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Smart Tricks of the iPhone Maps App

The Maps app on your iPhone has lots of tricks up its sleeve, including a few nifty features you may find useful. With Maps, you can get more than directions to your destination.

Get route maps and driving directions

You can get route maps and driving directions to any location from any other location in a couple of ways:

  • If a pushpin is already on the screen: Tap the pushpin and then tap the little > in a blue circle to the right of the name or description. This action displays the item’s Info screen. Now tap the Directions to Here or Directions from Here button to get directions to or from that location, respectively.

  • When you’re looking at a map screen: Tap the Directions button on the left of the search field. The Start and End fields appear at the top of the screen. Type the start and end points or select them from your bookmarks, recent maps, or contacts if you prefer. If you want to swap the starting and ending locations, tap the little swirly arrow button to the left of the Start and End fields.

    If you need to change the start or end location, tap the Clear button in the top-left corner and try again.

    When the start and end locations are correct, tap the Route button in the top-right corner of the screen and the route map appears.

    Maps will often suggest several routes. The number of suggestions appears at the top of the screen and the routes appear on the map in blue with cartoon balloons denoting their route number. Tap the blue line or cartoon balloon to select a route, as in Figure 13-6, where Route 2 is selected.

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    Weird but true: If you type the end location, you’ll have to tap the Route button before you can proceed; but if you select the end location from your Bookmarks, Contacts, or Recents list, you won’t see the Route button and thus won’t have to tap it before you proceed.

    Tap the curling page button in the lower-right corner of the map you're viewing and then tap the Show Traffic button to help you decide which route will be most expedient.

    The next step is to tap the Start button in the top-right corner to receive turn-by-turn driving directions. To see the next step in the directions, swipe the green instructional signs from right to left; to see the preceding step, swipe from left to right.

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If you prefer your driving directions displayed as a list with all the steps, tap the curling page button in the lower-right corner and then tap the List Results button.

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Visual step-by-step directions work well, but those of you with an iPhone 4S or 5 will also hear audible turn-by-turn directions similar to what you’d find on a dedicated GPS device. You know, where some friendly male or female voice states instructions, such as “turn right on Main Street.”

Older iPhones can speak directions if you purchase a third-party GPS app, such as TomTom U. S. A. ($39.99), Navigon ($24.99 and up), or MotionX GPS Drive ($.99 plus $2.99 per month or $9.99 per year for Live Voice Guidance), which are all decent. We advise plugging the iPhone into a power outlet if at all possible while driving because such apps can quickly drain the battery.

When you’re finished with the step-by-step directions, tap the Search button at the bottom of the screen to return to the regular map screen and single search field.

Get walking directions with the iPhone Maps app

For step-by-step directions for walking, tap the walking person icon above the Start and End fields that appear after you tap the Directions button. Walking directions generally look a lot like driving directions except for your travel time.

Get 3D and flyover views (iPhone 4S and 5)

New in iOS 6 are three-dimensional views for most metropolitan areas. You may have to zoom in to see the 3D or Flyover button, which appears on the right of the show current location button when available.

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In Standard view, the 3D button says (d’oh) 3D.

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In hybrid or satellite view, the Flyover button looks like a three-dimensional skyscraper.

Tap the 3D or Flyover button and the button turns blue while the map becomes three-dimensional.

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When 3D or flyover is enabled, you can navigate and zoom. To change the camera angle, you drag up or down on the screen with two fingers.

Finally, note the compass in the upper-right corner of the screen when 3D or flyover is enabled. Tap it to return to north-facing orientation.

Get traffic info in real time with the Maps app

You can find out the traffic conditions for whatever map you’re viewing by tapping the curling page button in the lower-right corner and then tapping the Show Traffic button. When you do this, major roadways are color-coded to inform you of the current traffic speed.

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Here’s the key to those colors:

  • Green: More than 50 miles per hour

  • Yellow: 25 to 50 miles per hour

  • Red: Under 25 miles per hour

  • Gray: No data available at this time

Traffic info isn’t available in every location, but the only way to find out is to give it a try. If no color codes appear, assume that traffic information doesn’t work for that particular location.

Do more on the Info screen in the Maps app

If a location has a little > in a blue circle to the right of its name or description, you can tap the > to see the location’s Info screen.

You can get directions to or from that location, add the location to your bookmarks or contacts, or create a new contact from it. But you can do three more things with a location from its Info screen:

  • Tap the phone number to call it.

  • Tap the e-mail address to launch the Mail app and send an e-mail to it.

  • Tap the URL to launch Safari and view its website.

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