iOS 15 for iPhone: Apple Maps finally caught up to Google Maps. The top features to know

iOS 15 is here -- and with it an improved navigation system that goes toe-to-toe with Google Maps.

Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
4 min read

With iOS 15, Apple Maps has a new look, but only if you're in one of a handful of select cities.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Remember when Apple Maps first launched as the iPhone's native navigation app? After years of Google Maps on iPhone, Apple's move to make its own app the default instead of Google Maps was a disaster. But now iOS 15 for iPhone and iPadOS are here (how to download iOS 15 now) and Apple Maps has caught up. In some ways you might think it's even surpassed Google Maps. 

That's a bold statement, I know. But Google has some tips it can now pick up from its arch rival. Don't believe me? Fire up iOS 15 and read through my list of notable improvements to Apple Maps below. 

Read more: 5 lesser-known Apple Maps features to use on your iPhone

Watch this: Apple Maps gets a 3D makeover in iOS 15

Apple Maps brings confidence with turn-by-turn directions

Currently, when Apple Maps gives turn-by-turn directions, you're routinely provided with more precise directions such as "turn right in two stoplights" or some other reference to a landmark. Getting more precise instructions from your phone provides more confidence in the route that Apple Maps is taking you on. 

When you start using Apple Maps in iOS 15 to get turn-by-turn driving directions, you'll see a brand-new look that will add even more confidence. For example, you'll be able to better identify accidents, traffic jams or construction with a quick glance at your phone's screen as you follow the route. 

Adding to the accuracy, there's a new 3D model that the typical 2D map transitions to as you approach an interchange, making it easier to see exactly where you're supposed to go instead of guessing which lane is the true lane that's second from the right. 

Also worth noting, Apple says it'll be easier to identify bike, bus, turn and taxi lanes, along with medians and crosswalks in the new Apple Maps. If you can visualize where you're supposed to go, along with the current features of hearing specifics, driving in new cities will be less stressful. 


When you get to a complicated interchange, you'll see a new 3D model to show you precisely where to go. 


Transit, search improvements and more coming to Apple Maps

There are more features coming to Apple Maps in iOS 15, like an improved transit experience that will send alerts as you near your stop, and allow you to mark your favorite routes so they're always at the top of your screen. Or if you'd rather, you can quickly look at all nearby departures to see when you need to start your journey. 

Apple is also starting to curate its own Guides that detail venues and businesses you should visit when in a new city. This is clearly an area where Apple needs to do some more work to catch up to Google Maps and its reviews of businesses, but it's a step in the right direction. 

You'll also see improvements to searching in Maps with more filters (e.g., Does that place down the street take credit cards?) and information about businesses. 


Apple Maps now has a user settings panel where you can find all of your old reviews, preferences and more. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Apple Maps has a new preferences section

Using Apple Maps prior to iOS 15 meant that you constantly had to change the mode of transportation when getting directions or figure out where to find locations you'd favorited, and it often felt like a chore when doing so. 

With iOS 15, Apple Maps now has a profile page for you to alter your personal travel preferences and find all of your Apple Maps-related data in one place. 

To view your user account in Apple Maps, tap on your profile avatar. You'll see a list of the various options, including any reviews you've left for a business, your favorite locations, any city guides you've created and a Preferences page. 


iOS 15 will be out this fall, likely in September, and will come with all of these new Apple Maps features plus so much more. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple Maps put the world in the palm of your hand

This feature may not help you daily, but it's something fun to point out nonetheless. Once you have iOS 15 installed, try this: Open Apple Maps and zoom out. Zoom out some more, and then keep zooming out until you're staring at planet Earth. Apple added an interactive globe to Apple Maps. That means you can spin the globe, only instead of seeing a static image of it, it'll change to match the time of day in various parts of the world. 

It's pretty fun to look at and use. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I'm jealous that my kids will learn geography like this instead of on a paper map or old-fashioned plastic globe. Try zooming out like that on Google Maps, and you'll find a flat map of Earth. There's a joke to be made here, but I'll leave it alone. 

We'll keep digging through Apple Maps and the rest of iOS 15, for that matter, and share what we discover. For example, we've already found several new features everyone is sure to love. But my favorite features are hidden, and of course, I found some of those, too.