Transit directions (subway, trains, buses) coming to Apple Maps in iOS 9

Apple Maps iOS 8
© Apple Maps

Finally!

For most of the 1990s and the early 2000s, I took the bus between 2 and 4 times every week day. It's not so long ago, but the experience was quite different, as people didn't have GPS-enabled internet-connected pocket computers on them at all times back in those days. This meant that if I wanted to go somewhere new, taking a route that I didn't already have memorized, or if a bus was very late or cancelled, I had to keep flipping through a thick bus schedule to figure out what options were available and try to get multiple buses to line up chronologically and geographically so I could get where I wanted to go... Today, most people just fire up a mapping application and are told exactly how to get where they are going. Some cities every track in real-time all their buses, trains, and subway trains so you can know exactly how far away your ride is. What a world we live in!

But Apple has been the outlier with its default mapping app for a while. Apple devices used to come with Google Maps as a default, but a few years ago, that deal between Apple and Google wasn't renewed (rumor has it that Google wanted to start putting more ads in Google Maps and wanted Apple to provide it with more user information, and Apple refused), so Apple had to build its own Apple Maps app pronto. That's an incredibly hard thing to get right, especially quickly.

The original Apple Maps app was widely ridiculed for the glaring mistakes it contained (mostly fixed now), and felt inferior, especially to urban dwellers, because it didn't have transit directions built-in.

© Apple

It's been obvious that Apple was working on adding transit capabilities to its default mapping app for a while, as the feature has been spotted in testing software and the company has acquired small companies that specialize in mass-transit and mapping, but we still haven't seen anything released officially.

The grapevine tells us that the transit feature was supposed to have been released last summer with iOS 8, but the feature was pushed back because it wasn't quite ready on time. The new rumors from a fairly reliable source say that this year will be the next, and the feature will probably be unveiled next month at Apple's WWDC event in San Francisco.

According to that source, we should be seeing bus, subway, and train route navigation. That might seem like a detail, but it's actually very important because while people who are even moderately technically adept will go download a third party mapping app with transit directions, like Google Maps, there is a very large fraction of smartphone users who mostly keep using the default apps and might find transit more inconvenient than they should, and thus use it less (hundreds of millions of people worldwide, no doubt -- a lot has been written over the years about the "power of defaults" and the importance of having good ones, as most people will just use the browser that comes with their computer and leave their television's image settings to the store defaults even if those are really bad). Apple Maps is also more integrated with things like Siri and Apple Watch, so transit is a must.

So having good transit directions by default on all Apple devices can only help increase transit use.

© Peter Dunn

Via 9to5Mac

Tags: Apple Inc | Public Transportation | Trains | Transportation

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