John Voorhees

2658 posts on MacStories since November 2015

John is MacStories’ Managing Editor and has been writing about Apple and apps since joining the team in 2015. He is also Federico’s business partner and co-hosts two MacStories podcasts: AppStories, which covers the world of apps and MacStories Unwind, which explores the fun differences between American and Italian culture and recommends media to listeners.

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AppStories, Episode 373 – Introducing the MacPad

This week on AppStories, Federico introduces the world to the MacPad, a hybrid Mac/iPad that he built from an M2 MacBook Air and 11” iPad Pro, and I quiz him on the build process, software involved, and what it’s like to use.


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The MacPad


On AppStories+, we discuss Apple’s reversal on removing progressive web apps from iOS 17.4 in the EU.

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Apple Releases New Spring Colors for iPhone Cases and Watch Bands

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

As has become a tradition, Apple released new colors of some of its cases and Apple Watch bands today. The new Silicone Case colors are Soft Mint, Sunshine, Light Blue, and Pink and come in all iPhone 15 model sizes. No new colors are available for the FineWoven cases.

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Apple also released 23 new bands. There are bands that match the new iPhone 15 case colors, as well as a dozen new Hermès bands. There are no new Apple Watch Ultra bands, the selection of which is still limited to a woefully inadequate selection of three styles and nine choices.


Apple Introduces New M3 MacBook Airs

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Apple has unveiled new 13- and 15-inch MacBook Airs that feature the M3 processor, Wi-Fi 6E, support for two external displays, and up to 18 hours of battery life.

The M3 chipset features an 8-core CPU, up to a 10-core GPU, and up to 24GB of unified memory. Apple says that makes the new Airs up to 60% faster than the M1 Air and 13x faster than the fastest Intel-based Air, but they do not compare it to the M2 Air. The M3 MacBook Airs also include Apple’s latest media engine, which supports AV1 decoding for video streaming services.

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Apple provided other points of comparison between the new M2 MacBook Airs and the M1 and fastest Intel models based on tests conducted in January:

  • Game titles like No Man’s Sky run up to 60 percent faster than the 13-inch MacBook Air with the M1 chip.
  • Enhancing an image with AI using Photomator’s Super Resolution feature is up to 40 percent faster than the 13-inch model with the M1 chip, and up to 15x faster for customers who haven’t upgraded to a Mac with Apple silicon.

  • Working in Excel spreadsheets is up to 35 percent faster than the 13-inch model with the M1 chip, and up to 3x faster for customers who haven’t upgraded to a Mac with Apple silicon.

  • Video editing in Final Cut Pro is up to 60 percent faster than the 13-inch model with the M1 chip, and up to 13x faster for customers who haven’t upgraded to a Mac with Apple silicon.

  • Compared to a PC laptop with an Intel Core i7 processor, MacBook Air delivers up to 2x faster performance, up to 50 percent faster web browsing, and up to 40 percent longer battery life.

In its press release, Apple also says the M3 MacBook Air’s 16-core Neural Engine and CPU and GPU machine learning accelerators make it the best laptop for AI, too.

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

The new 13-inch MacBook Airs start at $1,099 ($999 for education customers). The new 15-inch models start at $1,299 ($1,199 for education customers). Both models are available to order today in midnight, starlight, silver, and space gray, with deliveries and in-store availability beginning Friday, March 8th.

In addition, Apple has dropped the price of the 13-inch M2 MacBook Air to $999 ($899 for education customers).


The European Commission Fines Apple Over €1.8 Billion

In a decision issued today, the European Commission leveled a fine of over €1.8 billion against Apple for preventing developers of music streaming services from letting iOS users know about subscriptions available outside their apps. After an investigation, the Commission concluded that Apple’s practices violated Article 102 of the TFEU and Article 54 of the European Economic Area Agreement.

In a forceful response, Apple pointed at Spotify as the instigator of the EU investigation and accused the EC of protectionist behavior, noting that:

Over the next eight years, and more than 65 meetings with Spotify, the European Commission has tried to build three different cases. With every pivot, they’ve narrowed the scope of their claims — but each theory has had a couple of features in common:

  • No evidence of consumer harm: European consumers have more choices than ever in a digital music market that’s grown exponentially. In just eight years, it’s gone from 25 million subscribers to almost 160 million — with more than 300 million active listeners — and Spotify has been the biggest winner.
  • No evidence of anti-competitive behavior: Eight years of investigations have never yielded a viable theory explaining how Apple has thwarted competition in a market that is so clearly thriving.

The European Commission is issuing this decision just before their new regulation — the Digital Markets Act (DMA) — comes into force. Apple is set to comply with the DMA in days, and our plans include changes to the rules challenged here. What’s clear is that this decision is not grounded in existing competition law. It’s an effort by the Commission to enforce the DMA before the DMA becomes law.

The reality is that European consumers have more choices than ever. Ironically, in the name of competition, today’s decision just cements the dominant position of a successful European company that is the digital music market’s runaway leader.

Apple has said it will appeal the fine, which was set at a level designed to “achieve deterrence.”


MacStories Unwind: Obsessing Over Wi-Fi

This week on MacStories Unwind, Federico teases a big project he’s been working on that will be out on MacStories next week, plus both he and John obsess over their Wi-Fi setups but wish Apple would make hardware that made it all easier.



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Federico Teases a Big Project

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Obsessing over Wi-Fi


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Vision Pro App Spotlight: Status Bar Builder’s Key Is Customization Combined with Simplicity

There’s an elegance in simplicity that I value. I use plenty of complex apps, but there’s a certain satisfaction in finding one that fits your needs perfectly. One such app that seems destined to claim a long-term spot on my Vision Pro is Status Bar Builder, a customizable utility that displays useful information without taking up much space.

Status Bar Builder's UI for organizing and creating status bars.

Status Bar Builder’s UI for organizing and creating status bars.

The app allows you to build status bars, which are narrow, horizontal windows reminiscent of the Mac’s menu bar that you can place around your environment. Status bars come in three text sizes and can have no background, be translucent, or use a colored background.

Regardless of the styling you pick, status bars can include:

  • Shortcuts
  • Links
  • Today’s date
  • Weekday
  • Numerical date
  • Month
  • Time
  • Your calendar events
  • A battery charge indicator
  • A spacer
Adding items to a status bar.

Adding items to a status bar.

Designing status bars is easy. They’re created and stored in the app’s main window, which includes a preview of each along with buttons to open any existing status bars, make revisions, or delete them. At the bottom of the main window, there’s also a ‘New’ button to add to your collection.

You can make as many status bars as you’d like, sprinkling them around your room. There doesn’t seem to be a limit to how many items you can include in a status bar, either, but as a practical matter, if a status bar gets too long, it doesn’t look great, and some text will be truncated.

Adding shortcuts to a status bar.

Adding shortcuts to a status bar.

What’s more, you can add as many of each type of item as you’d like to a status bar. For Shortcuts, that means you can create a long list of shortcuts if you want. However, you better be able to identify them by their icons because the buttons in the status bar don’t include shortcut names or the colors you assigned to them.

Links work like a mini bookmark bar, allowing you to save frequently visited websites with a custom icon as a button in your status bar. However, like shortcuts, you’ll need a memorable icon because there are no link labels or other text to go by. Links support URL schemes too, offering additional automation options.

Links and shortcuts can be represented by an icon.

Links and shortcuts can be represented by an icon.

There are also a few other other item-specific settings available. For example, there are three sizes of spacers that can be added to a status bar, and calendar events can include the color of their associated calendars if you’d like. Plus, dates and times have formatting, color, size, and other style options. It’s worth noting that your next calendar event doesn’t include the scheduled time and events cannot be opened, both of which are things I’d love to see added to the app in the future.

Although you can overstuff your status bars with links, shortcuts, and other information, I’ve found that the best approach is to be picky, limiting yourself to a handful of items that make your status bars more glanceable. Then, if you find yourself adding more and more to a status bar, consider breaking it up into multiple status bars organized thematically. I find that works well and gives me more flexibility about where I put each.


I have to imagine that Apple will eventually release something like Status Bar Builder. It’s too easy to lose track of time in the Vision Pro. It needs a clock, battery indicator, date, and other basic data we’ve had on our iPhones since day one. Status Bar Builder fills that gap but goes one step further by adding links, calendar items, and shortcuts. I wouldn’t add a lot more to the app, but a weather item with the current conditions and temperature would be great. However, even though parts of Status Bar Builder may eventually wind up as parts of visionOS, I expect the app has a long and useful life ahead of it, thanks to the other components that go a step further than I expect Apple ever will.

Status Bar Builder is available on the App Store for $4.99.


Apple Music Debuts Heavy Rotation, A New Daily Made For You Playlist

This morning I woke up to a pleasant surprise. Apple had quietly added a new Made For You playlist to the Music app called Heavy Rotation that’s updated daily.

As you’d expect from a playlist called Heavy Rotation, mine is comprised of 25 songs, most of which I believe I listened to yesterday and probably other times recently. What’s a little different about Heavy Rotation compared to the other Made For You Playlists is that it’s updated daily, while the other Made For You playlists get updated weekly.

Made For You and Stations for You are excellent complements to Apple's curated playlists.

Made For You and Stations for You are excellent complements to Apple’s curated playlists.

If you listen to a lot of albums, you’ll probably have a bunch of songs by a handful of artists in your Heavy Rotation playlist. That is certainly true of The National’s Trouble Will Find Me, an album I listened to yesterday. However, most of the time, I listen to playlists, which will undoubtedly add more variety.

Curiously, the new playlist doesn’t seem to respect the Focus filter that allows you to exclude listening from your Apple Music Listening History. Both Federico and Jonathan use that feature and told me they each found a track in their Heavy Rotation playlist that should have been filtered out.

Heavy Rotation is an excellent addition to Music. Playing it as I write this, it feels like I’m picking up where I left off yesterday as I walked around my neighborhood with my AirPods Pro. I hope that today’s addition of a new Made For You playlist and the recent addition of the Discovery station are signs that Apple plans to explore even more ways to resurface songs in your Music library.


Simple Scan: A Scanning Solution for People Who Don’t Scan Often

One of my favorite kinds of apps is simple utilities that solve a common problem and are straightforward to use. That’s exactly what Greg Pierce has created with Simple Scan, a scanning app for the iPhone and iPad that simplifies the process of one-off document scans.

Simple Scan is entering a crowded scanning market. Many scanning utilities also help you organize your scans, store them in the cloud, submit expense reports, and more. There are people who need that sort of extended feature set, but somewhere along the way, people with simpler needs have been forgotten.

That’s exactly my situation. I occasionally scan a receipt for one reason or another, but it’s not something I do often. As a result, it doesn’t make sense for me to pay a lot for a scanning app with features I’ll rarely use. Nor do I want to use a free version with ads, which is why I like Simple Scan so much.

Simple Scan has two options and a big ‘Scan Document’ button. Pick whether you want to create a PDF or an image, select a destination, then point your device’s camera at a document and start scanning. That’s all there is to it. Destinations include email, Messages, the Files app, and the system share sheet, covering all the obvious places you’d want to send most scans.

There are four scanning modes including color and black and white.

There are four scanning modes including color and black and white.

The destination options in Simple Scan are key. You can already scan documents into Apple Notes, but it adds to the overhead of scanning and clutters Notes with one-off scans. With Simple Scan, you’re up and running faster and with more options for where to store or send your documents.

The scanning process uses Apple’s built-in scanning feature, allowing you to drag points to the corners of your document for cropping. The app also supports:

  • Manual or automatic shutter
  • Color, Greyscale, black and white, and photo scans
  • Automatic, on, and off settings for your camera’s flash

Plus, there’s a toggle in settings to turn OCR of PDF files on or off.

As you scan pages, they stack up as thumbnails in the corner of the screen, where you can tap on them to make basic edits or discard them. When you’re finished, there’s a Save button on the opposite side of the shutter button that sends the images to whatever destinations you’ve chosen. That’s all there is to Simple Scan, but for a lot of people, myself included, it’s also enough.

Simple Scan is free to download from the App Store and use for your first five scans. Paying $4.99 per year or $19.99 one time unlocks unlimited scans and custom destinations that allow you to pre-fill email and iMessage recipients.


AppStories, Episode 372 – Apple Vision Pro Entertainment Apps

This week on AppStories, we share some of our favorite visionOS entertainment apps.

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AppStories+ Pre-Show

Vision Pro Entertainment Apps


On AppStories+, I explain all the little gotchas involved with taking screenshots even if you have the Vision Pro Developer Strap.

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