Microsoft Brings New Voice Features to Outlook for iOS

Posted on June 8, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Android, iOS, Microsoft, Microsoft 365, Mobile with 13 Comments

Microsoft announced today that it is adding enhanced voice capabilities in Outlook mobile for iOS. And yes, they’re coming to Outlook on Android soon.

“Today we are announcing new enhanced voice capabilities in Outlook mobile for iOS (and coming soon to Android) that make using voice to schedule meetings and compose emails simpler for everyone,” Microsoft corporate vice president Jared Spataro announced. “These new AI-enhanced voice capabilities quickly contextualize your voice requests and provide a rapid response, making it more easy and natural to work on the go.”

The new voice features are:

Schedule a meeting. Microsoft’s description of how this will work doesn’t make sense, so I’ll just paraphrase: Soon, there will be a microphone icon somewhere in Outlook’s Calendar view that you will be able to use to tell Cortana what you want to do. “Cortana uses AI to help you find the right file, connect with a particular co-worker, or manage your calendar,” Mr. Spataro notes. “Let’s say you want to quickly know what’s coming up next on your schedule. Just tap the microphone icon and ask something like, ‘When’s my next team meeting?’; Cortana will instantly contextualize your answer and get you up to speed.”

Natural language search. You will be able to say something like “Find emails sent to John with attachments about the Q1 project budget” without needing to rely on key search terms.

Dictation. Dictation in Outlook mobile works similarly to how it works in Word and Outlook on Windows: It lets you use your voice to respond to or write new email messages.

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Comments (13)

13 responses to “Microsoft Brings New Voice Features to Outlook for iOS”

  1. JH_Radio

    Hmmm. might be worth trying outlook for iOS and android again. I like it on Windows 7 desktop and forget why I stopped using it on mobile.

  2. MikeCerm

    Is the dictation in Word and Outlook any different than using the speech-to-text that's built into the keyboard (on mobile), or voice recognition in Windows?

  3. jdawgnoonan

    I am not sure how many people are itching for Cortana on iOS or Android for anything. The main thing I would like to see is the Windows Calendar and Mail apps be brought on par with Outlook for mobile. I personally do not consider the desktop version of Outlook to be the same product as Outlook on iOS or Android but more the companion of the Mail and Calendar app in Windows.

    • mattbg

      Agree, but Cortana is really just the voice interface in this case and you need to invoke it somehow.

      The problem I see is having to remember which assistant you're supposed to summon depending on who wrote the app you're in.

      If I'm on iOS I'd rather everything be engaged with Siri even if it's not using Siri on the backend. I can see why Microsoft nor Apple would want this. Microsoft wants Cortana visible because they sell it as a service, and Apple wouldn't want the Siri brand corrupted by faulty AI that they didn't develop. But if you were truly designing for the user regardless of corporate motivations I think that's how it'd work.

  4. dougkinzinger

    I've been beta testing the iOS version for a while. Works well except when the beta iOS SwiftKey (now a Microsoft product) crashes and won't start dictating. Also the 'back' button is very tiny. :)

    • mikegalos

      Yeah, if you use a beta with a beta it's not surprising you get crashes and bugs. That's kind of a given for why what you're using is in beta...

  5. jchampeau

    I suspect this is an iOS limitation and not an Outlook app limitation, but if I intend to use my voice to find the right file, connect with a particular co-worker, or manage my calendar, I shouldn't have to open Outlook and tap the microphone first. Either I can do those things without taking my hands off the wheel, washing away the bacon grease, or putting down the dry erase marker, or I can't.

  6. wright_is

    "making it more easy and natural to work on the go."

    Erm, shouldn't that be "making it easier and more natural to work on the go."?

    The sentence looks ham-fisted and I had to read it twice for it to make sense. I hope Outlook's audio capabilities are a little more sophisticated than that.

    • jchampeau

      You’re correct. I’m reminded frequently of the juxtaposition of Microsoft’s supposed AI capabilities and all the ways they should use it but don’t—communication, making Windows updates not break things, etc., etc. Heck, I would settle for just regular intelligence from them.

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