Iâ€™ve wanted to use Apple Maps before, but it took a few years before it was really a practical option in the city of Toronto. The first few years, Appleâ€™s 3D view made the city look post-apocalyptic because it hadnâ€™t fully rendered all of the buildings yet. The gas station near my parentsâ€™ place looked like it was two blocks away from its actual location. However, Iâ€™ve always thought the biggest flaw of Apple Map was the way it handled Favorites (Iâ€™m spelling the word the American way because thatâ€™s also how Apple Maps does itâ€¦even in Canada).
I mark Favorites for two reasons: so I can easily identify awesome restaurants and useful businesses on the map, and for mapping out exciting places in a city Iâ€™m going to travel to. Iâ€™ve based this behaviour on years of Google Maps usage, where you can â€œSaveâ€ a location and have it show up as a yellow star on the map. These saved locations are always visible, and this makes a lot of sense to me. It makes the digital map a lot more personal â€” the cartographic equivalent of scribbling in the margins.
Favorites on Display!
The most significant new feature Iâ€™ve find in the iOS 10 Maps redesign is that you can now view all Favorites as points on the map. iOS 9 let you view them in a list view one at a time, which wasnâ€™t nearly as useful. Surprisingly, Appleâ€™s implementation is even better than the saved stars on Google Maps. Viewing Favorites not only shows you where youâ€™ve earmarked interesting restaurants and businesses, but the icons themselves give you a clue as to what youâ€™re looking at. There are different sets to differentiate cafes, restaurants, bars, and liquor stores. I also really like that Maps is smart enough to cluster these Favorites when you zoom out far enough; and a quick tap on one of those clusters will show you a list of all the Favorites in that area.
Favorites donâ€™t show up by default on the map (which may be a beta bug), but you can activate them by tapping on the search list, scrolling down, and then tapping on Favorites.
Search along the Bottom
It still doesnâ€™t make sense to me in the age of gigantic phones that so many apps keep the search bar and other important controls along the top of the screen. Maps has come around to my way of thinking (Iâ€™m very humble) and now presents the search bar in the lower third of the screen. This makes it easy to tap, and one downward swipe makes it very easy to dismiss if you want a full-screen view.
The only inconsistent portion of the UI is the â€œcenter on meâ€ button, which is still at the top of the screen. I have situations where Maps loads up on me without centering on my current location, so I still need to reach up and tap that button before Maps becomes useful. I suspect that is a beta issue, though, and Iâ€™ll report it through the Feedback app once Iâ€™ve tracked it down fully.
My New Main Maps App
Maps is was still buggy enough in iOS 10 beta 1 to feel precarious to use, but beta 2 (which is also Public Beta 1) is feeling much more usable. Iâ€™m reliably able to activate Favorites, look up restaurants, and see the business hours of the LCBO for last-minute beer runs (very important information).
I also like the look and feel of the app a lot more than Google Maps. It feels cleaner and leaner in design; whereas Google Maps still features a little too much UI chrome to feel modern. It has taken a number of years for Apple to get the pieces into place, but Iâ€™ve been having a pretty good experience walking, driving, and transiting around with Maps.