Apple Maps Could Get Some Useful Improvements in iOS 18

Apple Maps Hero Credit: The Verge
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So far, we’ve been hearing a great deal about the new AI features that we can expect to see in this year’s big iOS 18 release, but it’s fair to say that Apple has a few more surprises in store for us. With its debut now officially a little over 10 weeks away, we’re starting to get some glimpses into what else could be coming to our iPhones this year.

Several analysts and leakers have already reported that iOS 18 could be the biggest update ever, but it’s only recently that we’ve begun to understand why. Although AI is undoubtedly a big deal on its own, nobody is entirely sure exactly how far Apple plans to take that. We can probably forget about a chatbot, for example, but we’re really hoping that Siri will mature into something more useful.

However, Apple’s plans for iOS 18 understandably go well beyond generative AI. Recent reports suggest a much more customizable Home Screen experience, and now there’s some evidence that Apple Maps could gain some new capabilities as well.

Custom Routes

When navigating between two points in Apple Maps, you may be given more than one route to choose from, but you’re still limited to what Apple provides. If you have a better idea, there’s no way to tell your iPhone that. The best you can do is blaze your own trail and hope that Maps figures that out and adjusts itself along the way.

However, if code discovered by the folks at MacRumors has any significance, Apple is laying the groundwork to soon launch custom routing in Apple Maps — likely in iOS 18.

The evidence of this stems from a new iOS 18 file on the Maps backend labeled “CustomRouteCreation.” The name probably says it all, but there’s also an indication that the feature will be limited to the United States at launch. That’s par for the course when it comes to new features in Apple Maps, so it’s not too surprising; Apple will likely roll it out to other countries in due course.

Not much else is known about the feature at this time, but ideally, it would let you choose specific roads you want to use during your trips, for whatever reason. It’s something folks have been requesting from Apple Maps for quite a while, and it’s one area where Google Maps is slightly ahead. You can’t create a custom route on the fly with Google Maps, but you can set it up using the browser interface and then view it on your iPhone.

Topographic Maps

WWDC2023 watchOS 10 trail map

Last year, Apple introduced topographic maps for the Apple Watch in watchOS 10, letting hikers see possible trails, elevation, and other points of interest. While this was designed primarily for hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts, it’s still an interesting way to look at the world around you.

However, even on an Apple Watch Ultra 2, these maps require a bit of squinting to make out all the details. Fortunately, it looks like Apple is ready to expand these beyond the wearable to Apple Maps on the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and even Vision Pro.

Again, MacRumors reports that backend topographic maps code has been around for all of Apple’s platforms since last year, but now that code is active in the files for iOS 18, macOS 15, and visionOS 2.

Topographic maps were initially launched only for key areas of the US, such as national and regional parks. Apple has expanded them rapidly across the country since then, but there’s no word on when it will grow beyond US borders.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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