With more people being vaccinated all the time, air travel has picked up too. To help iPhone, iPad, and Mac users understand each airport’s health requirements, Apple has begun adding COVID-19 travel guidance to airport place cards in Maps.
The data includes information like requirements for face coverings, health tests or screenings, and quarantine guidelines, along with links to each airport’s travel guidance webpage. The data is sourced from the Airports Council International, which announced the partnership on its website today. Commenting on the feature, Airports Council International’s World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said:
Having this information displayed in Apple Maps will help to make this crucial data much more broadly accessible to passengers. This will help passengers to plan their journeys and be reassured that their health and safety remains a priority for the industry as we all work towards a sustained return to operations and global connectivity. Collaboration remains key to a globally coordinated recovery and we are grateful to our members for the partnership we have forged to deliver this important tool that will contribute to the rebuilding of passenger confidence in air travel.
The new Maps feature is currently rolling out to more than 300 airports worldwide, so if you don’t see it for your local airport yet, check back later.
Maps’ new airport travel guidelines are rolling out internationally.
The new travel guidance adds to Maps’ growing database of COVID-related information available to users, such as the recent addition of COVID vaccination sites in the US and details on testing sites. Travel requirements during the pandemic vary from airport-to-airport, so it’s nice to see Apple is giving its users a convenient place to go to understand the guidelines before leaving home.
In a press release today, Apple announced that its Maps app has been updated to include the COVID-19 vaccination locations. According to the company:
Apple today updated Apple Maps with COVID-19 vaccination locations from VaccineFinder, a free, online service developed by Boston Children’s Hospital that provides the latest vaccine availability for those eligible at providers and pharmacies throughout the US. Users can find nearby COVID-19 vaccination locations from the Search bar in Apple Maps by selecting COVID-19 Vaccines in the Find Nearby menu or by asking Siri, “Where can I get a COVID vaccination?”
Apple says that the feature currently includes over 20,000 locations and lists operating hours, address information, telephone numbers, and links to vaccine providers’ websites. The company will continue to update the list as new locations become available. Apple has also opened up a registry process for businesses that provide COVID-19 testing and vaccinations to submit their information, which will be added to Maps after it is validated.
With vaccinations being offered at a wide variety of locations run by a combination of governmental entities and private companies, this is a terrific resource that I know I’ll be using when I’m eligible to be vaccinated.
February is Black History Month, and Apple has announced a long list of ways it is celebrating across its products and services. In a press release the company said:
Apple is bringing customers a variety of new and updated collections and exclusive content that highlight and amplify Black creators, artists, developers, and businesses. From curated features across the App Store, Apple Music, the Apple TV app, Apple Books, and Apple Podcasts, to new Apple Maps Guides, the Apple Watch Black Unity Collection, Today at Apple sessions, and more, here is a look at what is in store across Apple’s products and services this February.
In the App Store, Apple is featuring stories with Black developers and highlighting social justice apps along with entertainment and gaming apps. The month-long feature extends to other services too:
Music will feature Black musicians and include related content like playlists, essays, videos, and custom artwork
Maps Guides, which has seen many updates recently, will feature Black-owned businesses in collaboration with EatOkra
The Apple TV App will include ‘Essential: Stories That Honor Black Families,’ plus two free episodes of The Oprah Conversation featuring ‘Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents’ by author Isabel Wilkerson
Apple News will have curated topic groups and Apple Books will showcase a collection of relevant books and audiobooks
The Podcasts app will highlight Black voices including Michelle Obama, Joe Budden, Phoebe Robinson, and Baratunde Thurston, plus an extended promotion of shows featuring relevant topics
Fitness+ will spotlight songs from Black artists, and the first Time to Walk episode for February will feature author Ibram X. Kendi who will discuss racial justice and resiliency
Today at Apple will feature virtual sessions and tutorials moderated by Kimberly Drew with Black artists including typographer Tré Seals, creative director, filmmaker, and photographer Joshua Kissi, and visual artist, photographer, and educator Shan Wallace
Shot on iPhone will feature 30 Black photographers
Apple’s Black Unity Collection limited-edition Watch, Sports Band, and watch face.
On the product side, Apple has introduced the Black Unity Collection that includes a limited-edition Apple Watch 6, a Black Unity Sport Band, and a Unity watch face. Apple is also supporting six groups dedicated to promoting and achieving equality and civil rights in the US and around the world. The Watch and Sports Band will be available beginning February 1st and the watch face will debut with watchOS 7.3, which Apple says will be out later today.
The Black Unity Sports Band and Unity watch face, which changes dynamically as the Watch moves, include the green, red, and black colors of the Pan-African flag, and the Sports Band has ‘Truth. Power. Solidarity’ laser etched on the inside of the band’s fastening pin. Similarly, the limited-edition Watch has ‘Black Unity’ etched in the Watch’s crystal back. Apple will also kick off a special month-long Unity Activity Challenge on February 1st that is achieved by closing Move ring at least seven days in a row.
iOS 14 introduced Guides into Apple Maps earlier this year. As we covered in our summer preview series, the feature surfaces local city guides from third-party sources. These are integrated directly into Apple Maps so that you can see the exact locations of the activities that the guides highlight. Since the initial release of Guides, Apple has continued to expand the feature, adding more guides and debuting support for more cities.
Recently Apple introduced a new set of Guides from VolunteerMatch. These are meant to expose local service opportunities, making it easier than ever to volunteer in your community. VolunteerMatch Guides in Apple Maps are available for Chicago, Atlanta, Washington DC, New York, New Orleans, Houston, Boston, Seattle, Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Each guide contains a variety of different opportunities to volunteer. When you find one that interests you, the Guide directs you to the VolunteerMatch website, where you can get more information and learn how to get involved.
I think Apple Maps Guides have a ton of potential to help people get more engaged in their cities. I’m pleased to see Apple continuing to push heavily on expanding this feature to more locations and new publishers. VolunteerMatch feels like a particularly great candidate, as seeing service opportunities directly on the map is such an easy way to spread awareness of them.
If you live in one of the cities mentioned above, or just want to check out the feature, you can access the VolunteerMatch Guides in Apple Maps from here on iOS, iPadOS, or macOS.
As announced at WWDC, Apple has expanded its modern maps to the United Kingdom and Ireland. As usual, Justin O’Beirne has begun documenting the changes on his blog with GIFs and charts cataloging the differences.
Apple’s ninth Maps data update is its first outside the US and covers all of the United Kingdom and Ireland. Although the update represents one of the smaller additions by land area, it’s the second-largest in terms of the total population and population density.
As with previous updates, O’Beirne’s GIFs do a terrific job visualizing the changes with examples from urban areas like London, Edinburgh, Belfast, and Dublin, along with places like Stonehenge, Loch Ness, Wales, and the Cliffs of Moher. The new maps are a clear improvement with more clearly defined green spaces, detailed landmarks, and other improvements.
Apple Maps has come a long way since its debut in iOS 6. Much of the app’s history, which got off to a rocky start, has been focused on gathering and improving map data worldwide, but that’s beginning to change. The task is enormous and will never really be finished, but a shift has already started.
Once, the improvements in Maps were focused mainly on its basic underlying data like getting roads and geographic features correct. However, today the emphasis is increasingly on providing a deeper set of data and new features like cycling routes and city guides. Google Maps has had some of this functionality for years, and many of the refinements to Apple Maps are in just a handful of cities and countries. However, with the completion of Maps’ rebuilt map data in the US, Apple has begun to layer in new data and functionality that is poised to spread out much more widely.
It was clear during WWDC that Apple is forging ahead with its Maps app at full-speed. Not only were several interesting refinements to the app and its underlying data announced during the conference keynote and sessions, but Apple continues to improve the functionality of its maps throughout the year, adding its Look Around feature to Seattle, Washington today.
Look Around was the marquee addition to Maps in iOS 13. The feature, which competes with Google Street View, provides a 3D representation of the world from a car’s vantage point. When you zoom far enough into an area that supports Look Around, an icon of a pair of binoculars appears in the top right-hand corner of the screen. Tapping it opens a separate overlay that you can pan around by swiping and move through by tapping along streets. The animations are smooth and the images high-resolution, making Look Around a terrific way to explore an unfamiliar area before visiting.
Seattle joins ten other US cities as the eleventh area to add the Look Around feature. The last city added was Chicago and parts of its suburbs, which were added in April.
At WWDC, Apple announced that Apple is updating its map data in Ireland, the UK, and Canada later this year. With the US map data updated, I’m glad to see Apple moving forward in other countries. I expect that before long, we’ll see other countries add the new map data too.
Also, I hope that the addition of Look Around in Seattle marks an acceleration of that feature. It’s a fantastic resource in the 11 major urban areas it covers. Still, I’d love to see Look Around expand to smaller cities and public spaces over time, making it useful to a broader cross-section of the world’s population.
According to O’Beirne, Chicago, which is the tenth US city to be added to Look Around, is the biggest expansion of the feature by land area to date. Not only is the city included, but so are many of the surrounding suburbs. The feature still covers only about 0.3% of the land area of the US, but by covering eight of the country’s ten largest US cities, Look Around accounts for nearly 14% of the US population.
Apple has shared a new web-based tool that provides insights from Apple Maps on mobility trends. According to Apple’s press release:
This mobility data may provide helpful insights to local governments and health authorities and may also be used as a foundation for new public policies by showing the change in volume of people driving, walking or taking public transit in their communities.
The tool can be found at apple.com/covid19/mobility, where you can view driving, walking, and transit trends for 63 countries as well as major cities around the world. Apple’s press release also explains how the data is collected and addresses privacy:
Maps does not associate mobility data with a user’s Apple ID, and Apple does not keep a history of where a user has been. Using aggregated data collected from Apple Maps, the new website indicates mobility trends for major cities and 63 countries or regions. The information is generated by counting the number of requests made to Apple Maps for directions. The data sets are then compared to reflect a change in volume of people driving, walking or taking public transit around the world. Data availability in a particular city, country, or region is subject to a number of factors, including minimum thresholds for direction requests made per day.
Having tried the tool, it’s fascinating to see the differences between the effect of mobility restrictions around the world. I’m glad to see Apple sharing this information on an aggregate, privacy-conscious way that hopefully can help governments and health organizations around the world assess the effectiveness of measures put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.