14 tricks to get more out of the underrated Apple Maps app

hand holding phone screen showing Apple Maps

You should know how to use your iPhone's default map app. CardMapr.nl / Unsplash

This story has been updated. It was originally published October 7, 2019.

Apple Maps has traditionally gotten a bad rap in comparison with Google Maps. But in many respects, Apple’s in-house mapping system has grown to be just as good as its competition. 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.

Report accidents, hazards, or speed checks

You can now help out your fellow drivers by reporting what you see on the road, whether it’s an accident, a hazard, or a police speed check. In driving navigation mode, tap the route card at the bottom, then go to Report and choose Accident, Hazard, or Speed Check.

Because you shouldn’t be tapping your phone while driving, you can also make your reports via Siri. Say “Hey Siri,” and then follow it with something like “report an accident” or “there’s something in the road” depending on what you’ve seen.

[Related: 4 apps with special car modes for safer driving]

As usual with Apple’s virtual assistant, you can use many different types of phrasing and it’ll still understand you. Anything from “there’s a speed trap here” to “there’s a crash up ahead” will get your point across.

The platform then adds the information provided by drivers to the map so other motorists can get warnings in advance. If you see an alert about an accident, hazard, or speed check, Apple Maps will prompt you to confirm whether it’s still an issue by asking you if it’s still there.

Share your ETA with others

It can be helpful to share your estimated time of arrival with other people, whether you’re running late for a dinner party or picking someone up from the airport. First, open the iOS Settings app and choose Maps, followed by Navigation & Guidance, to make sure the Share ETA option is enabled.

Once it is, touch the route card at the bottom of the screen in navigation mode to find the Share ETA button. Tap it and choose a contact to share your estimated arrival time with. Keep in mind this is a live feature, and it’ll automatically update until you’ve reached your destination. You can also say “hey Siri, share my ETA” and the assistant will ask you for the name of the contact.

This feature was originally launched for drivers, but now you can share your ETA when you load up walking and cycling directions too.

Always remember where you parked

After you’ve reached your destination, it can be handy to have Apple Maps remember where you parked up. You never know—it just might save you from spending a substantial amount of time wandering the streets looking for your vehicle.

To set up this feature, you’ll need to allow Apple Maps to remember specific places. From iOS Settings, choose Privacy, Location Services, System Services, and make sure the toggle switch beside Significant Locations is turned on. Go back to Settings, choose Maps, and enable Show Parked Location.

This only works when your iPhone has been connected to a car stereo via Bluetooth or CarPlay. That way, when you disconnect your phone from the stereo, Apple Maps assumes you’ve parked and stores your current location. When it comes to looking for your car again, tap Search Maps and then Parked Car.

Create your own guides

Apple Maps lets you build up lists of places or guides. You can base them on anything you like: fantastic places you’ve been, places you’d like to visit in the future, stops for your next road trip, etc.

Bring up a location’s information card in Apple Maps, tap the Save as… button, and you can add the spot to an existing guide or create a new one. You can access your guides from the main interface in Apple Maps, under the search box. From there, you can also share them, so the next time someone asks you for restaurant recommendations, you can choose the person in your contacts and send them your list.

Change the navigation volume

Maybe you want to rock out to your tunes without Siri giving you navigation instructions at top volume, or you want to rely solely on your phone’s screen. Whatever the reason, you can easily adjust the volume of the step-by-step voice commands you get in navigation mode.

From Settings in iOS, tap Maps, and then Navigation & Guidance. From this screen, you can set the navigation voice volume or turn it off completely. You can also choose whether or not Apple Maps should pause your podcast, music, or other media whenever it has something to say (which we would usually recommend).

Send directions from your computer to your phone

Apple maps on macOS, showing the sharing feature between devices.
Beam directions straight from your laptop to your phone. David Nield

When planning a trip, you often research a route on your computer before switching to your phone to make the actual journey. After all, it’s much easier to mount a phone than a MacBook Pro on your car dashboard.

If you have Apple devices, the tight link between iOS and macOS can help you 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 computer. So your phone could be sitting outside in the car and still pick up information from your Mac.

From Apple Maps on macOS, search for a particular route or place, then click the share button at the top of the screen (the arrow inside the box). 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 appear on your 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.

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.

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 trajectory, which lets you make your pick based on location and the amount of added travel time. Apple Maps then 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.

Take more control over your trips

By default, Apple Maps shows you the quickest route from A to B when you’re driving somewhere, but you don’t always have to take it. Maybe you want to make sure you’re not spending money on toll roads, or maybe you want to go at a leisurely pace and avoid highways.

To bring up these and other options, head into the Maps and Driving & Navigation section of the iOS Settings menu. Turn the Tolls and Highways options on or off as needed, depending on the route you want to take.

On the same screen you can also, for example, change the volume of navigation directions.

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 vehicle 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 then rotate as you move the phone and your body, so you’ll always know which direction you’re facing.

[Related: Google and Apple Maps have plenty of errors. Here’s how to fix them.]

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.

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 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.

Use trackpad and touchscreen gestures

Apple Maps in a web browser
The right gestures can help you get around the map more easily. David Nield

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 (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.

[Related: 5 uses for Google Maps beyond navigation]

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.

Turn on Do Not Disturb while driving

Having your phone ring or display an incoming message while you’re driving can take your attention away from the road, putting you and other users at risk. That’s why Apple Maps now has a setting to automatically turn on Do Not Disturb when it detects you’re on the road.

Notifications will still come through, but they won’t make any noise, cause your iPhone to vibrate, or light up the screen if the phone is locked. To have Do Not Disturb activate automatically while you’re on the road, go to Settings in iOS, then choose Do Not Disturb, Activate, and Automatically or When Connected to Car Bluetooth.

Make use of indoor maps

Don’t assume Apple Maps isn’t any use to you just because you’re inside a building. The app includes indoor maps for many airports and large shopping centers around the world. You can find toilets, cafes, and (with airports) terminals and baggage reclaim points.

Either zoom into a building on Apple Maps to see if indoor maps are available or tap the place card at the bottom of the screen to see if it lists individual spots inside the location. If a number shows up on the right, you can browse by floor as well.

Let other people know where you are

Maybe you’re meeting up with a gang of friends in a city location, or want to let a loved one know you’re alright—whatever the scenario, Apple Maps offers a straightforward way to share your location. Tap on the blue dot that indicates your location on the map in Apple Maps for iOS, then choose Share My Location.

You’ve got all kinds of options on the pop-up panel that appears. You can send a map reference via Messages, via Mail, or just copy the link to your location to paste it into another app. This is a one-time deal—your location won’t be shared with any of your contacts on an ongoing basis.