10 Ways to Use Apple Maps Beyond Just Staring at a Map

Apple Maps may primarily be used for the turn-by-turn directions, but it actually has quite a powerful search engine built into it. Maps can also perform all sorts of neat tricks, and with Apple opening up the Maps app and allowing other apps to interact with it, we are going to see more and more uses for Apple Maps as this feature get utilized. For now, we'll look at a few ways you can use Maps beyond just as an interactive map.

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Morning Traffic

An iPad with Apple Maps
Public Domain / Pixabay

It's easy to use the iPad as a surrogate for your morning news, but don't forget about its ability to replace your morning traffic report. While the radio is a great way to find out the major hotspots slowing traffic in your city, they simply don't have time to give an update for every single street. But don't worry, Apple Maps has you covered. Not only does it give a city-wide view of traffic, painting trouble spots in red, it can also let you know about lane and ramp closures. 

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Find Restaurants and Book Reservations

The newest feature of Apple Maps is the ability to not only find nearby restaurants, but also to book reservations for the restaurant right within the Maps app. In many ways, Maps is a sophisticated front end to Yelp, showing the ratings for the establishment as well as the ability to search for nearby restaurants and narrow the choices down to particular types of food like Mexican, Italian, Breakfast & Brunch, etc. It's also very easy to see if the restaurant is closed, call the restaurant and, of course, get directions.

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Search For Businesses and Visit Websites

The ability to search for nearby locations extends to businesses beyond just restaurants. This makes Apple Maps a great substitute for Google when you need to search for a furniture store or a sporting goods store or a place to get music lessons. When you select a business from the search list, you'll see what people have said about the establishment on Yelp. You'll also see photos if available and can visit the website with one tap. One cool thing about popping into the Safari browser from the Maps app is the back link in the upper-left corner of the screen that will take you right back to Maps.

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Find Fun Stuff to Do

One cool feature of search that is especially useful when you are on vacation is the ability to search for fun things to do or places of interest. Simply tap in the search bar and tap on the "Fun" button that appears below the search input box. You can narrow the fun down to movies, nightlife, parks, popular spots, fun and games, etc. You can also do this with other categories like shopping. This makes Maps an awesome travel app, but it is also useful when you have family visiting and are out of ideas on how to entertain them.

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Avoid Toll Roads and/or Highways

We've covered how to find great places to visit in Maps, but what about saving money while trying to get there? Many cities are building more and more toll roads to help pay for infrastructure projects. If you want to avoid these tolls, you can tap "Driving Options" below the list of different routes given for driving to a location. In Driving Options, you can choose to avoid tolls or avoid highways altogether.

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Print Out Detailed Instructions With Map Snippets

It's easy enough to use our phone as a GPS when traveling around the city, but what about going to out-of-the-way locations? If you are taking a road trip, you may not always have access to your 4G LTE network, which is where printed directions can come in handy. The great part about printing directions from Maps is that you don't just get a list of turn-by-turn directions. You also get map snippets in various places along the route to help you get a visual sense of the directions.

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How Pins Can Help You Plan

One underutilized feature of Maps is the ability to put a pin in a location. You can do this by simply holding your finger down on any location on the map. The most simple use for a pin is to get driving directions to a particular spot. You can also add the pin to your favorites, which will keep the pin on the map. This is great for the sites you want to see on vacation or just a multi-stop trip into the city. You can then use these pins later to quickly get directions from one location to the next.

Another neat way to use pins is to record a friend's address in your contact list. If you are over at a friend's house, simply pin your current location and choose "Add to Existing Contact" to copy the full address into your contact list. You can also choose to create a new contact if you don't already have the friend in your contact list.

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Open Maps From Contacts

A cool aspect of having the address in your contacts list is the ease of pulling up directions from that contact. You don't need to go into maps and type in an address. Just go to your contacts app, search for your friend, and from their contact detail page, tap the little map next to their address. This will launch maps with the location pinned and ready for you to get directions.

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Easily Share Your Location

Car won't start and need a lift? Out enjoying some drinks at a bar and want a friend to meet up with you? Rather than give out clumsy directions, you can use Maps to share your location. Just tap the blue dot representing your current location on the map and choose "Share Location". You can share via text message or email.

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Take a Flyover Tour

Want to get a preview of your vacation? When you search for a city in Maps, you will get all kinds of great information about the city. For example, I can tell you that New York City has an elevation of 32 feet because of the detail page in maps. But better than that, I can do a flyover tour of New York and get a bird's eye view of the various tourist spots. This only works on major cities that have multiple tourist attractions, so while Dallas is a pretty city, it doesn't give the same option for a tour.