Once the laughing stock in the navigation apps market, Apple Maps is now a powerful, trusted travel companion. Apple rebuilt the platform from the ground up and placed the app in line with Google Maps. As I said, there is always room for improvement, as evidenced by its impressive new features listed in iOS 14.
There is no doubt that iOS 14 will change the way you get around Maps. Among these features are bicycle directions, a popular upgrade for anyone who trusts two wheels for their pendulum. Even if you’re not a cyclist, you’ll find great new features like guides, speed camera warnings and more.
1. Bicycle paths
Cyclists rejoice! Apple Maps has directions! The new tab joins the traditional options for driving, walking, transit and ride-share. You no longer have to rely on driving instructions for your bike ride, which were not always safe or ideal.
When you use the new bike tab, you will see instructions for bike-friendly streets, but Maps also send you to bike lanes, bike paths and side roads. You also get a heads-up if you need to get off the bike and walk any part of the route. So there should not be many surprises on your ride.
However, cycling instructions may take some time to reach your area. Initially, the feature only covers Los Angeles, New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area. Apple seems keen on taking time with Maps these days, but the results are usually quite impressive.
For example, when Apple unveiled its massive map transformation for the US in June 2019, it took about four months until we saw significant expansion, then another four months until the entire US saw the improved maps. We can look at a similar timeline for directions.
2. Heights for cycle paths
Drivers usually do not worry about being able to ride. Cyclists do because they require endurance and endurance at different skill levels depending on the climb. Maps make it easy by offering detailed graphics and information about the elevation changes of several possible cycle paths.
You will see a brief description of the route (eg “gently downhill”), how many feet you need to cycle uphill and how many meters you need to drive downhill, among other useful tips. Maybe we will also see this for hiking directions one day!
Busy street warnings for bicycle routes
Ever wondered how many cars or cyclists you will encounter on your pendulum? Maps offer that information directly. If your best routes are busy, the app tells you and helps you compare options that may be better on the traffic. Some identifiers you see include “include busy roads” and “less busy.” Just know that if there is low or no traffic on a given route, you will see the same time indicator as you normally do.
4. Other warning labels for cycle paths
In addition to the busy indicators for cycle paths, you will also see icons on the map that let you know where there is a steep climb, where the stairs are or when you need to walk instead of ride. These labels can be seen on the mapped roads as well as in the information for each in the assignment window during the elevation gain.
Stairs, hills and busy roads avoid for bike paths
Imagine a bicycle traffic that only contains flat roads – what a concept. Maybe your pendulum is like that, but in many cities this is simply not the case. You will encounter steep slopes, jam-packed roads and even stairwells to support your bike.
The good news is that Maps can try to bypass your trip around any or all of these obstacles. You can choose to avoid stairs, hills, busy roads or any combination of the three, and maps will do their best to accommodate. Unfortunately, no guarantees can be made, and these buttons may not always show up, so you may eventually need to carry your bike up the stairs.
6. Voice guidance for bike routes with Apple Watch
If you have an Apple Watch, you will probably track your cycling through the Workout app. With maps in iOS 14, Apple offers you an exclusive experience. According to the company, “Maps … offers custom bike advice and a rich experience on the Apple Watch that makes navigating at a glance easy.” It’s nice to see Apple add a little extra for those of us who own laptops.
7. City guides
Are you looking for a good place to eat in a new city? How about the best trail to hike on your vacation? Sure, you can look up Google and search for “expert” after “expert”, or you can simply open maps in iOS 14.
Apple has partnered with some of the best names in tourism and travel to create a feature called “Guides”. It offers data-rich app brochures for practically everything you can think of. For example, you can browse the best pizza shops in San Fran and read about what makes them good with quick access to their map pages. How about the best places for a hike in a new city? Same concept.
These guides are continuously updated and can be saved for later viewing. Companies like AllTrails, Louis Vuitton, Zagat, Team Infatuation and Lonely Planet are already creating maps guides, but we’m sure there are many more out there – and many more on the way. You will only see Guides in San Francisco, New York, London and LA at the moment, but more cities should come soon.
8. Congestion zone warnings
City traffic can get bad, really fast. To combat grid caps, some cities have created congestion zones that charge drivers a fee to enter. This strategy reduces traffic but damages your wallet if you do not realize where you are driving.
Maps can help you avoid unnecessary expenses (as well as additional contributions to traffic) by alerting you to congestion zones near you and directing you around them. London and Paris are known for their congestion zones, but other cities such as New York also implement the strategy.
9. Electric vehicle routing
Electric vehicles are undoubtedly the way of the future, but that future is not quite here yet. As such, you see far more petrol stations along the road than EV stations, which makes a trip in the all-electric machine a little scary.
Don’t worry anymore, as Maps now plays EV routing! Nor is it a generic map. The app asks for the car’s make and model, so the next time you enter a destination, Maps shows exactly where to stop to top up your electric vehicle. You will see how long your car takes to charge, which adds to your total ETA, all taking into account the car’s current battery level.
If you have a BMW or a Ford, you are first on the list – the two companies are the first that Apple works with, but we expect that many more electric car manufacturers will also join.
10. More accurate maps in dense urban areas
Have you ever had trouble using maps (or any GPS app for that matter) through a dense city? Things can go well, then suddenly the map thinks you are on a completely different street. Yuk. If this is an unknown city is a faulty hub app last thing you want.
However, the problem is not necessarily with Maps as it can be difficult for GPS signals to be accurate in such a dense environment. Instead of relying on GPS for these situations, Apple has improved the maps in iOS 14 to get more accurate position and orientation readings. Overall unreliable city maps that show where you are and how you are oriented shall be a past.
11. Detected by speed trap and red light camera
No one likes an unexpected speed trap or red light camera. If you are tired of paying for tickets, Maps is here to help you. The app warns you of incoming speed traps and red lights, so you know to slow down and look at your surroundings. And having these indicators makes sense because the feature forces drivers to slow down on the roads while saving money on the road. It’s a total win-win.
12. Extended details on air quality
We’ve had the little weather forecast icon on Maps for a while, and the air quality index was added to it in iOS 12.2. AQI lets you know how much pollution there is in the area, but you only get the color and number here. Long press on the icon to expand it only showed more detailed weather information. In iOS 14, you also get AQI in the expanded menu so you can compare it with other level colors to get a better idea of how good or bad the air is.
13. New widgets and sizes
As part of one of iOS 14’s most outstanding new features, you can now add one of three widget sizes for maps to your home screen or Today View. The Maps widget can show you the destination’s ETA in an instant and suggest routes based on your travel history and iPhone usage.
14. Revised menu
When you include Maps in Settings, you see Cycling as a preferred type of trip, along with its options under directions, where you will find avoidant gears (which are also found when looking at routes).
So what’s new here? The navigation aspect was drawn from “Driving & Navigation” to its own “Navigation & Guidance.” This is where you will find the voice volume, the option to pause spoken sound and share ETA preferences. There is also a new option here (see below). The gears to avoid tolls and motorways, as well as to show the compass and speed limit, are now in the “Driving” settings.
15. Navigation requests alertness
If you did not notice above; there is a new switch called “Navigation Asks Wake Device.” It’s on automatically, but you can turn it off if you do not want instructions to make your screen go from black to the navigation view.
16. More countries get improved maps
Apple is an American company, so it makes sense that its revised Maps app started here first. The good news for other countries, however, is that the new UI is expanding. Canada, Ireland and the UK are the lucky starters, but we expect Apple to continue to grow as fast as possible.
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