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Hands-on Apple Maps iOS 9 review

We review the beta version of Apple Maps in iOS 9, complete with a sexy refreshed search function and the all-new Transit features.

At first glance, Apple Maps in iOS 9 looks like the same old song and dance from iOS 8. However, start digging into the options and you’ll notice some pretty significant changes buried away.

For a start, tap on the search bar and you’ll be presented with a much more attractive menu than iOS 8’s effort. Now you can tap one of the colourful icons to see shops and services in your local area, great news if you’re desperate for a pint or a burrito and need to find your closest watering hole or food joint. Maps will even direct you to the nearest hospital in case of emergencies, or gym if you want to pump some iron (or whatever it is that people do in gyms).

Of course, these lists are still far from comprehensive in the UK, even here in Central London. Search for bars around Oxford Street and you’ll be given a pretty short list, which is made up almost entirely of poncy clubs and restaurants. We didn’t see a single pub listed, while most of our local bars were missing in action, in place of the Hard Rock Cafe and posh eateries.

You can still get walking and driving directions in iOS 9 Maps to any destination, simply by tapping the arrow in the top left corner. As before, driver navigation includes real-time warnings of any unusual local congestion and seems to do a decent job of avoiding trouble areas.

But the big new addition in iOS 9 is Transit Maps, which gives you directions using public transport, if you’re not posh enough to own a car or anything.

Transit appears as an extra option in the directions menu now, and operates in pretty much the same way. Just say where you’re leaving from and where you’re headed and the quickest route will pop up on the map, in a clear and easy-to-read fashion, complete with typical timings for each service. Presentation is good – in London the tube lines are all nicely colour coded, for instance, which makes them easy to distinguish.

You can also tap the route suggestion to see step-by-step instructions, or select a different route if the suggested one doesn’t float your boat. Our only complaint would be that the Transit feature always tries to get you to take a bus if you need to walk for more than about five minutes, with typically optimistic estimates on how long it will take. However, by choosing an alternative route you can usually swap the bus for a bit of legwork. And the suggested tube routes are almost always spot on.

In fact, Transit is probably good enough to ditch TFL’s journey planner, even if it doesn’t offer anything particularly different.

This is of course the beta version of iOS 9, so some features might be tweaked before the final release later this year. Stay tuned for more iOS 9 features hands-on reviews.

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