While many are commuting less and working from home more, we are witnessing an increase in on-the-go activities on mobile devices – people are simply on the go in their houses, staying closer to home or shifting more rapidly between work and personal responsibilities while keeping their phones closer at hand. The need to be able to stay on top of what’s important and take care of business in a timely way has never been more critical. Today we are announcing new capabilities in Play My Emails in Outlook for iOS and Android that are focused on giving you flexibility to get things done when and where it’s best for you. We are rolling out capabilities for you to personalize how you use Play My Emails in order for you to maximize productivity and give you the most time back so you can focus on doing the things that matter to you every day.
Since we launched Play My Emails in Outlook for iOS and Android, there has been a lot of demand to expand the capability to locations outside the United States. We are pleased to announce today that we will extend Play My Emails to customers in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and India in the coming months.
We are further adding functionality to Play My Emails in Outlook for Android that includes the time and task management capabilities that rolled out earlier this year in Outlook for iOS. Specifically, you can now schedule a meeting with the person who sent you an email. Simply ask Cortana to schedule a meeting and the next available timeslot for the two of you will be proposed and you can choose to accept or decline. Also, when you hear the details in an email that require you to take action, you can now ask Cortana to add it to your task list. Tasks created in Play My Emails in Outlook for Android and iOS, flagged emails and tasks created from emails are all automatically synced with tasks in Microsoft 365 and can be managed in your To Do app.
Accept a meeting invitation with Play My Emails in Outlook for Android
Similarly, if you have Teams Meeting occurring within about 5 minutes while using Play My Emails in Android, just like in iOS, you can ask Cortana to join your meeting with your voice or by touching the large tap targets.
But what if your phone is in your pocket? We’ve built in additional functionality into Play My Emails so you have the option to use the larger touch target interface on your mobile device to take action or use the controls on your headphones (*previously a feature exclusive to Surface Earbuds) – whether your phone is in your pocket, purse or in the other room, you can continue to catch up with what’s new in your inbox and take action completely hands free.
We are also adding ability to respond to emails or invitations by calling the sender directly from your phone. This way, even if you’re in the middle of your inbox triage, you can ask Cortana to help you connect with someone in a timely way. Simply tap the microphone icon or say “Hey Cortana, call the sender” or just “call” and you’ll have the option to reach the person who sent you that specific email on their phone.
Finding safe ways for you to stay connected to what matters extends to situations when you might use Play My Emails in your car. We are rolling out a new car mode that automatically detects when your iOS device is connected to your car audio system and waits for you to use the controls on your steering wheel rather than on your phone to start Play My Emails. We’ve added a small refinement so that if you want glance at your inbox before automatically starting Play My Emails, we built in a short delay.
We all need time to take a break, frankly we often need to be reminded too, especially when our days may be filled with back to back online meetings. Taking a break from your large screen for walking or whatever other activity you want to pursue can be a welcome disruption. Alternatively you might find that the best time of day for you to get organized is at 7:45 AM, or PM. Whatever works for you, we’ve added a feature that lets you schedule a reminder to start Play My Emails. This way your daily routine can be maintained – consider it like scheduling a 1:1 with your assistant to show up and read your emails out to you and changes to your day. You have the option to customize when you want to take that time to catch up.
Set reminders at the best time for you to catch up
Setting up Outlook to work the way you do is a personal matter, so we’re adding the ability to customize Play My Emails to do the same. Now you can choose to listen to emails from multiple accounts in Outlook for iOS and Android. You can listen to what’s new in your inbox from your Microsoft work or school account, Outlook.com or Gmail account. Just turn on the respective account toggle in Outlook settings – previously you had to choose which account, now you can turn on multiple accounts at the same time and Cortana will share with you which account has new items you should be aware of.
We’ve also extended the scope of what’s considered NEW in your inbox from 24 hours to 72 hours while at the same time giving you more options to customize or specify which emails you listen to. In the coming weeks, we will enable you to ask Cortana to listen to specific emails and conversations.
Let’s dive deeper into what this enables you to do.
Outlook helps you connect with your Favorite People with fast access to email conversations and email notification options. Now you can choose to set Play My Emails to only read out what’s new from your Favorite People in Outlook for iOS.
Thanks to the power of AI and the Microsoft Graph, Cortana knows you and people in your organization. Now you can ask to listen to emails from specific people, for example, your manager. And you can further personalize the readout experience to a specific time period or a specific topic. Any time you’re using Play My Emails in Outlook for iOS, you can ask Cortana:
What emails do I have from my manager?
What emails do I have from Jose?
What emails do I have since Saturday?
What emails do I have about Microsoft Ignite?
Cortana will give you a summary of how many conversations you have in your inbox based on your request and start to read them out to you.
We’ve learned that many people use their message list or inbox as their to do list. For those and for others who strive to achieve to reach zero emails in their inbox, the ability to listen and act on emails even if they’ve previously been read becomes a must-have option with Play My Emails. We’re are now adding this option to a new location in Outlook settings for Play My Emails.
Based on customer feedback, we recently adjusted some of the ways Cortana interprets the details of your emails. For example, if an email contains a table, Cortana can read out details about each row rather than just letting you know there’s a table there. Also, if you’ve received a long email, Cortana will read out the entire email instead of letting you know it’s a long one so it’s better read later. Remember, you can always say Hey Cortana or tap the mic and ask Cortana or swipe to skip to the next message at any time. Cortana can detect a Signature versus part of the body of an email so you only hear the pertinent closing information from structured emails. We will continue to add more capabilities to Play My Emails in both Outlook for iOS and Android in the coming months so stay tuned – Cortana will let you know about them through the in-app experience.
Finally, with the Surface Duo and Outlook, Play My Emails provides an extraordinary multitasking experience. You can listen to your emails by using Play My Emails on one screen while using another app on the dual screen. For example, listen to a long email or one with lots of visual content while you take notes with OneNote.
Listen to a long email and take notes in OneNote
To learn more and see a demonstration of many of the capabilities mentioned here, we welcome you to watch this digital presentation from Jose Rady Allende from our AI team about voice commands as well as Play My Emails in Outlook and this presentation about what’s new with Cortana.
Be sure to also check out Outlook and Bookings at Microsoft Ignite 2020. The sessions should start to light up at 8AM PT on Tuesday, September 22nd. We can’t give out stickers at Ignite this year but feel free to download our free digital give-away from here.
Please keep your feedback coming by sharing your thoughts here, in Outlook.Uservoice.com or in Outlook for iOS and Android.