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Hands-on with Maps in iOS 9: Introducing public transit and more accurate data

Caitlin McGarry | July 30, 2015
iOS 9 makes Apple Maps a strong contender with the addition of mass transit directions that, so far, are just as accurate as Google's

Apple's native Maps app currently sits in a folder called Junk on the second page of my home screen, where I banished it as soon as it launched close to three years ago. At the time, I lived in San Francisco, but things haven't changed now that I live in New York, for one huge reason: Maps lacked public transit directions. That's how I get around the city, and while Maps points you to third-party apps like Embark and Google Maps for subway information, I need an all-in-one solution. Google Maps tells me how to get where I'm going by foot, in a car, or on the train, so it's my go-to whenever I leave my apartment.

But iOS 9 makes Apple Maps a strong contender with the addition of mass transit directions that, so far, are just as accurate as Google's. Plus, it has a bevvy of other improvements, like better communication with your Mac and some nice discovery features. From my experience, things are looking promising, and Maps just might make it out of my Junk folder. (Keep in mind, I've only been testing Maps out using the iOS 9 public beta, so it's bound to improve more once iOS 9 is ready to properly launch this fall.)

Mass transit

I mapped my way to several familiar destinations to gauge whether the trains and routes Maps suggested were the quickest and most efficient ways to end up at my destination, and they were. Bonus time-saving feature: Apple Maps shows you where subway entrances are in flyover mode, which is incredibly useful. Grand Central Terminal has several entrances, but if you don't know where the closest one is, you could end up walking several blocks out of the way. Now entrances are helpfully marked "Entrances" (so simple, so necessary) in Maps.

Maps also highlights the Long Island Railroad, Metro-North, and New Jersey Transit lines, which Google Maps doesn't. The more than 600,000 commuters who flood into Manhattan every weekday (and the travelers who come in from the outer boroughs) will probably find that useful.

As for San Francisco, Macworld's Leah Yamshon found Maps' mass transit info to be just as on point. Maps includes info on the Bay Area's major transit systems, including BART, MUNI, AC Transit, and the local ferry network. It sometimes failed to deliver ferry information when searching for directions from downtown San Francisco to waterfront spots in Oakland or Alameda, but for the most part it served up accurate, efficient routes on par to what Google Maps offers.


Apple is taking a page from Yelp with a new feature called Nearby, which shows you shops, restaurants, places to drink, and other types of businesses around you or near the destination you enter in the Maps search bar. 


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