When Apple Maps first debuted in 2012, it was a completely different experience filled with bugs and inaccuracies. Fast-forward to 2023 and it can finally stand on its own as a powerful competitor to Google Maps, supercharged by iOS 17.
Up until now, there's been one huge omission that has make Google's offering far superior. And that's the ability to download maps. It's a handy feature when you're in an area with low or no cellular coverage. For example, if you’re going camping you could download a large area and still check where you are, even if your device isn't allowing you to access your network.
How to download Maps in iOS 17
Launch Apple Maps
Once you’re using iOS 17, launch Apple Maps, tap your profile picture icon beside the search box, select ‘Offline Maps’, then ‘Download New Map’.
Select an area
You’ll be brought to a screen where you can ‘crop’ an area of the map that you want to use offline - similar to cropping a photo. This can be as big or small as you like, and Maps lets you know in a menu toward the bottom, of how much storage this will take up.
Once you’re happy with the cropped area you’ve decided on, tap ‘Download’.
Cellular or Wi-Fi?
Another menu will pop up, asking if you want to use Wi-Fi or your Cellular data. This could be useful if you don’t have access to WiFi and you quickly need to download some new maps. Once you’re happy, tap on the download icon. And there you have it - try it out by switching on Airplane mode.
One More Thing.. A feature I’ve been waiting for
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Apple Maps since its debut in 2012 with iOS 6. Lincoln is known for its Cathedral, and I still remember using the 3D feature as I was trying it out after the app’s launch, and from the image, it looked bent.
There have also been times when I’d use it for a car trip, and it thought I was driving underwater, much like James Bond’s car in The Spy Who Loved Me. But in the last 5 years, it seems as though there’s been huge improvements. So much so that I’m using Maps and Google Maps equally now.
So offline maps is something I’ve been wanting from Apple for a while. My wife and I like to use the app when we’re visiting somewhere new or taking a walk in the countryside with our dog, and the cellular coverage can be very spotty. So this is when I’d use Google Maps to download the area we’d be in for the day.
But with iOS 17, I can finally cross off another feature that’s now in Apple Maps. Using offline maps will be a massive help, and I love the interface for cropping an area, much like a photo.
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Daryl is iMore's Features Editor, overseeing long-form and in-depth articles and op-eds. Daryl loves using his experience as both a journalist and Apple fan to tell stories about Apple's products and its community, from the apps we use everyday to the products that have been long forgotten in the Cupertino archives.
Previously Software & Downloads Writer at TechRadar, and Deputy Editor at StealthOptional, he's also written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', which tells the story of the beginnings of Lara Croft and the series' early development. He's also written for many other publications including WIRED, MacFormat, Bloody Disgusting, VGC, GamesRadar, Nintendo Life, VRV Blog, The Loop Magazine, SUPER JUMP, Gizmodo, Film Stories, TopTenReviews, Miketendo64 and Daily Star.