Amazon’s Alexa is a big hit — and a huge money drain

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Connect the Amazon Echo Dot to your existing speaker system, and you bingo! -- your speakers just got smarts.
Expensive things come in small packages. From an R&D perspective, at least.
Photo: Leander Kahney / Cult of Mac

Amazon’s Alexa devices were some of the most exciting tech products of 2016, and immediately there were rumors that Apple was planning to follow suit with a standalone Siri — possibly even with the addition of facial recognition tech.

A new report, however, claims that despite its popularity, Alexa has been a massive money drain on Amazon so far. In 2016 alone, it lost Amazon $330 million, and this figure is set to rise to $600 million-plus this year.

iOS 10 now installed on 76% of devices

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Apple will only collect iOS 10 data if you opt-in.
Users love iOS 10.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple has revealed its latest App Store stats as of January, which show that iOS 10 has now been installed on 76 percent of devices.

The update made its public debut less than four months ago, bringing a revamped Messages experience, new 3D Touch features, a more open Siri, and lots more.

From tiny innovations to big brawls, this is how Apple rolled in 2016

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Thank Jobs, 2016 is finally over!
Thank Jobs, 2016 is finally over!
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

2016 Year in Review Cult of Mac 2016 sent Apple for a wild ride full of fantastic new products, crazy controversies and tons of extra drama with its rivals.

Tim Cook and his colleagues probably can’t wait to jump into 2017. But before we start looking toward Apple’s future, let’s take a quick look back at all the stories that made 2016 a year Apple fans will never forget.

GE’s new Alexa lamp shines light on internet of things

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GE's prototype adds Amazon's voice-activated assistant Alexa to a tabletop LED lamp.
GE's prototype adds Amazon's voice-activated assistant Alexa to a tabletop LED lamp.
Photo: GE

We’ve heard for years that the internet of things™ would imbue everything in our lives with the power of the web, all accessible by voice. If you’ve been waiting for something that isn’t a computer or smartphone or smart home hub to ask for driving directions or movie times, here’s your dream device at last: It’s a lamp that gets its smarts from Alexa.

Apple’s long-awaited AirPods will ship in ‘next few weeks’

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After a disappointing delay, Tim Cook says AirPods will land soon.
Photo: Apple

The wait for Apple’s new wireless AirPods is nearly over.

Apple revealed the earbuds alongside the iPhone 7, promising an October delivery date, but anxious customers have not been able to buy a set. But Apple CEO Tim Cook supposedly says they’re being finalized right now.

iOS bug exposes photos and messages on locked iPhones

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photos in ios 10
It's shockingly easy to get into someone's photos.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Hackers have discovered a new method to unlock photos and messages on any iPhone, thanks to an iOS security flaw that utilizes Siri and VoiceOver.

iPhones running iOS 8 software and newer are vulnerable to the flaw, which was discovered by EverythingApplePro and iDeviceHelp. The group revealed the hack in a new video that shows you don’t need any coding experience or special hardware to pull it off. All you need is a few minutes alone with a victims iPhone and some help from Siri.

How to use Siri to send people money with PayPal

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Siri can now send friends cash using PayPal.
Siri can now send friends cash using PayPal.
Photo: PayPal

PayPal is making it super-easy to send friends money, thanks to new Siri support introduced in the company’s iOS app today.

Now you can use voice commands to tell Siri how much money to send, and who to send it to. All you have to do is set up the PayPal app to give Siri access. Here’s how to do it:

Apple’s Irish data center is getting fast-tracked

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A mock up of Apple's proposed data center in Ireland.
A mock up of Apple's proposed data center in Ireland.
Photo: Apple

The fate of Apple’s proposed data center in Ireland is finally on the fast-track.

After facing an 18-month delay due to an appeal from two Irish residents, Ireland’s High Court agreed to Apple’s request to speed up the legal process. Now instead of waiting until 2018, the court has to resolve the case within six months.

Apple is honing Siri’s skills in a secret U.K. office

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Siri
Hey, Siri, tell us about Apple's new secret U.K. office!
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Apple is using a “secret office” in Cambridge, in the U.K., to make Siri smarter, claims a new report.

Located approximately five minutes walk from the city’s train station, the fewer-than-30-person office shows no outward sign of being an Apple office. It includes a number of employees from VocalIQ, a Cambridge University spinoff, which was acquired by Apple in 2015 for as much as $100 million.