Rather than straining to look at a map on your iPhone, why not view maps on the big screen using your Apple TV? TV Maps is now available for $2 on the App Store and the experience is impressive. It relies on MapKit, the same tool used by Apple’s own Maps app, and includes many of the same exciting features such as Flyover.
TV Maps provides most of the features you would expect in a maps app. You can switch between street maps, satellite view and hybrid view. Also, there are other familiar features like 3D view, location finding, and directions. Holding down on the Siri Remote’s trackpad will access the location and direction options along with a settings menu. To use location, you can tap the entry field and type in an address or place you want to look up. For directions, tap that icon to enter starting and ending points. A nice touch to directions is it shows you alternative routes to your destination, which is always good to have.
Navigation in the app is handled in a clever way and takes advantage of the trackpad on the Siri Remote. To zoom in and out you simply slide up or down on the right edge of the trackpad. Swiping back and forth on the other areas of the trackpad will navigate around the map. Navigating a map in this way feels natural and makes the app enjoyable to use.
Even with the new Apple TV’s upgraded processor, it’s still unable to load and cache maps as well as the iPhone. This may be a RAM issue, but either way it takes a few seconds for maps to load while scrolling around with the Siri Remote.
One initial interference I found using the app was entering text every time I wanted to look up a location or get directions. Switching back and forth between the Siri Remote and the Remote app on the iPhone helps with this, but it’s a clunky work around. However, the issue with entering text on tvOS is fading as Apple implements dictation across the platform. Once I discovered TV Maps takes advantage of dictation, the experience was much better. You can dictate locations in the app using the Siri Remote, which has been fairly accurate so far.
If you’re like me, you’ve no doubt had the thought, “what good is getting directions on a television?” The developer behind TV Maps considered that question. A purchase of TV Maps on the tvOS app store comes with a complementing, albeit bare bones, iPhone app which pairs with the tvOS app and lets you pass directions from the Apple TV to your iPhone, which can then be opened in the Maps app. The apps are bundled so if you purchase the iPhone app you will in turn get the tvOS app and vice versa.
TV Maps currently experiences some of the same issues that come with MapKit like delays while loading map segments and some stuttering when using Flyover. But for the most part, the Apple TV handles TV Maps with little problems. All in all, for a first of its kind tvOS app, it works exceptionally well. If you’ve used Maps for iPhone, iPad or the Mac, the experience will feel right at home.
TV Maps certainly isn’t an earth shattering tvOS app, but it’s a clever idea and it’s quite a bit of fun. If you used to enjoy exploring the world using Google Earth, this app is similar but much more intuitive. It’s also a really fun way to plan a trip and the utility of sending directions to your iPhone is an excellent touch.
What’s your favorite part of exploring maps on a larger screen? Let us know in the comments.