iOS 8: Apple polishes Maps data, adds public transit directions service


Apple is readying an upgraded version of its iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch Maps application for the next major release of iOS in an effort to battle Google for mobile maps supremacy, according to sources briefed on the plans. Apple CEO Tim Cook, Senior Vice Presidents Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi, and Maps head Patrice Gautier are using the new app to move toward fulfilling a promise to users that the iOS Maps application will eventually live up to the “incredibly high standard” of Apple’s customers…

Failure to launch:

Apple dropped support for Google’s mapping database in late 2012 and released its in-house Maps app with iOS 6. While the new application added extravagant three-dimensional imagery and a smoother interface, the software was riddled with bugs, unreliable data, and lacked many of the critical mobile mapping features found in the Google Maps app. Scott Forstall, the long time confidant of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, was in charge of the Apple mapping effort and was ousted for declining to apologize for the product’s shortcomings. Soon after Forstall, iOS engineering executive Richard Williamson was pushed out of Apple for his involvement in the app’s development.

Improving data: 

Looking forward, Cue, Federighi, and Gautier have been leading teams of Apple engineers since Forstall’s departure in order to make amends to the Maps app’s data and interface so it is more reliable. Last year with iOS 7, Apple re-architected the app’s interface to fit the bright, translucent style of Jony Ive’s take on mobile operating system design.

But while the interface for Maps was redesigned last year, Apple’s focus for 2014 is under-the-hood changes.

Thanks to extensive engineering work and acquisitions of several companies such BroadMap, Embark, and HopStop, Apple’s database for iOS Maps will be upgraded with enhanced data so it is more reliable, according to sources. The new application will also be injected with new points of interests and new labels to make places such as airports, parks, train stations, bus stops, highways, and freeways easier to find, the sources added. Sources also say that the mapping application’s cartography design has been tweaked to be slightly cleaner and to make streets more visible.


In addition to the mapping data changes, Apple will add one of the most important mobile features to Maps this year: public transit directions. Late last year, sources said that Apple had been planning to release transit support in iOS 8, and now the same sources are indicating that the plan is on track to be executed. Using data acquired via acquisitions and various partnerships, transit will be deeply integrated into the new maps application.

Transit directions allow a person to use an iPhone to travel from one destination to another via public transportation. iOS 8 Maps will be able to tap into train, subway, and bus data and provide enhanced directions to major airports. The functionality will exist in major cities, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, and will expand to other locations across the United States and potentially other countries across the world around the public launch of iOS 8.

Maps TransitImages of iOS 8’s transit mapping feature based on descriptions (created by Michael Steeber)

Transit directions will be embedded into Maps as both an option in the classic Directions panel and as a new mapping view. In the Directions view, transit will be an option alongside Driving and Walking. In the viewing options menu, a way to clearly view train stations, airports, and bus stops will be an option alongside the Standard, Hybrid, and Satellite views. While Apple will now have its own transit functionality, the Maps application will still be able to point users to App Store apps for additional transit-infused software.

When a user chooses to receive transit directions in the iOS 8 Maps app, a translucent panel slides up from the bottom of the Maps app with a list of different routes, according to the sources briefed on the application. Each route uses icons to notate the method of transportation (for example, a bus or train). The left side of the route choice panels share the departure and arrival times, and the right side notes the travel time. The transit view is said to split the screen between the routes list and the map so that users can also visually see the provided routes.

Users will be able to choose to receive transit directions to depart immediately or input a date and time for their travel and receive directions for use at that later time, according to the sources. Apple will also allow users to set transit directions as the default method of transportation (as opposed to walking or driving) so that frequent users of public transit can more quickly find directions to their destinations. That option is said to be in the iOS Settings menu. Users will also be able to use the standard iOS sharing functionality to email their route or share it via social networks.

Augmented reality:


Apple’s plans to improve mapping data and add transit functionality are just the pipeline for 2014. Apple is also working on unique ways for integrating indoor mapping views and enhanced car integration for future versions of iOS. Sources say that Apple has also begun work on augmented reality functionality that leverages the iPhone’s compass hardware to visually see nearby points of interest. This feature is likely to surface in the coming years. Apple received a patent for such functionality in 2011. Apple is likely also working on an updated version of its Maps app for OS X that adds the improved data. In addition to the new mapping software, iOS 8 is planned to include an application called Healthbook to manage user fitness activity and health information.

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  1. Edas Haha - 9 years ago

    Mostly Apple maps is good for USA, in Europe especially small countries it is total crap.

    • I live in very small European city and Apple Maps are stunning here ;)

      • Edas Haha - 9 years ago

        Which country if it isnt a secret? ;D

      • Ralph (@derlinzer) - 9 years ago

        No clue, where you live, but map data for Vienna (Austria’s capitol) is compete and utter crap. Since the release of Apple’s Maps App i have submitted misspelled and closed locations over and over again. And guess what? None – not a single one of them – has been fixed.

      • Ralph (@derlinzer) - 9 years ago

        ‘submitted REPORTS FOR misspelled and closed locations’…

      • silkalns - 9 years ago

        In Latvia you can travel around capital city using Apple Maps, the rest is unusable.

      • I live in Vienna as well (like Ralph) and I think Apple Maps are okay. It really depends what you wanna do with them – I mostly enter adresses to find my way by foot. On the countryside I often use the routing as well and to my surprise it hasn’t failed me so far. Accurate locations, correct routes. The thing everybody seems to forget is that Google Maps sucked just as bad only two, three years ago (and they are still inaccurate in some places). Given that most people don’t replace the built-in maps app Apple is going to collect massive amounts of data, which will further improve the service. So it’s really just a matter of time now.

      • jvlasy - 9 years ago

        From the spelling of his name I do suspect that he is from Czech Republic or eventually Slovakia.

      • Ralph (@derlinzer) - 9 years ago

        @Martin: I don’t see where Apple should improve as long as they ignore user reports. For example try to find ‘Millennium City’ or ‘UCI’ – you won’t find anything (at least not in Vienna). I submitted report for that several times over the years and nothing changed. Even more absurd is, that there are correct Yelp! listings for both venues.

      • crichton007 - 9 years ago

        It may be mostly accurate in the US but where I live there are some major new State Routes that are still missing and I have used the app to report the omission. Heck, even their aerial imagery shows the roads even though the maps do not. Until those things get fixed I won’t trust the data enough when I don’t know the area. Given how long it is taking to get the data up-to-date I’m not sure I will trust it even then.

      • cafesitter - 9 years ago

        Miroslav if you live in Bratislava by any chance try to put gorceries and “potraviny” and bankomat and “ATM”‘into google maps and apple maps and see the difference. There is three ATMs in apple maps in the entire city and in local language nada. The traffic information that shows me that Prazska is jammed in the morning simply diesnt exist in Apple maps. I am not delighted by it I have had every iPhone since 3GS (they are now spread around the family) and I got my wife to run her business on Macs. If apple wants to sell me CarPlay I am sorry but they would have to let waze and Google maps in because I dont live in the States.

    • sonaten - 9 years ago

      I agree. The true test for me is when comes to international coverage. Transits in my small as town in Sweden? Google has it. Let’s see your cards later in 2014.

    • aeronperyton - 9 years ago

      Apple Maps in Japan is exceptional as well. The only downside compared to the Google app is that search terms must be EXACT.

      • borntofeel - 9 years ago

        Exceptional in Japan? Is this a joke? The satellite images in many cities are just catastrophic.

    • Edas Haha - 9 years ago

      In Lithuania, map data is +- accurative. However i dont know how search works, but 90% of time it gives wrong results…. Also was in Estonia, same issue. Sad that Apple doesn’t give so much attention like for USA .

  2. I think Apple Maps are and with more updates to come definitely still will be much better than Google Maps ;)

    • Ralph (@derlinzer) - 9 years ago


      • rahhbriley - 9 years ago

        Avoid saying never, such a long time and so definitive (and a little bit ignorant).

    • frankman91 - 9 years ago

      Based on?

    • frankman91 - 9 years ago

      ‘Google Now’ in the newest version of Android is epic, the amount of data and services it brings together and how polished it has become is so far beyond Apple Maps and Siri right now it will be YEARS before they are even close to where Google is today.

      The ability to search by context and the amount of data they are able to pull from is amazing.

      I am aware this is an ios forum, but take 5 minutes and watch some Youtube videos to see what I am going on about.

    • Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 9 years ago

      The design of the app is certainly better.

      What worries me however, is that the data is so INSANELY, over-the-top inaccurate, and in so many places (my town for instance), but even worse …

      … after almost TWO YEARS of submitting data corrections, NOT A SINGLE ONE has been incorporated into maps or fixed. NOT ONE.

      I must have submitted dozens of corrections myself and most of my friends have as well. Most of this was done at the very beginning of the Maps “debacle” and here we are many many months later and not a single change has made it through to maps. To say the least, this leaves one with a feeling that Apple hasn’t even got the right team on board or the right systems in place yet.

      I think Apple maps will continue to be useable in the USA, especially for car drivers in California, and the rest of the data will be absolute shite for many years to come.

      This is right in the middle of Apple’s biggest blind spot after all. As long as it works for them and their rich, car driving Californian friends, they will always be blind to how incredibly bad the service is for most everyone else.

      • Ralph (@derlinzer) - 9 years ago

        And that’s exactly what i don’t understand. They offer a way to submit user feedback, but do NOTHING with it. And they even built this pile of crap into OS X as well by now…

      • crichton007 - 9 years ago

        You’re not alone.

      • Mike Knopp (@mknopp) - 9 years ago

        I have to mostly agree. (I don’t necessarily think it is a rich California thing.)

        Apple has proven time and time again that they are a great company for developing software and hardware. These items can be designed very well in their culture of secrecy.

        This very culture however is pretty much a show stopper in the development of services. Apple’s services are as bad as they are because they don’t seem to understand or their culture cannot accept that unlike hardware and software services are critically dependent on customer feedback and communication, not secrecy and silence.

        I also have submitted dozens of corrections to Apple regarding Maps in my area over the last two years (most minor but a couple were rather big mistakes like a road going through a plaza), and like others here, I have not seen a single submitted correction appear in Maps. Apple has access to millions of onsite people wanting to improve their maps, but they seemingly pay no attention to those millions. That is not a good thing, and until they start paying attention and communicating with the users of their service it will never get truly better.

      • Ralph (@derlinzer) - 9 years ago

        @Mike Knopp: I agree with you on hardware, but not on software: OS X is still fine, iOS still full of annoying bugs and i don’t want to name iPhoto, iBooks, iWorks…

        I’m with you on ‘culture of secrecy’, but why include a feedback option, if you actually don’t care about/want it?

      • liquidwolverine1 - 9 years ago

        I have submitted changed and errors in Chicago and seen them fixed. From weird routings to wrong ramp closures.

  3. News just came out that Americans are using mass transit in record numbers. Perfect timing, although Apple should just open the floodgates to allow users to access third-party developers’ apps directly – allow them to choose their own mapping software, web browser, email client, etc. from a hyperlink.

  4. All this talk about public transit and augmented reality, when all I really want is for them to handle typos better when you’re searching for a place….I won’t hold my breath.

    • Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 9 years ago

      It would also be nice if the labels for the streets and locations were large enough to be actually readable on the phone too.

      When my Mum found out that no matter how much you zoom in, they stay the same tiny, unreadable size (6pt? 8pt?) … she threw her phone across the room and smashed it on the wall.

  5. Michael Perry - 9 years ago

    Updates to maps are great and all but that’s not an OS update, that’s just an app update. This is why it was so smart for Google to separate their apps from their core OS update schedule. Here’s hoping that iOS 8 will be an actual updated OS and not just surface level app updates.

  6. Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 9 years ago

    I’ll believe this when I see it. Currently, Apple maps can’t even give me walking directions in my city, it just shows me the car route and then says it will take x hours longer because I’m walking.

    Even if true, this just means Apple maps have gone from completely f*cking unusable, and ended up at “possibly might work once in a while.”

  7. jef-FRY (@Jeffryyyy) - 9 years ago

    it will never be as precise as Google maps, in downtown Toronto I need to know how to get the exact numbered address, not the neighborhood

  8. Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 9 years ago

    Well, the walking directions … hell, pretty much anything but the car turn-by-turn … are complete shite.

    Walking directions basically don’t exist. Instead, the app sends you on the car route, but simply recalculates the time it will take you because you are walking. So, I kind of doubt they will get decent transit information in there, when they can’t even do that.

    Some of you who drive everywhere won’t see the problem of course, but walking, biking, and transit directions are all quintessentially different from car directions and all are much harder to do.

    It’s been almost two years and they have done zip. Excuse me if I don’t hold my breath for any actual changes or fixes.

  9. Here in Mexico City the maps are OK. One problem is when I search for certain street, 80% of the times it gives me a street in other city, but other than that, they are pretty accurate. They don’t have as many locations as Google Maps, but don’t forget Google Maps is been around more time. I think Google has the advantage of having and receiving a lot more data than Apple. It is going to be interesting how Apple copes with that. It is good for us, final users, when big companies compete for our preferences.

  10. Considering Apple is about 7 years behind Google in the maps department, their effort is quite good. I actually like using it; and their maps for Montreal have been quite good. The only reason I don’t use Apple maps exclusively is the lack of public transit directions. So if they add that in, and it actually works, I don’t think i’ll even be keeping the Google maps app on my phone anymore.

  11. Jukka Aminoff - 9 years ago

    Apple Maps 3D works great in Helsinki. Still, Apple Maps loses connection when driving. On the other hand, Nokia Here Maps works offline. Can not have best of both worlds.

  12. scottwilkins - 9 years ago

    I still don’t understand all the B.S. over iOS’s maps. I use it a lot and never had any more problems with it than I did with any other mapping program, including Google.

  13. sardonick - 9 years ago

    …and by “polish” I hope they mean “work”.

  14. Fabian V. Thobe - 9 years ago

    Actually, maps is a total crap out of the US (no clue about Britain though), Ben?

    The fact, that they still can’t keep up with the updates really pisses me off, the closed garden totally hits the wall here. I am actually quiet curious how they will manage it to communicate with the transit companies. In my experience, Apple really fails in B2B relationships outside of their customer service department (fail might be harsh). I am curious, if we will see totally outdated transit data in Europe or no data at all. Just trying to find a starbucks in Vienna (austria) is a total fail, I wonder how they want to manage it with real time (or not real time) transit data. Apart from the fact, that they still don’t do well with one way streets in Europe.

  15. devanealex - 9 years ago

    I live in the UK and I’ve never had a problem with Apple maps. People tend to lose sight of the fact that Google Maps is not perfect. I remember having regular problems with it on my dad’s Android. Neither are perfect.

  16. I live in Ireland and about a year ago I fancied a trip to Lismore Castle, Co Waterford Apple maps guided me to Lismore somewhere in Australia. I’m not sure if they have a castle there but it wasn’t the result I wanted. I reported the error at the time, as I say at least a year ago and Apple maps still hasn’t been updated.

    Apple maps is a nice little conversation point when you want a good belly laugh at it’s inadequacies, but it’s too patchy to use all the time in Ireland.

  17. Costas Georgatos - 9 years ago

    In Greece, Apple Maps is really lame. I live in a 40.000 citizens’ city and map data is showing the opposite to the actual direction of one-way down-town streets. It is dreadfully dangerous, i’ve given them notice a long time ago – nothing changed yet. LETHAL!

  18. Len Williams - 9 years ago

    I live in Florida in the USA and Apple Maps is terrific here (and in British Columbia in Canada), especially since the updates in iOS7. I use it all the time to get to places I’ve never been, because Florida street naming systems are a nightmare. I’m sorry to hear of Maps unreliability in certain areas outside the U.S. but instead of all the extremely heated bitching about it, why not simply download and use Google Maps or some other mapping app on your iPhone or iPad? You’re not forced to work with Apple Maps. The amount of upset in these comments against Apple is astounding, when a solution is so simple. If Apple Maps doesn’t work properly in your area, Google Maps is free. There’s also Waze Social, MapQuest, and various other mapping apps for specific cities and countries, many of which are free or very cheap.

    Instead of spending your time raging about Apple Maps, do a bit of research on the App Store and find something that WILL work. Apple tossed Google Maps out as the default mapping software because Google wouldn’t allow Apple access to the turn by turn directions. It’s an insanely huge amount of work to create accurate mapping software from scratch all over the friggin’ world, and despite Apple’s extended development lag in Maps, they are improving their databases. There are many other solutions you can use until they get it together for your area.

  19. Michael Greer - 9 years ago

    Yeah, right. “..and potentially other countries.” it says. Potentially being the key word. Unfortunately, Apple Maps remains a US centric application. Until that changes (and to be realistic, it’s unlikely it ever will) the usefulness of the application is seriously compromised. Take a look just its the satellite imagery: NZ provincial areas, fuzzy, blurred, low contrast, bits missing. Now take a look at Google maps. Transit information? Great. It’s just that knowing where to get on a train in New York, is not much help to me if I live in Auckland or Wellington.

  20. cep (@cep42) - 9 years ago

    Please make it available to be able to show all bookmarks. I’m in sales, and it would be beneficial to be able to see what other customers are in the area.

  21. Richard Getz (@RichGetz) - 9 years ago

    I still want…

    1) Caching map data for out of cell travel. User defined in MBs. Cache 50MB of map data within my route at X level (arial view down to street details). OS X Map should allow for regional caching. Cache the US or Canada, etc.

    2) Recalculating look-ahead for city driving, so Maps will have a plan B if you miss your turn. By the time any map app recalculates I am already past that next street. (yes, I should slow down….)

    3) POI pit-stops. After I hit start, I want to be able to have Maps reroute me to coffee, gas, etc., then back on my original route without me having to reenter the destination.

    4) Trip planning. Multiple POIs along a trip route. Calculate time and fuel based off MPG that I enter. San Diego CA to Scottsdale AZ, stopping at X, Y, and Z locations, including hotel. Map will suggest possible gas stops along the way.

    5) I would not mind folders for favorites

    6) Ability to easily drop a pin to mark a favorite location. Great for hiking/photography, etc. (also see #8)

    7) Multiple pins on a map to see distances and routes between them. Great for planning.

    8) Persistant pins. I want to push a pin, give it a name, and ALWAYS have it on the map as my personal POIs. These should also then be searchable and sync with my iOS devices.

    9) Route archiving. When I take those awesome drives in California and find one that I want to repeat I should be able to save last drive route in my favorites, while also adding personal POIs (#8). Of course, I should be able to share these with friends.

    10) Crowd sourcing for iOS Maps would be nice.

  22. mikemansor - 9 years ago

    Transit is one feature I’d like. Up here in Toronto, Canada, Apple maps has been improving. From my own use involving a lot of walking and cycling (I don’t drive), it’s even more accurate than Google’s (Google has my apartment in the middle of an intersection while Apple’s got it exact).

    3D building (which happens to work in Toronto) is simply amazing especially under Standard map. Another plus is the Mac desktop app. It makes using Google’s browser map (even Google Earth OSX map) a chore. The Apple maps not only feel faster and smoother but the UI is simply less confusing (I’m running a 15″ Retina MacBook Pro- so speed is not an issue regarding Google’s browser map).

    Remember it took Google years to get to where it is. Apple’s only been at the game less than 2 years. But personally and at least in my immediate milieu, I’m confident enough to completely ditch Google’s for Apple’s.

  23. elaady - 9 years ago

    I didn’t even know there is such a thing as public transit in LA!

  24. Robert Ballard - 9 years ago

    Hope they are working on a voice that you can understand.

  25. George Benckenstein - 9 years ago

    Nice article, Mark, but you might want to lookup “amend” and “emend”.

  26. Transiters (@Transiters) - 9 years ago

    We are particularly interested in the transit capabilities and think this is a great story, but does “according to sources briefed on the plans” mean? Are these sources authorized to provide this information, in which this story represents an announcement by Apple?

  27. Transiters (@Transiters) - 9 years ago

    We are particularly interested in the transit capabilities and think this is a great story, but what does “according to sources briefed on the plans” mean? Are these sources authorized to provide this information, in which case this story represents an announcement by Apple?

  28. Conrad (@Conr4d) - 9 years ago

    Apple Maps here in Germany works just great since it came out. Using it in my car

  29. trwhite6979 - 9 years ago

    This is the only thing keeping me from using Apple Maps– I need transit. I would also like to see the Maps app in Mavericks or OS 10.10 get a transit update as well.

  30. Apple maps needs work, that’s true. But let’s put it in perspective… Apple uses TomTom data, so let’s blame TomTom for missing data. And then blame Apple for using TomTom data, because it is pretty bad.

    Next, remember that Apple maps is two years old. Does nobody remember how terrible Google Maps were in 2007? They were horrible, and only on the desktop until Apple brought them to the iPhone. Google Maps started in 2005. They have a big head start, and Apple has a lot of catching up to do.

  31. I live in Perú and Apple Maps just sucks. Google works fantastically. I’ve tried to use the “report a problem” feature so that they actually add my street (which weirdly was there on the first release and taken out on later updates). It’s been over 6 months and no change. Used the same thing with google maps to correct my home address (which did show my street only with a wrong name) and got a reply in two days with it corrected. Apple has a LONG way to go as far as maps are concerned.

  32. Justin Fox (@jdoz345) - 8 years ago

    It better have much crisper, more recent satellite images of my location (Proserpine, Queensland, Australia). The images they have now are so old and even a person with the best eyesight ever would feel nauseous at how blurry it is.