During the iOS portion of Apple’s WWDC keynote, it showed some great demos of 3D cities and AR transit cues, but amid all the great features, there were a few things that were missing from the stage and from Apple’s iOS 15 feature list. . Namely, a few basic navigation aids that would make it easier for me to get around.
Because Apple seems to focus a lot on Maps (it got stage time) also at last year’s keynote), maybe they take requests too? Here is my wish list.
Without a cellular signal or Wi-Fi, Apple Maps turns into a brick — you can’t search for locations, find routes, or do anything useful. This is, to put it lightly, a bit of a problem for a navigation app that has been around for eight years. Imagine using Apple Maps to navigate to a place that doesn’t have reliable cell service (like many national parks, for example), and then wanting to go home. Apple Maps can take you through a dead zone, but if you stay for a while, you won’t be able to use Apple Maps to get back.
While leaving civilization and never coming back may appeal to some people (hello), it’s not the experience most are looking for. There are several ways to solve this: Apple could create a system where Maps caches the places you’ve recently traveled through, making at least basic routing available without an internet connection, or it could go completely Google Maps and give you randomly download large parts of the map that will be available offline. There just has to be a way to work your way out of a cellular dead zone if you find yourself in a zone.
Since Apple Maps works offline if you have navigation, maybe there is a solution? Could you create a route that takes you to a place, but also brings you back home? That’s very smart, but no, because Apple Maps doesn’t have…
The ability to create routes with more than one destination is more convenient while you’re planning a trip than while you’re actually traveling, but it can still save you the hassle of having to pick a new destination somewhere every time you arrive. Apple Maps doesn’t have this capability, though — you can travel point-to-point, and that’s it. As far as I (and people on) Apple’s forums and Reddit), you can’t even make multiple stops in the desktop Apple Maps, which would at least help with planning. Meanwhile, in Google Maps land…
But wait, isn’t there an Add Stop button in Apple Maps? There is indeed, but I’m sorry to tell you that it’s not meant to create routes with multiple stops, but to add a short detour. And to make matters worse, it’s almost useless for what it was actually designed for.
The Add Stop button lets you find a temporary pit stop along your route so you can stop driving for a while to get food, gas, or whatever. The problem is that it’s extremely limited in this capability – you can only choose from a few predefined categories and you’ll only see a few of each. It offers a quick and easy interface to use while driving, but if you want to do something specific, you’re going to have a tough time.
If you want to stop at a specific restaurant, you can’t search for it using the Add Stop menu. For example, suppose I was traveling to Seattle, but wanted to stop at a McDonald’s along the way. I should stop my navigation to Seattle and set it to McDonald’s instead. When I was done there, I had to set my navigation back to Seattle. With Google Maps I could just search along my route, add McDonald’s and be ready to go.
Google Maps’ route search feature is great for another reason: for example, if I wanted to stop 60 miles instead of now, I could set up Google Maps to a gas station a short distance away. Apple Maps only shows what’s around you, not further along the route.
This one is small, but if you’re trying to visually map out a route where you’re going to hike or bike, you really need to look for trails in Apple Maps. Look at this comparison between a local paved path in Apple Maps versus what it looks like in Google Maps.
It’s safe to say that in Google Maps, that one is just that little bit easier to see and track. Apple mentioned improving details like this in iOS 15, but those improvements seemed to be in the cities that got the upgraded 3D maps, not everywhere (although I wish that wasn’t the case). Anyway, Apple clearly knows my trail exists, so it would be great if it could highlight it in some way.
This, again, is a small one – Apple was talking about maps that help people navigate better while driving, but for the areas that won’t be mapped in 3D anytime soon, actually seeing a satellite view while driving could help their improve navigation experience. Satellite view may not always be for everyone, but if you’re navigating a tricky intersection or in a dense area where landmarks can be important, you’ll be able to see an image from above rather than just an abstracted map. miss a turn.
Of course, there are navigation apps out there that have these features – I’ve compared Apple Maps directly to Google Maps several times, and Google makes Waze too. While Google Maps and Waze have CarPlay integration, they generally aren’t as well integrated as Apple Maps (for obvious reasons). There’s also the issue of privacy – some people, myself included, prefer not to give Google all the location data that comes with using their mapping service.
Whatever reason people decide to stick with Apple Maps, they deserve to have a useful navigation experience, and it would be nice to see Apple master the basics before a (admittedly nice-looking) moonlight. -add aesthetics to Maps.