa or a built-in voice assistant.

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