Stop me if you’ve heard this before – Apple has been really focused on improving its Maps app in the upcoming iOS update. This time around, however, Apple’s changes with iOS 15 could really pay off based on what the company has shown so far.
Longtime iPhone users can forgive the skepticism, especially if they are still burned by the disastrous transition away from Google-supplied Maps in iOS 6 in 2012. But give Apple some credit – Maps has since steadily improved to position itself as a worthy alternative to Google Maps. And iOS 15 will further improve the built-in map and directions tool on iPhones.
At least that’s the plan. We won’t know for sure how successful Apple’s iOS 15 Maps improvements have been until we get our hands on the iOS 15 public beta, which is slated for a release in July. For now, all we have is Apple’s iOS 15 preview and the first bits of information from people who saw the iOS 15 Developer Beta released this month during the Worldwide Developers Conference.
However, early signs of iOS 15 Maps are encouraging. Here are the features we’re looking forward to the most.
The interactive globe from iOS 15 Maps
The fun with iOS 15 Maps starts when you launch the app. You can now see the world as an interactive globe that Apple built down to the city level. You’ll see details like mountain ranges, deserts, forests, and oceans that are reminiscent of the kind of globe you’d find in a classroom. However, here you can pinch your fingers together to zoom and tap Details for more information about the geographic sites that interest you.
This is one of those iOS 15 features that requires an A12 Bionic or higher. So unless you have at least the iPhone XR, you won’t be able to see Apple’s spinning globe in action.
The new globe view honestly sounds a lot like Google Earth, and maybe this is a case where Apple is catching up with Google. But the company seems very proud of the many details that are in this new globe view, and we have been intrigued by what we will see when iOS 15 is in our hands.
More detailed city views from iOS 15 Maps
It’s not just the globe that gets more detail in iOS 15 Maps. If you search for a specific city, you will get a more detailed view of buildings, business districts and landmarks. Apple even adds trees that spice up the landscape (and presumably reflect the location of the trees in the real world).
My favorite edition here is the newfound attention to altitude in iOS 15 Maps cityscapes. I happen to live near San Francisco, a city with more than a few hills if you haven’t read the travel brochure. And very often you will not notice on a flat map that the route that has just been mapped for you, which is very easy to walk, also includes a ridiculously steep incline. I hope the new visual cues from iOS 15 can tell me when to rethink my plans to rethink it on foot – or at least make sure I bring some water and a sherpa with me.
Roads are no longer yellow as they are in the current version of Maps, with Apple opting for a more realistic – and easier to spot – gray color. At night, the map glows in the moonlight that Apple hopes will show its attention to detail.
It sounds like not every city will offer the detailed views when iOS 15 launches. Apple’s desire is to introduce these kinds of features in Maps first in places like San Francisco, New York, and London, and roll them out in other cities over time. However, once you’ve seen the iOS 15 Maps preview, you’ll want that more detailed view sooner rather than later.
The Driving View in iOS 15 Maps
Apple is redesigning the view it offers when you get directions to a specific location, adding a greater number of details to help you navigate potentially unfamiliar territory.
In particular, Maps now shows lanes, median strips, zebra crossings and other road details that a driver can benefit from in an unfamiliar area. Even better, as you approach particularly complicated interchanges, the Driving View perspective changes to street level, so you now see an overview view to help you stay on the right lane.
One of my favorite additions to the driving directions in Maps from the past few years was the visual cue that showed you where turn lanes were on streets and highways so you don’t fly past where you had to turn right. It sounds like missing a turn is getting even more difficult with the revamped Driving View from iOS 15 Maps.
Changes to public transportation from iOS 15 Maps
If I can take the bus or train instead of driving, I’ll do it, so of course my ears perk up when Apple talks about the change to public transport in Maps. Among the improvements we’ve seen so far is a new transit view – yes, Apple is really changing the views in iOS 15 maps – that includes updated details that really make the transit routes stand out. Major bus routes are now shown on maps and if you follow the directions the app will notify you when you are near your stop.
Apple claims the redesigned public transit user interface is easier to use with one hand – important when you’re on a bus or train and using your free hand to hold on. We need to see this in action before we know if Apple will deliver.
The best part about the public transit changes in iOS 15 Maps, however – for me at least – is the ability to access nearby departures with a tap of a finger – perfect if you want to quickly catch a bus and see how much time you have to go to yours Bus stop. You can even pin frequently used routes to iOS 15 so you always have transit times at hand.
AR directions in iOS 15 Maps
In another feature, inspired by Google’s Street View instructions, Apple will use its fascination with augmented reality to guide you through unfamiliar territory – at least if you have an iPhone with an A12 Bionic chip or higher and the right city.
To trigger running instructions, scan the buildings around you. Once Maps has determined your location, you’ll get step-by-step instructions that appear as AR-assisted overlays with arrows and street names on your iPhone screen.
It doesn’t sound like the directions will be there when the full release of iOS 15 hits this fall. Apple just says it will be ready by the end of the year. When it starts, the walkway description feature will be available at least initially in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, and London
iOS 15 Maps redesigns place cards
Place cards are brief summaries that appear when you tap on a business and include not only the address, but also opening times, contact information, user reviews, and photos. I’ve found place cards to be particularly useful for finding restaurants along my route.
iOS 15 rearranges these place cards, places more important information higher up, and provides a clearer organization on the map when you scroll down. At least that’s what Apple promises when it comes to providing more organized information in Maps. We’ll know for sure if the company is successful when we see the iOS 15 beta.
A new place for curated guides in iOS 15 Maps
I liked the local guides that Apple first introduced with iOS 14 a year ago that show information about a city or place of interest that you research using Apple’s mapping software. The problem is that I rarely use the feature – it’s a shame as Apple has been adding new manuals over the past year.
Apple is trying to fix this for me, and the other users probably don’t give any guides. iOS 15 creates a home for guides who are editorially curated. Apple hopes this will not only get more people to read the content in guides, but it will also help you discover new places. And that’s one of the main goals of iOS 15 after all.
iOS 15 Maps Outlook
Apple’s iOS 15 preview lists other changes to maps, such as: B. a user profile that saves the most frequently used settings and favorites in one place; Search should be better in cards with the ability to filter results.
But really, it is the new views that will have the most impact on Maps users as they start with the launch of the iOS 15 beta. We’ll then know if Maps continues to make big strides towards being your target on your iPhone.