Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating was years behind the iPhone’s iOS operating system until the Windows Phone 8.1 update. It was Windows Phone 8.1 that added support for managing what’s store in folders. It was that update that added crucial customization options for the Start Screen and the new Action Center notification area. Windows 8.1 also added another feature, Cortana, Microsoft’s digital personal assistant.
A picture of Cortana, captured by The Verge.
After being turned on for the first time, Cortana takes over the search experience in Windows Phone 8.1. She’s always there, ready to look up information for you. She can get you directions to the nearest bank branch. She can track your flights. She can start your music and find your new favorite show in Netflix.
The Lumia 930 and some other high-end Windows Phones allow you to skip the search button press and have Cortana always ready. Microsoft calls this feature Hey Cortana, and it’s very similar to the Hey Siri toggle on the iPhone and what’s available with Google Now on the Motorola Moto X. Here’s how to use Hey Cortana on the Lumia 930 or any other device that has it.
Setting Up Hey Cortana
Before you can start giving the Hey Cortana command, there is this setup process that you need to complete. A few of the features that Microsoft added with Windows Phone 8.1 are hardware dependent. Hey Cortana is one of those hardware dependent feature additions. You won’t see the Hey Cortana feature listed in your device’s settings unless you have a robust processor and enough RAM. You’ll need the Lumia Denim software update if you’re using the Lumia Icon and Lumia 1520.
The Lumia 930 has the Hey Cortana feature. So does the HTC One M8 for Windows, Lumia Icon and Lumia 1520. The list of compatible devices for Hey Cortana will grow as more flagship smartphones capable of competing directly with Android and the iPhone 6 emerge.
Turn on your Windows Phone by pressing the power button. If you’re using the Lumia 930 or any recent Lumia Windows Phone, double tapping on the screen also works.
Unlock your Windows Phone.
Welcome to the Start Screen. Look for the Settings Live Tile. In our example it’s in the bottom-right corner, but where you placed yours could very. Tap the arrow in the bottom right corner to bring up a list of every app you have installed on your device.
Then tap on Settings.
Welcome to the Settings app. Scroll to the bottom of the System Settings to find Hey Cortana. Again this is only if your device supports the feature, which isn’t necessarily the case depending on your Windows Phone’s hardware specifications.
Tap on Hey Cortana.
Tap Train to begin the setup process. This setup process involves you saying Hey Cortana in your regular conversational voice a few times. The process can be frustrating if you’re not in the right environment. For the setup, be sure to find a quiet space where you can talk at normal volume. How well Hey Cortana works heavily depends on getting this training right.
Hold your Windows Phone out away from your face when you’re in a quiet place and tap on Start.
Say “Hey, Cortana” in your conversational voice. When your Lumia 930 or other Windows Phone have picked it up you’ll be prompted to move to the next step in the setup process. If it suddenly gets loud or you don’t say the phrase the same way, you are forced to try again.
In total you’ll need to accurately say “Hey, Cortana” at least five times.
When you’ve completed the setup process you’ll see a success message and the option to close the setup process. You’re taken back to the Hey Cortana setup screen after the process is done. Notice that they switch is now on. Feel free to turn Hey Cortana on and off whenever you want. Doing so won’t clear all the setup you just went through.
Using Hey Cortana
Making use of Hey Cortana is easy. You can still press the Search button on your device’s navigation bar if you want. When you are doing something with your hands, Hey Cortana is important.
Just say Hey Cortana and your Lumia 930 or other Windows Phone will turn on, ready for any command that you can throw at it. For the command to work you need to be reasonably close to your device – so at least within the same room. If your device is setting on your desk, nightstand or in a cradle in your car Hey Cortana should work. If it stops working correctly retrain it.
Wait until you’ve heard you phone acknowledge your Hey Cortana phrase before you start giving it an order. Anything that you can do with Cortana by pressing a button is available to you. That includes app commands, setting reminders, turning on alarms, sending messages or even making jokes.