How to Use the Apple Maps App

Never be lost again

smartphone maps navigation illustration

 Stuart Kinlough / Ikon Images /Getty Images

With an iPhone in your pocket, you are never lost. You can get directions to almost anywhere in 75 countries, thanks to the powerful combination of Assisted GPS and the Apple Maps app, both of which come on every iPhone. Assisted GPS, or A-GPS, combines standard GPS technology with information derived from cellular data networks for fast and accurate GPS readings.

Apple has made significant improvements to the Maps app features, accuracy, and data since it launched in 2013 as part of iOS 7, making it a reliable alternative to Google Maps. The Maps app even offers features that Google Maps doesn't have. 

Whether you need driving directions, want to find out what bus to take to where you're going, are lost in an airport or mall, or just want a 3D view of a city, Apple Maps delivers. Here's how to use its most important and powerful features.

Information in this article applies to iPhones running iOS 12, iOS 11, or iOS 10.

Get Turn-by-Turn Directions With Apple Maps App

The Maps app is most frequently used for turn-by-turn directions. Because the Maps app can take into account traffic conditions, tolls, and other data—and because it can speak to you while you drive to tell you which turns and exits to take—it's a great co-pilot. Here's how to use it:

  1. Tap the Maps app to launch it.

  2. Tap the Search bar and enter a destination. It can be a street address or city, a person's name if their address is in your iPhone's Contacts app, or a business such as a movie theater or restaurant. It could also be one of the recent locations listed beneath the Search bar.

  3. A pin or icon drops onto the map representing your destination and displaying the travel route. There may be multiple routes to get from where you are to the destination. Each route displays how long it will take by car by default. Tap the route you want to use.

  4. Tap the travel mode at the bottom of the screen to change it, if necessary. The default is travel by car. Although most people use Maps as they are driving, routes are also available in categories of Walk, Transit, and Ride, which lists nearby driving services such as Lyft and Uber. The suggested route and travel time changes depending on the method of travel. In some cases, there is no transit route, for example. 

  5. Tap Go to start the turn-by-turn navigation. The app speaks to you, giving you the directions you need to get to your destination. Each direction and the distance to that direction shows on the screen and updates each time you make a turn or take an exit. 

  6. When you get to your destination or want to stop receiving turn-by-turn directions, tap End Route.

    Apple Maps app on an iPhone showing destination route

Tips When Using Turn-by-Turn Directions

The basics of using Apple Maps for directions are pretty straightforward, but there's a lot more going on in the app. Here are a few tips you may find helpful.

The Maps app can tell you which lane you should be in using a feature called Lane Guidance. Keep an eye on the screen if your phone is on a car mount or hand the phone to your navigator to watch for the lane indicators at the top of the directions screen.

The app also displays local speed limits for your route, where available.

apple maps turn by turn directions tips

You can also view or print a list of the directions rather than to have them spoken to you. On the screen where the Go button is, before you start turn-by-turn directions, tap the time estimate. You won't get location-aware directions this way, so there's no rerouting if you miss a turn, but your phone won't be telling you what to do.

You receive better directions and arrival-time estimates if you add real-time traffic data to Maps to identify and potentially route around accidents, road work, and other delays. To start viewing traffic information, tap the i icon in the top right corner and move the Traffic slider to On/green.

On a trip and suddenly in need of gas, a meal, or a bathroom? Apple Maps can help. You'll see small icons on the map for things like restaurants, gas stations, pharmacies, and hospitals. You can tap on these icons for more information about them and update your directions to take you there.

Advanced Features of Apple Maps

Beyond the basic navigational features of Maps, the app offers a number of useful advanced options. You access almost all of them by tapping the information icon (the letter i with a circle around it) in the top right corner.

Apple Maps Advanced Features

Favorite Locations: Want to make it easy to get to work, home, a friend's house, or your favorite coffee shop no matter where you are? Then Favorite those locations. To do that, search for the location. Swipe up on the search details at the bottom of the screen. Tap Favorite. In the pop-up window, give the favorite a name and tap Save. Now you'll be able to use the name of the favorite (say, Home) to get directions instead of using the address. See your list of Favorites at the bottom of the swipe-up search panel on the home screen of Maps. 

Nearby: The Nearby feature shows categories of businesses nearby, such as Food, Drink, Shopping, and Fun, among others. Each category can be expanded to a list of nearby destinations in that category. The Nearby categories appear when you tap the search bar from the Maps home screen.

Avoid Tolls or Highways: Want your driving directions to avoid roads with tolls, or to keep you on surface roads and off highways as much as possible? You can do that by changing a setting. Tap Settings > Maps > Driving & Navigation > Avoid > move the Tolls or Highways sliders to On/green, and Maps attempts to exclude those items whenever possible from your recommended routes.

Driving & Navigation options for iPhone Maps app

Printing Directions: Want to print out that list of directions to your destination? From the Directions screen (the one with the Go button on it), tap the time to see the full list of directions for your route. Swipe to the bottom of the list and tap Share. Tap Print to send the directions to any AirPrint-compatible printer for a hard copy. 

Parked Location: Want Maps to help you locate your car in mall or airport parking lots? It can if you enable this feature. Your iPhone must be paired via Bluetooth with your car stereo or CarPlay unit. Tap Settings > Maps > move the Show Parked Location slider to On/green.

Location Sharing: You can use Maps to send your current location to friends and family to make it easy for them to meet up with you. Learn how to share your location on iPhone or iPad.

Transit Directions, Ride Sharing, and Walking Directions

Driving isn't the only way to get around, and Maps can help you navigate via mass transit, ride-sharing service, and on foot.

apple maps ride, transit, and walk directions
  1. Open the Maps app and select a destination.

  2. On the directions screen, instead of tapping Go, tap Transit, Ride, or Walk.

  3. Tap Transit to show options using bus, subway, light rail, ferry, and other methods to get to your destination, if your local mass transit system has been mapped by Apple (see the full list here). Pick your preferred choice and tap Go.

  4. Tap Ride if you are in an area that supports ride-sharing apps such as Lyft or Uber installed on your iPhone. Your installed ride-sharing app opens and its estimated price appears. Tap Next for the one you want to use.

  5. Tap Walk for a list of streets and roads to walk. Using an Apple Watch with Maps is helpful when you are walking because the Watch vibrates to let you know when to turn. If any of the roads you have to walk are unpaved, Maps provides a warning. Tap Go to start your walk.

If you want Maps to default to one kind of transportation (mass transit, for example, because you live in a city and don't own a car), you can change that setting. In the Settings app, tap Maps and select either Walking or Transit in the Preferred Transportation Type section. All your Maps app directions default to the selected option going forward.

Indoor Mapping

Finding your way to just the right shop, restaurant, or bathroom in a large indoor space like an airport or mall can be a challenge. If you've ever been lost in that situation, you may have wished for turn-by-turn directions like you have in your car. Well, for some locations, Apple Maps has them.

Apple Maps Indoor Mapping

Apple has full lists of locations with indoor maps here:

To use indoor maps, search for one of the airports or malls the lists. If you're already inside the location, you only need to open the Maps app. Use the Nearby icons—Food, Drinks, Shops, and for airports, Terminals, Gates, and more—to browse lists of options. Tap the place you want to go, and the Maps app provides directions to it.

As with other maps, you can zoom in and out to see more detail. You can also browse by floor, terminal (in airports), parking levels, arrival and departure levels (at airports), and more. 

Augmented Reality Flyover Cities

Getting driving directions isn't the only way to explore a city, not if you have a Maps app, at least. You can also enjoy augmented reality, 3D flyovers in hundreds of cities worldwide. These flyovers show you the city as if you are taking a helicopter tour through the streets and between the buildings.

apple maps 3D flyover feature

Here's what you need to do:

  1. In Maps, search for a city.

  2. If the feature is available, the results page includes a Flyover button. Tap it.

  3. Move your iPhone left and right, up and down to see different parts of the city in 3D. Pinch the screen to zoom in on locations and swipe left, right, up, and down to move through the city.

  4. To take that helicopter-style tour, tap Start City Tour.

  5. Tap X to close the flyover feature and return to the standard Maps experience.

Do Not Disturb While Driving

Distracted driving is a major cause of accidents. Apple include a feature in iOS 11 and later to help users focus on the road and cut down on driving risks. Do Not Disturb While Driving blocks calls and texts while you drive and sends automatic responses so that you can keep your eyes on the road.

Do Not Disturb While Driving isn't a part of Apple Maps, but it's a good idea to learn how to use it.