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How to unlock Cortana on Windows Phone 8.1 in the UK

Want to know how to unlock Cortana on your phone after updating to Windows Phone 8.1 in the UK? Read on.

Those eager to meet the new personal assistant can do so now, if you’re prepared to get a bit technical with your Windows Phone. We detail the full process of downloading Windows Phone 8.1 to your device here, but if like us you’re in the UK, you might have noticed that Cortana is strangely absent, initially at least, leaving the same old Bing voice search on offer in its place.

Worry not, she’s there, she’s just hiding. Searching ‘Cortana’ will reveal a result on the phone called ‘Cortana settings’. Once you’ve got Cortana up and running, this will let you manage the cloud data she uses, but at this point, you’ll see a greyed out toggle with the message ‘Not available in this region’. Let’s fix that.

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As this a developer preview and not a finished product, you have to be prepared to kick your phone into US English before you proceed. This does things like tweak the keyboard layout, display currency in US Dollars and could potentially mess with Xbox Music and other services, but as long as you’re happy to live with that before the official release here in Blighty, we’ll carry on.

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Head into the settings menu and find the ‘Language’ option. You’ll need to download ‘English (United States)’ and set that as the phone’s primary language if you don’t already have it. This requires a restart so be patient and once your phone is back up and running, head to the ‘Region’ setting in the settings menu and again, pick United States, which will ask for a restart once again.

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This time around a swipe to the apps menu will offer up Cortana as a new addition. Pin her to the home screen or simply tap to get started. You’ll be taken through a setup process that’s pretty self explanatory, letting you add specific facts, contacts and people that matter to you into Cortana’s Notebook.

Then ask her questions! You might have to put on an American accent for the most accurate response, as she hasn’t yet been coded to understand RP (Received Pronunciation) or any British accent for that matter. Ask the right questions and you can even get references to key Microsoft employees, Halo and even Clippy.

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