In the world of virtual personal assistants, there’s a new name on the market as of 2014. Microsoft has created their own phone-based assistant called Cortana, named after the “Halo” game character, to compete with rival Apple’s existing Siri. In a head-to-head competition, both have similar features and capabilities, but the way they carry out their tasks, their accuracy, and the scope of each task varies between the two. Let’s look at three simple areas in which these virtual assistants offer similar options with different abilities.
Setting a reminder on your phone is easy with both Siri and Cortana. To bring up your assistant you simply press and hold the correct button for each phone and it is ready to receive your commands. Tell either one to set a reminder for a meeting, a certain time you need to make a call, or an item you need to pick up after work and they will gladly comply. But, if you look at them a little more closely you will see that these services are not necessarily equal.
Siri: Reminder Functions
-Time-based Reminders -Location-based Reminders (Limited) -Specific Reminder/Task Lists
Cortana: Reminder Functions
-Time-based Reminders -Location-based Reminders -Specific Reminder/Task Lists -Person-based Reminders
As you can see from the lists, the obvious difference is the person-based reminders featured by Cortana. This simply means that you can tell Cortana to remind you of a specific thing when you have some contact with a specific person on your phone. You can give a command like “Remind me to wish Mom a happy birthday today”, and when you send or receive a call or text from your mother you will be reminded about her birthday, as you requested. So far this is unique to Cortana and is not available through Siri.
The other difference is the limitations of the location-based reminders. Siri has excellent capabilities here when you want a reminder upon arrival somewhere or when leaving somewhere. Cortana takes it a step farther and is able to remind you to do something as you are nearing a location. If you wanted to pick up something from a friend’s house, you could give a command such as “Remind me to pick up my coat when I pass Ashley’s house” and your virtual assistant will give you a head’s up as you near the location (Note: for personal location’s like the example, you would need too program where Ashley’s house was in order for it to function).
Both also offer features that will help you avoid sticky situations on the road. With Siri, you can ask for traffic information either for your location or any other location with just a simple request. Statements like “Show me what the traffic is like” will give you current traffic information around your location while questions such as “What is traffic like on Main St.?” will give you information on conditions in specific places.
Cortana, on the other hand, has these same options and just a little bit more. This virtual assistant will give you a heads up about traffic on your intended route if you have a reminder set to go to a certain location. If you have a reminder set about a dentist appointment at 5pm, Cortana might tell you that you should leave earlier than normal in order to get there on time, because of certain delays on the road. This can really come in handy if you want to get to somewhere on time and you don’t know about the traffic issues that are developing.
Quiet Hour Vs Do Not Disturb:
iOS 8 phones and Windows 8.1 with Cortana have a very similar mode you can set in which you will not be bothered by incoming alerts of any kind. There are some subtle differences between the two modes, most of which revolve around the virtual assistant’s abilities to do certain tasks involving these modes.
Siri: Do Not Disturb
-Activate do not disturb mode
-Set times for do not disturb mode
Cortana: Quiet Hours
-Activate quiet hours
-Set specific times for quiet hours
-Add people to your inner circle
While Apple’s Do Not Disturb mode has customization with who is allowed to call you while the mode is on, you cannot adjust all of these settings through Siri. The assistant is able to manage when the mode will be turned on, but you must manually change more specific settings.
Cortana is much more highly integrated into the quiet hours mode. You can tell this assistant to add someone to your inner circle, the list of people who are allowed to reach you while the quiet hours are on, in addition to the other options that are the same as Apple’s, i.e. activating the mode immediately or setting specific times for it.
Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri are very similar, but it seems that Microsoft when a step beyond when it comes to the accessibility to phone features. Cortana is more able to meet your needs because it has been given access to more useful options than Siri.