iPhone Boot Camp No. 3: Maps

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Of Apple’s built-in iPhone apps, few are more powerful than Maps, which can do everything from finding your current location to showing you exactly what the building at a particular address looks like from street-level.

In this edition of iPhone Boot Camp, we’ll take a look at Maps’ best features and how you can make the most of them.

[Note: this post is inspired by and draws from Macworld’s recent article, ‘Eight tips for iOS’s Maps app‘]


Pinpoint your current location


In most cases, the first thing you’ll want to do when you launch Maps is find where you are right now, whether it’s to find something nearby or get directions from your current location.

Doing so couldn’t be simpler.  Just tap the Current Location button in the lower left-hand corner of the screen, and Maps will quickly detect and mark your location with a pulsing blue dot.

Your location is determined in one of two ways.  If you’re connected to Wi-Fi, it uses your Wi-Fi hotspot’s location data to quickly pinpoint where you are.

If you’re out roaming around and not connected to Wi-Fi, the iPhone pulls off a pretty nifty trick: it quickly triangulates your approximate location within a few hundred meters using a combination of the nearest cell towers, and while this is happening, your iPhone’s GPS chip is pulling in an exact location.  This is why the iPhone appears to find your location much quicker than, say, a standalone GPS unit – it can start with the cell tower data while waiting for the GPS data to come in.  On a standalone unit, nothing happens until communication with the GPS satellite is complete.


Search for It


Maps also has very powerful search functionality built-in, thanks to Google Maps’ massive database and intelligent matching algorithm.  To search for something, just tap in the search box and type what you’re looking for.  A few examples:


  • Looking for a bite to eat?  Type in a cuisine, such as “sushi”, or a service, such as “pizza delivery”.  Or just search “restaurants” to get a broader selection.
  • Type an exact address, e.g. “610 E Morehead St Charlotte NC 28202″
  • If you’re light on details, just type what you know.  E.g. “610 Morehead”.  Maps will either find the address or offer close matches to choose from.
  • Type any business name, e.g. “Apple Store”
  • Type a city name to quickly get directions or estimate drive time for your next road trip.
  • Typing “CLT” or another airport short code will return the location of that airport.


Get Directions


IMG_1823-233x350Once you’ve found what you’re looking for, you may want directions too.  There are two ways to get directions: quick and quicker.


  • Quick: tap the red pin on your destination, tap the blue arrow for details, tap Directions To Here, and tap Route.
  • Quicker: tap the red pin, tap Directions at the bottom of the screen (top of screen on iPad), tap Route.


Once you’ve chosen your route, tap Start at the top right corner of the screen to show step-by-step directions.  Note that it’s not a turn-by-turn system that will track you, the way an in-car unit will.  It’s up to you to advance to the next steps by tapping the forward and back arrows as you progress through the route.  For a true turn-by-turn experience, check outLifehacker’s list of the best navigation apps.


Power of the Page Curl


IMG_1824-233x350As you’re mapping your way around town, you can also unlock a few hidden features by tapping the page curl button at the bottom-right corner of the screen.


  • Drop Pin: If you’re looking at a particular location and would like to bookmark it for later reference, tap Drop Pin.  A purple pin will fall from the sky, which you can move around by tapping and dragging.  Once it’s set, tap the pin, tap the blue Details arrow, and tap Add to Bookmarks to assign a custom name and save it for later.
  • Print: If you have AirPrint printers set up on your network, you can print the current map view straight from your device (contact us for more info).
  • Show Traffic: Tap Show Traffic to add a traffic overlay to major thoroughfares and highways.  Maps will indicate traffic volume in different areas with green, yellow, and red lines.
  • Change View: Tap Standard, Satellite, Hybrid, or List to get a different view of the map or your search results.  Standard is the default Google Maps look.  Satellite shows aerial photography, while Hybrid overlays roads and other map data over the aerials.  List will present search results or directions in list form in lieu of the map.


Walk Around in Street View




The best-kept secret of Maps has to be Street View, which, when activated, seems transports you into an alternate dimension.  Here, you’re looking at the selected address as if you’re standing right in front of it.  Tap and drag on the screen to look around.  Pinch to zoom in or out.  As you pan around, you’ll see white arrows on the road.  Tap those to move along that path and change your view.

The effect is surreal: you’re walking down the road, looking around, all from your iPhone.

To enter Street View, search for a business or address, tap the red pin, and tap the orange button on the left side of the flag that pops up.  To exit Street View, tap the round map at the bottom right corner of the screen.