When Apple released iOS 17, it introduced new features such as Standby mode AND Live stickers, for iPhones. Apple Maps also has an important new feature: offline maps. With offline maps, you can download designated areas from the Maps app on iPhone. If you’re planning to go home for the holidays, you might be tempted to use offline maps, but how well does this new feature work?
To find out, I downloaded a map of my hometown and navigated it for several days. My wife and I went downtown for coffee, then went to the outdoor market, drove to our house, and returned downtown for dinner after the NFL game. I also used offline maps to get to and from the gym, as well as walk my dog around the neighborhood.
Here’s how to access offline maps and what you need to know about them before you go on vacation.
How to download the map for offline use
It may be a good idea to have a map of an unfamiliar area, such as a new city or hiking trail, in case you don’t have access to Wi-Fi or a cell signal. Here’s how to download the map and use it offline.
1. Open Maps app.
2. Find the area you want to download the map for and long-press on that area. A pin should fall on the screen.
3. Obtain Charge at the bottom of the screen.
An outline will appear on the map. This outline represents the area for which you will download the map. You can resize this map until you are happy, then tap Charge to start downloading the map. A banner will inform you when the map download is complete.
Here’s how to access the offline maps settings page once you’ve downloaded them.
1. Open the Maps app.
2. Click your profile picture in the lower right corner of the screen.
3. Obtain Offline maps.
Here you can access settings such as adding a new offline map and a toggle to set Maps to only use offline maps. If you flip the switch to only use offline maps, you’ll see Using offline maps at the top of the map. You can also tap this to go back to the offline maps settings page.
Offline maps will get you there, but expect a few hiccups
Using maps offline is similar to using Maps online. You open the Maps app, enter where you want to go and click To go. You can also choose your mode of transportation and add stops along the way.
When you’re on the go, offline maps work similarly to online maps. The map follows you and shows nearby restaurants and businesses. If you’re driving, offline maps will also show you the speed limit on the street you’re on. Siri will read directions the entire way, letting you know when to turn and where on the street your destination is.
There are several differences between offline and online maps. The biggest problem is that it won’t know exactly when you’ll arrive at your destination. When you’re looking for directions, offline maps will show an estimated time of arrival, but they can’t take into account real-time traffic patterns because it’s offline.
For example, when I used offline maps to find my way to a downtown restaurant after an NFL game, the offline maps told me it would take me about 15 minutes to get there. It actually took me about 40 minutes to weave through traffic and get to dinner.
This leads to my second problem with offline maps: if you stray off the path, it takes a while to recalibrate and find your way back. While navigating the traffic mentioned above, I took a few impromptu side streets, and the offline maps still showed me where I had veered off the path for about a minute.
Otherwise, offline maps go back to the days of physical maps. You may not be able to predict how much traffic will delay your journey, and if you take a wrong turn, it may take you a second to figure out how to get back, but you can get to your destination…eventually. Pack some snacks just in case.
For more information, check out the new features in iOS 17.1what can be included iOS 17.2 and our iOS 17 cheat sheet.