9 quick tricks for doing more with Apple Maps

Never get lost again.

hand holding an iphone showing apple maps on the screen
Make sure you’re always going in the right direction with Apple Maps. David Nield

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 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.

Find places en route

screenshot of apple maps showing en route options
Find places to stop off on your journey with Apple Maps. David Nield

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.

Take more control over your trips

screenshot of apple maps showing the toll feature toggle
You can swerve highways and toll roads, if you need to. David Nield

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 the quickest route. Maybe you want to make sure you’re not spending any extra on toll roads, or maybe you want to go at a leisurely pace and avoid highways.

To bring up these and other options, you need to 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 the spoken turn-by-turn directions you get.

Send directions from your computer to your phone

screenshot of 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 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 (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 magically 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.

Turn on compass mode

screenshot of apple maps showing the compass feature
The compass mode can help you work out which direction you’re pointing in. David Nield

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.

Fly over a city in 3D

screenshot of apple maps showing city flyover feature
Some cities offer a 3D flyover tour in Apple Maps. David Nield

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

screenshot of apple maps on mac os
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.

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

screenshot of apple maps showing the do not disturb feature
Cut down on distractions out on the road. David Nield

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, causing your iPhone to vibrate, or light up the screen if the phone is locked. To have Do Not Disturb activate itself while you’re on the road, go to Settings in iOS then choose Do Not Disturb, then Activate, and Automatically or When Connected to Car Bluetooth.

Make use of indoor maps

screenshot of apple maps showing the indoor maps features
Apple Maps now includes plenty of indoor maps too. David Nield

Don’t assume Apple Maps isn’t any use to you just because you’re inside a building. The app now 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 building. If a number is displayed on the right, you can browse by floor as well.

Let other people know where you are

screenshot of apple maps on ios showing the sharing location feature
Options for sharing your location are built right into Apple Maps. David Nield

Maybe you’re meeting up with a gang of friends in a city location, or maybe you want to let a loved one know you’re alright—whatever the scenario, Apple Maps makes sharing your location very straightforward. 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, or 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.

David Nield

David Nieldis a tech journalist from the UK who has been writing about gadgets and apps since way before the iPhone and Twitter were invented. When he's not busy doing that, he usually takes breaks from all things tech with long walks in the countryside.