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Microsoft’s Version Of Siri Now In Oz

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Microsoft’s Siri competitor, Cortana, has arrived in Australia inside a new update to the previous Windows Phone 8.1 upgrade, but there’s a catch.  
The update is finally rolling out to Windows Phone users across Australia, not only bringing a host of new updates to the already feature-rich Windows Phone 8.1 upgrade, but also the surprise inclusion of Cortana – Microsoft’s answer to Google Now and Apple’s Siri. 
Previously only available in the US, or to those who chose to set their phone’s language setting to US English, people in five more countries are getting Cortana at last, although there’s a catch. 

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How Cortana looks for Chinese users.

Chinese and UK users are getting a “beta” of Cortana, while Australian, Canadian and Indian users are getting Cortana as a potentially buggier “alpha”.

Microsoft is calling this an early preview for early adopters, with the program opt-in and no local voice accents, but instead “English speech models from the US and UK.”
The company says its customers who use the new Cortana alpha will help it to “improve the product to bring a high quality Cortana experience in more countries.”
Cortana is one of many new improvements to the Windows Phone 8.1 upgrade, including a Swype-style keyboard called WordFlow, a pull down notification bar and plenty more. 
However Cortana for non-US countries come inside a new update to the previously announced Windows Phone 8.1 OS which has even more new features to close the gap with iOS and Android. 
They include:
– Live Folders, which let you organise and further personal the Start screen. Just as with iPhone icons, Windows Phone users can tap and hold “an existing tile on the Start screen, then drag it over another app to create a new folder.” 
Folders can be renamed by tapping on a field above the open folder, while tiles inside a folder can be rearranged.
– SMS Merge and Forwarding lets users select individual messages to delete out of a messaging thread, or selected messages can be copy/pasted into a new message to forward.
– Apps corner, which is similar to the way the “Kids Corner” feature works, letting users “set up a sandboxed environment with the apps and features they choose.”
– Live Tile store updates mean the Windows Phone App Store now shows you recommendations and info about the latest apps and games directly and automatically on the Store’s “Live Tile”.

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The new Apps Corner that lets you give people access to selected apps on your phone, so they get a customised Start screen when they use your phone.

The Windows Phone 8.1 Update is set to roll out to all existing Windows Phone 8.1 users “in the coming months”, and while this is a far cry from the same-day availability of upgrades for iOS owners, it’s still a lot better than what most Android users are used to. 

More information is available at the Windows Phone blog, including comments from users happy at the changes and new features, and unhappy users miffed at features still not available or previously removed, as well as Microsoft’s inability to co-ordinate a global same-day update release like Apple.