For iPhone users living in a big city where public transportation is oftentimes the quickest way to get around, navigating using Apple’s Maps app has been less than ideal.
According to 9to5Mac, Apple’s Maps app will finally include mass transit service routes and navigation in iOS 9, coming in the fall. The long-awaited Maps integration will allow iPhone users to get directions that take into account bus routes, subway maps, and train schedules. In addition, transit spots like subway stations will be easily visible on the map, and there will be a Transit map view available alongside Standard, Hybrid, and Satellite. Apple is rumored to be announcing these upgrades to Maps during WWDC on June 8.
To kickstart this mass transit feature, however, Apple is only making the service available in a few select cities, including New York City, San Francisco, London, Berlin, Paris, Toronto, and some cities in China. The 9to5Mac report claims that transit navigation for Boston and Tokyo are coming soon and that two other major U.S. cities “known for public transportation” are likely to get the feature soon after—Washington D.C. and Chicago come to mind.
Unlike most Apple products, Apple Maps did not come out of Cupertino to resounding public applause. When it first launched, Maps was plagued with so many embarrassing location errors that Tim Cook himself had to apologize. The fact that Maps did not include bus and subway routes was a major complaint for users who relied on public transportation to get around.
Cook went insofar as to encourage users to install third-party apps while Apple worked on perfecting its app. In iOS 8 Maps even has a dedicated tab when planning your route showcasing all the navigation apps like Waze, Uber, and single-city public transportation apps that can get you to your destination more conveniently—even Google Maps. (See the screenshot above.)
The impact on you: It’s been since 2012—when Apple removed Google Maps as its official maps data provider in iOS 6—that iPhone users have had to rely on third-party navigation apps to get mass transit directions. If this rumor is correct, that’s all about to change very soon. With this integration of mass transit navigation, Maps could finally be on its way to becoming a real Google Maps competitor.
The next step might be indoor mapping or 3D street views. Apple is hoping that iPhone users will one day be able to use Maps to navigate their way around inside major buildings and landmarks. Apple’s ambitious indoor mapping project is not expected to be unveiled this year, but according to 9to5 Mac, the company has already released autonomous robots with iBeacon sensors to roam inside its Cupertino headquarters.
Meanwhile in the outside world, Apple has leased camera-equipped vans, leading some to speculate whether the company was gearing up for 3D mapping.