iOS 9 Feature Preview: Transit directions and Nearby recommendations added to Maps

iOS 9 logoApple’s Maps application has been the Achilles heel of iOS since its rocky launch in 2012 as part of iOS 6. In the early days following its official debut, the Maps application was ridiculed for its laughably inaccurate details, such as routing people across airport runways and placing the Washington Monument in the middle of a body of water. It was so bad that Maps earned the label as the one the top tech fails of 2012 by CNN and other publications. Apple rebounded from this early criticism, though, and has improved its Maps application steadily over the past several years. The latest version in iOS 9 continues this trend, adding features such as public transit info and nearby recommendations. Read on to find out more about these new features and other things Apple has in store for Maps in iOS 9.

Public Transit Information

iOS 8 vs iOS 9: Maps app - Transit directions
One of the glaring omissions in Apple Maps was its lack of public transit information. Unlike Google Maps, which allows you to route your trip via car, foot or train, previous versions of Maps only provided vehicle-based navigation. In iOS 9, Maps gets a huge boost with the addition of detailed mass transit information. Transit-based directions are concise and accurate, putting Apple Maps on par with its chief competitor Google Maps. You not only have access to transit schedules for big cities; you also can view zoom into transit centers using flyover mode. This flyover feature shows the entrances to these centers, allowing users to find where they need to go quickly and easily.

Nearby Information

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Besides Transit information, Apple also added Nearby, another significant feature that brings local recommendations for shops, food, gas and other conveniences to iOS 9 Maps. The feature isn’t exactly intuitive to use — you would expect to see a label or some indicator that you tap when you are viewing a map. Instead, you must enter an address into the search bar, wait for the location appear on the map and then tap the address in the search bar a second time to pull up the local recommendations. Once accessible, the recommendations provide a variety of points of interests that you can fine tune. For example, you can select food as a category and then choose to view grocery stores, bakeries, fast food places and more.

Proactive

Similar to Siri, Search, and other parts of iOS, Apple Maps is getting a dose of the company’s new intelligence feature Proactive. When using iOS 9, Apple Maps can detect when you enter your can and provide navigation information based on your location and current usage. For example, when you enter your car at the end of you work day, Apple Maps will send a notification telling you how long your commute will be based on current traffic conditions. It also will give you suggestions for popular destinations that appear on your lock screen. Still in the early stages, this intelligence feature will improve as Apple fine-tunes the settings in subsequent iOS updates.

Handoff

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Similar to iOS 8 and Yosemite, the iOS 9 version of Apple Maps also supports handoff with OS X El Capitan. When using the iPhone, Handoff allows you to send your current iOS Map to the OS X version of Apple Maps. This feature supports transit directions and Nearby information as well as static maps and navigation routes.

What’s Missing

Apple Maps is improving, but it still has some major holes. Two significant features missing from Apple Maps include Street View and Offline maps. Apple is working on adding street view imaging and currently has a fleet of vehicles around the world collecting this street-level data. It will take some time to add this component, but at least Apple is aware of this omission and is working on bringing this feature to its Maps application in the future. Apple Maps also lacks offline support so you cannot download Maps for future use during those times when you may not have an internet connection. This is a significant inconvenience for travelers visiting foreign countries and for those who travel locally in areas where there is no cellular internet service.

Conclusion

Do you use Apple Maps as your primary mapping and navigation solution? If not, will the changes in iOS 9 make you switch? Let us know what you think about Apple Maps in the comments.

Other iOS 9 Feature Previews: