Best Cortana feature missing from Android

Dave W. Shanahan

Cortana for Android

Now that Microsoft has confirmed that Windows Phone is dead, the focus has shifted to improving its apps on other platforms. I have begun to wonder whether the Cortana features that I loved on WIndows Phone will ever see the light of day on Android (or iOS). I have missed one specific feature that was available on Cortana when I was using Windows Phone, but I have been unable to replicate. While my phone is connected to my car via Bluetooth, I can’t read and respond to SMS messages using my voice.

I assumed that Android phones would allow me to read and respond to SMS messages using my voice through another virtual asisstant. However, there are no Android assistants that I know of that can handle this feature the way Cortana can; not even Samsung’s Bixby. I have downloaded a handful of apps on Android, but none have come close to the same Cortana experience on Windows Phone. I haven’t been able to test this on iOS, so I am not sure if there is an equal car experience available.

I believe that bringing this feature to Cortana on Android will show users of other platforms where Cortana shines, especially when you are driving. On Windows Phone, it didn’t matter if you were playing music, getting voice map directions or both, the music or map navigation would pause for a moment and Cortana would chime in to ask if you wanted to read and/or respond to an incoming text. Cortana made using your phone while driving a truly “hands-free” experience. Nothing comes close to the same experience in Android.

I found an app in the Google Play Store that can read your SMS messages in the same way that Cortana did on Windows Phone. It’s called “Hands-Free SMS,” but the app reviews aren’t stellar and on top of that the app costs $4.99. Apparently, Google Now also has the ability to read and respond to SMS messages hands-free, but if you don’t phrase your response correctly (OK, Google), you might end up not being able to read any text messages at all. Also, Google Now sometimes gets confused and wants me to repeat myself because it can’t figure out what I want to do. My point is, if it was so easy to do on Windows Phone, why does it seem so hard to do on Android?

Once I joined the Cortana beta program on Android, I hoped that this feature would be available eventually. Using your voice to read and respond to SMS messages while driving seems like a no-brainer, but neither Google Assistant, nor Siri offer the same experience that Cortana did with Windows Phone. While there are plenty of users on other platforms that like to point out all of the ways where Windows Phones failed, there were many areas that Windows Phone got right. Cortana integration was certainly one of them. I hope Microsoft will come to their senses and will bring the easy hands-free SMS read and respond messaging feature that was so seamless on Windows Phone to Cortana on Android very soon.