6 quick tricks for doing more with Apple Maps | Popular Science
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6 quick tricks for doing more with Apple Maps

Never get lost again

Apple Maps

Apple Maps for iOS launched in 2012, and has gotten much better since then.

David Nield/Popular Science

Apple Maps has traditionally gotten a bad rap in comparison with the Google Maps platform that came before it. But in many respects, Apple's in-house mapping system has grown to be just as good as Google's offerings. Whether you're using the app on iOS or macOS, we've rounded up some handy tricks for getting from A to B more easily.

Adding a destination in Apple Maps

Adding a destination in Apple Maps

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Find places en route

Sometimes you want to stop at a restaurant or a gas station while you're on the way to your destination. But canceling your current trip, starting a new one, and then going back to the original is no way for a 21st-century phone owner to behave. So Apple Maps lets you search for places en route.

In the iOS app on your phone, pull up your route, tap on the status bar at the bottom of the screen, and then choose either gas stations or a type of restaurant from the list that pops up. It will show you a range of options close to your current route, which lets you make your pick based on location and the amount of added travel time. Then Apple Maps adds your choice to the journey, turning it into your next stop.

Once you've completed the detour, your original goal will reappear, so you can get back to the main purpose of your trip. If you're on the way to the interim destination and change your mind about stopping there, you can return to the original journey by tapping the link at the top of the screen.

Calling an Uber within the app

Calling an Uber within the app

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Hail a cab

Sometimes you pull up a trip and realize it would be inconvenient to drive, walk, or take public transit to your destination. In that case, a ride-hailing app like Uber or a Lyft can solve your problem. Thanks to extension support in Apple Maps, which allow third-party apps to plug into the interface, you can call a cab with just a couple of taps.

This capability is very easy to set up. All you need to do is install Uber or Lyft from the App Store on your iPhone, and they'll automatically appear in Apple Maps. Then, next time you're charting a journey on your phone, switch to the Ride tab and tap Enable on the app you want to integrate with Apple Maps. Now you're up and running (or rather, driving).

Uber and Lyft both show you how long you'll have to wait to be picked up, as well as an estimated cost for the specified journey. You can tap through on the Book button to order your ride right away, or, if you want to make changes (say, for example, you need to double-check your payment information), follow the links to open the ride-sharing app of your choice.

Sharing directions

Sharing directions

David Nield/Popular Science

Send directions from your computer to your phone

When planning a trip, you often research a route on your macOS computer before switching to your iOS Phone to make the actual journey. After all, it's much easier to mount a phone than a MacBook Pro on your car dashboard. Thanks to the tight links Apple has built between iOS and macOS, you can easily send directions from your laptop or desktop directly to your iPhone. This trick works regardless of Wi-Fi connection—your iPhone or iPad doesn't need to be on the same wireless network as your laptop or desktop. So your device could be sitting outside in the car, and still pick up information beamed from your computer.

From Apple Maps on macOS, search for a particular route or place, then click the Share button at the top of the screen. Assuming you have an iPhone or iPad registered with the same Apple ID, your mobile device will show up as an option. Select it from the list, and your phone or tablet will prompt you to confirm. Then the travel information will magically appear on mobile device.

The same menu lets you share directions or specific locations in a variety of other ways too, including via the Notes app or through Messages.

Compass mode

Compass mode

David Nield/Popular Science

Turn on compass mode

By default, Apple Maps on your iPhone uses an up-for-north perspective, or rotates the map based on the way your car (or bike) is turning. However, you can also access a hidden compass mode, which is handy when you're walking around and trying to find your way.

To enable it, tap once on the location (arrow) icon to show where you are, then tap again to activate the compass. Whether you're holding your phone in portrait or landscape mode, the map will now rotate as you move the phone and your body, so you'll always know which direction you're facing in. Tap the location icon again to go back to normal viewing mode. If you want to see your compass heading while you're in navigation mode, go to Settings, tap Maps, then tap Driving & Navigation, and finally turn the Compass option on.

You might be tempted to use compass mode when you're lost on a mountain, or trying to find a rendezvous spot, but Apple warns that its accuracy isn't always spot-on. So just use the capability as a general guide.

A 3D view of San Francisco

A 3D view of San Francisco

David Nield/Popular Science

Fly over a city in 3D

One of the best features that Apple Maps has and Google Maps doesn't (yet) is the ability to take a 3D flyover of major cities. This means a computer-generated animation will show you the most notable landmarks in a particular place. In addition to taking virtual helicopter rides, you can use the feature to scout out locations before you visit.

In Apple Maps on iOS, if you search for a place that has a flyover available, the option will appear underneath it as a Flyover Tour button. Just tap once to start your tour. In Apple Maps on macOS, click once on the city label to see the Flyover Tour button. The tour takes in the same spots in both cases, though obviously everything will be easier to see if you watch it on a laptop or desktop display.

Even in places that lack the guided tour, you can sometimes see 3D imagery of your destination. On iOS, tap the "i" icon (top right), then Satellite, then 3D; on macOS, click Satellite then the 3D button. This kind of high-resolution photography is rolling out across more locations all the time, so if it hasn't hit your part of the world yet, keep checking back.

Controlling the app with gestures

Controlling the app with gestures

David Nield/Popular Science

Use trackpad and touchscreen gestures

It's not always clear how to get around the Apple Maps apps, especially when you've activated the 3D view that we mentioned in the last trick. So it helps to know some of the less obvious control gestures for trackpad (on macOS) and touchscreen or 3D Touch (for iOS).

On the trackpad on a Mac laptop, a two-finger pinch in and out will let you zoom. Alternatively, double-click to zoom in and hold down the Option key while you double-click to zoom out. To rotate the map, simply rotate two fingers on the trackpad. And to scroll across it, drag two fingers in any direction.

Some of these same trackpad shortcuts will work on an iOS touchscreen. In the Apple Maps app, tap and rotate with two fingers, for example, to change the orientation of the map. If you're at the most detailed zoom level, you can slide two fingers up and down the touchscreen to change the tilt level of the map, either in a 2D or 3D view. Finally, if you're using a phone with 3D Touch, firmly press the Apple Maps icon on the home screen to bring up some quick shortcuts, such as the option to search for nearby places.

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