With this year’s upcoming release of iOS 10, Apple has focused on some very specific improvements in several core apps, introducing some major design changes and adding new capabilties both for users and developers.
In today’s installment of Inside the betas we take a closer look at what Apple has done with its Maps app. Functionally, it doesn’t quite incorporate the kind of sweeping changes we’ve seen in prior years, but instead focuses on redesigning the user experience and adding a few useful iterative features.
With iOS 10, Apple appears to be adopting a new design motif, as evidenced by the changes to notifications and Control Center that we highlighted in our previous installment, along with some significant redesigns of existing core apps.
Maps is one of three iOS 10 apps to get this new design treatment, with what Apple SVP Eddy Cue referred to on stage as a goal of making the app easily able to “access controls and details on locations.”
At first glance, the most apparent change is the shift of the search field from its traditional placement at the top of the screen down to the bottom. Closer examination, however, reveals that the search field now forms the top part of a panel-style overlay similar to the redesigned Control Center. Tapping on the search field slides the panel up to fill almost the entire screen, with categories and recent and favorite locations shown. However, it’s also possible to slide the panel down to occupy only the bottom third of the screen to show a list of locations.
In landscape orientation, the search field now appears in the top-left corner, with a handle that allows it to be expanded downward to fill the left third of the screen with location results.
The display of locations has also been emboldened, with larger fonts and colorful icons beside each location to illustrate categories, where appropriate. You’ll also be able to clear or share locations by swiping from right-to-left, which will present “Remove” and “Share” buttons, similar to swiping on messages in the iOS Mail app.
Searching for directions gets a similarly new bold design, with large green “Go” buttons beside each set of directions to begin navigation, larger and bolder fonts used to emphasize travel times, and slightly more detailed information on each route, such as whether tolls are required and which routes are fastest.
One other nice touch in iOS 10 is that routes requiring tolls are now clearly marked in the map view with a dollar sign symbol.
Navigation mode has undergone an even more significant redesign, using the same type of panel-style view at the bottom to provide ETA, travel time, and distance, along with a bright red “End” button used to cancel navigation. Next turn directions are displayed using a black banner at the top of the screen, providing a much better contrast with the map view.
In addition, the map view can now be panned and zoomed when navigating, and traffic information is shown on the route detail view, rather than only in overview mode. The route detail view will also zoom in and out dynamically based on the travel distance of each leg and how close the next turn is.
As with the search field, the bottom status bar also forms the top part of a panel overlay that can be slid upward to reveal additional options, including switching between Overview and Detail route views, getting a list of directions, toggling audio on and off, and searching for points of interest on your route.
Points of Interest on Route
Possibly the biggest functional improvement coming to Maps will be the ability to navigate to common points of interest on or near your current route. When sliding up the bottom panel, buttons will appear to provide a list of enroute gas stations, fast food restaurants, or coffee shops. Only those three categories are available right now, although this might change by the final iOS 10 release in the fall.
Tapping on one of these will provide a list and map plot of locations in that category which will take you a minimal distance from your route, with the amount of time added to your trip noted for each. Tapping on the “Go” button will temporarily switch your route to take you to that location instead, with a blue banner at the top allowing you to resume navigation to your original destination.
Although the visual enhancements to Maps in CarPlay are more subtle than in the core iOS app, CarPlay does gain a few improvements, including the ability to pan and zoom maps during route navigation, traffic information in detail view, and searching for points of interest enroute while in navigation mode. Zooming and panning buttons have now been moved over to the right edge of the map, and a search button now appears in the banner while in navigation mode, providing access to search for points of interest or other locations while already following a route.
This feature actually provides a few more options than it does on the iOS device, with additional categories for Parking and Shopping displayed, as well as other recent locations.
In addition, the menu that appears when tapping on a suggested destination in CarPlay is much clearer to understand, replacing the “Yes/No/Guidance” buttons with distinct options for Guidance, ETA Only, or Clear.
Maps in iOS 10 will also become more proactive, bringing the system-wide “Proactive Assistant” features of iOS 9 directly into the Maps app. For example, directions will be provided to places that you regularly travel to — such as your morning commute — and will appear on the bottom overlay panel without having to first initiate a search.
iOS 10 Maps will also remember where you parked your car, placing a pin on the map, flagging a “Parked car” location entry right at the top of your list, and posting a notification.
This appears to be tracked using Bluetooth, with the iPhone deciding that your car has been “parked” and noting its current location whenever it loses Bluetooth connectivity to the car. At this stage, however, iOS 10 doesn’t seem to know whether you’re moving away from the car or if the car is moving away from you — we’ve regularly received “Parked car” notifications when other family members drive away in the car, for example. It’s unclear if Apple will be able to take steps to fix this by the time the final release of iOS 10 rolls out.
Searching and Filtering Places
Improvements have also been made to the Nearby search interface, making it easier to filter diverse location categories down to the specifics and pan around the map to check different locations.
When searching a category such as “Restaurants” that includes a wide variety of sub-categories, a slider bar now appears at the bottom of the screen that will allow you to quickly narrow the displayed results down by sub-category. Panning around the map after doing a search will collapse the results into a “Search Here” button that can be used to reinitiate the same search in the newly displayed location.
Today Screen Extensions
Three new Today Screen “widgets” are available for Maps in iOS 10: Destinations, Nearby, and Transit.
The Nearby widget provides quick access to the four most popular search categories, essentially replicating the same feature that was built into the Search screen in iOS 9. The Destinations widget provides a glance of recommended locations such as your parked car, the location of an upcoming appointment, or a proactive navigation route. Maps Transit provides a quick view of transit-related alerts for any transit lines that you’ve marked as favorites in the Maps app.
Driving and Transit Options
The Maps section in the iOS Settings app now allows you to chose your preferred method of transport — Driving, Walking, Transit, or Ride Booking.
Options to avoid highways and toll routes will be available as well through the Settings app, or by tapping on “Driving Options” when getting directions. Preferred modes of public transit can be also be set in much the same way.
Ride Booking Apps + Maps Extensions
When getting directions in iOS 10 Maps, the former “Apps” category has now been renamed “Ride Booking” and appears to be limited to tying into apps for services such as Uber. At this stage, it looks like the ability to directly hand off to third-party apps such as Google Maps or Transit for other forms of trip planning has been removed, although Apple may ultimately be allowing this capability in a more open form with its newly announced support for third-party Maps extensions.
Maps extensions, as announced by Schiller, will provide integration with not only ride booking services such as Uber, but the ability to do things like make reservations with OpenTable without leaving the Maps app. It’s unclear what other types of functionality may be available to third-party developers, but it will be interesting to see what other types of extensions appear in the fall.
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