How to get Cortana to work on Windows Phone in the UK
Here's a loaded question: how do you get Cortana voice assist on your Windows Phone 8 device in the UK?
Technically you're supposed to wait until the second half of 2014 when Cortana will roll out as part of a Windows Phone 8.1 update. America will get it sooner, as we tea drinking, crumpet loving Brits speak in nothing but garbled nonsense and, therefore, obviously have to wait. We jest.
First thing's first: a warning. By installing the pre-release version of WP8.1 you cannot go back to an earlier version of the operating system. You also waive your device warranty. And Nokia specific updates won't roll out until Nokia pushes those updates. If you own an HTC 8X or 8S installing Cortana is not possible. Still with us? If you don't have a spare Windows Phone device then, ultimately, we don't recommend performing this update as you'll end up in operating system no man's land.
But you want to break the rules. You want to talk to Cortana. We get it. So follow these step by step instructions.
Install Windows Phone 8.1 Preview
1. Register as a developer
To do this you need to head to Windows Phone App Studio. You can do this on a laptop, or on your phone. Simply follow the instructions, register with an email address and you'll arrive at a "Ready. Set. Go. Done!" screen.
Signing up doesn't have to cost anything if you're an aspiring developer wanting to explore the ins and outs of Windows Phone. And for the purposes of this guide we're all aspiring developers, ok?
2. Install 'Preview for Developers'
Navigate to the Store on your Windows Phone device and search "Preview for Developers". Download it and install. Follow the instructions, ensuring to check the "Enable Preview for Developers" box and then click the "done" button.
You'll also need to sign in with the account set up for the Windows Phone App Studio.
3. Update software
Head to Settings and scroll down to "phone update". Hit the "check for updates" button and you'll be on your way to the preview build of Windows Phone 8.1.
Once downloaded the install will prompt you to restart - you will need to restart many more times through this process - but bear with it. Cortana's dulcet tones are merely around the corner.
Go all American
With Windows Phone 8.1 installed you might expect Cortana to pop up straight away. Nah ah, it's not going to happen by magic in the UK. So you need to fool your phone into thinking you're an American English speaker, not a British English speaker. Cortana must be very sensitive to the letter s in place of the letter z.
4. Update speech
Go into Settings again and scroll down to "speech". This will be set to English (United Kingdom). Swap it to English (United States).
The phone will need to download a 66MB update and restart.
5. Swap language
Also in Settings is "language". Same deal here as above, swap it to English (United States).
We found that adding US saw it added as a second language rather than a replacement. You'll want to move the United States to the top of the pile. Alternatively, as we did, press and hold the United Kingdom option and delete it.
Changes are you'll need to restart once again.
6. Change region
The last of the American trio of swapsies. Head to Settings again, select United States as the Country/Region from the droplist. Regional format should "match phone language" which you've just set to United States.
Lo and behold you'll want to restart again.
7. Select Cortana
You don't need to search out Cortana from the Store as it's always been part of the Windows Phone 8.1 Preview install, only hidden away.
If you're not met with Cortana when launching the phone then swipe to the right and you'll spot the Cortana icon. One click and you're in.
8. Tell 'her' your name
As it's a personal voice assist, Microsoft has made Cortana a bit, well, personal. So upon opening the app you can type your name. Cortana speaks it back to you and asks if it's ok. Short of writing in an obscure swearword we suspect it will be.
At this stage if anything else is wrong, Cortana will let you know. For example location services have to be switched on and if the language setting still isn't right then, again, Cortana will provide a link to update this through Settings. Only English United States will work.
9. Ask lots of stupid questions
Now you've done it, so press the microphone icon to the bottom right, a bit like you would in Google Now or Siri, and ask lots of fun things.
Set alarms and reminders. Call your Mum. Call your friends' Mums. Cortana even knew where the local pub was.
It did a pretty decent job of understanding even our mumbly British accent.