Map it up: Your essential guide to Apple Watch and maps

What you need to know about mapping on your wrist
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When you're out and about a map app is an essential partner – but how does mapping work on the Apple Watch? What are the best apps, and what can you do?

The big difference between mapping apps on the wrist and on your phone is the blessing of space and a keyboard. On your wrist, these two things are much more difficult to do. So what map app makers have done is make things a little more tappy. They often rely on extra menus or split things up by places of interest. Or, they just go really, really niche.

How to use Apple Maps on your Apple Watch

Map it up: Your essential guide to Apple Watch and maps

Naturally, Apple preloads its own mapping app onto the Apple Watch. And, well, for the most part it's actually a pretty solid map app.

The app is divided into four sections. Up at the top you have Search and Location. The latter simply shows you where you are on the map. You can use the Digital Crown to zoom in and out of the map to see your surroundings.

Below that are suggested places to go, based on Siri's knowledge of your routine and habits, and then the recent places you've searched. The recent list actually pulls in searches from your iPhone.

Search is the biggie here, and definitely the most useful way to use the Apple Maps app for Apple Watch. You can either search by dictation or scribbling on your wrist, and there's also a list of contacts you can use should you have their addresses saved.

More interesting is the Nearby section below that, which will show you what's around you. Categories include Food, Drinks, Shopping, Travel, Services, Fun, Health and Transport. Each of those categories is broken down into further categories. For instance, food will give you restaurants, groceries, fast food and more while travel will give you airports, museums, hotels, banks and more.

Once you're into a category, you'll get a list of the options around you with the distance and Yelp rating. Tap on that and you'll get the place's hours and how long it'll take you there via walking, public transport and car. There'll also be a phone number listed, the address and a link to see where it is on the map.

The big advantage to Apple Maps is that it's well integrated with Apple's ecosystem. For example, if you've got navigation going on your iPhone, your Apple Watch will pull up the directions automatically. It'll even vibrate on your wrist when you need to turn.

Where's Google Maps?

Map it up: Your essential guide to Apple Watch and maps

We might as well get this out of the way first. Google Maps is the default mapping app for a whole lot of people, and its exclusion can make a whole lot of people very antsy and angry (see: the Apple Maps launch fiasco).

The story of Google Maps on Apple Watch is an odd one. While Apple Watch just launched with Apple Maps, it didn't take too long for Google Maps to get a watchOS variation.

Two years later, however, Google pulled its Maps app for Apple Watch. This was actually part of the great Apple Watch app exodus earlier this year. Amazon, eBay, Instagram and Slack joined Google in pulling apps.

Why? Well, it was a combination of Apple requiring native watchOS apps and companies figuring out that not everything made sense on the wrist. For some companies, the development time invested in making a smartwatch app just wasn't worth it. So no Google Maps app for Apple Watch.

The other mapping apps

However, if you're looking for something a little more specifically tuned to your needs, there are a number of other options you can turn to.

Topo Maps+

Map it up: Your essential guide to Apple Watch and maps

If you're looking to use your Apple Watch to explore the outdoors, Topo Maps+ is your best bet at exploring the backcountry. You'll be able to view your offline maps and check your current location right on your wrist, no need to carry along your iPhone as you venture to become the next Bear Grylls.

Free, Download from App Store


Map it up: Your essential guide to Apple Watch and maps

On the other hand, if you're looking to just follow specific trails, ViewRanger is a great choice. You can download routes over cellular, so you can download a new route in a pinch. You'll be able to see nearby routes, and navigate around the map and your new trail.

Free, Download from App Store


Map it up: Your essential guide to Apple Watch and maps

Glympse is a map app, but it's a bit of a different beast. Rather than helping you find things or landmarks, it's all about helping you keep track of your friends and family (if they want you to, of course). You can do things like let your significant other know how long you'll be until you get home, or let your friends know where you are.

Free, Download from App Store

History Here

Map it up: Your essential guide to Apple Watch and maps

Look at where you're standing (or sitting) right now. Look around, there have been thousands of people who have stood at that same spot. History Here takes that idea to the next level and lets you see all the historical spots near you, so that you can fill your friends' ears with fun facts the next time you're all out.

Free, Download from App Store

Poison Maps

Map it up: Your essential guide to Apple Watch and maps

It may sound dangerous, but Poison Maps is all about the places of interest (POI, get it?) around you. Whether you want a hospital, bank, hotel or a good place to eat, Poison has got it all. It's also broken down by region, so you should look out for the app version that interests you.

Free, Download from App Store

TAGGED Apple Watch

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Husain Sumra


Husain joined Wareable in 2017 as a member of our San Fransisco based team. Husain is a movies expert, and runs his own blog, and contributes to MacRumors.

He has spent hours in the world of virtual reality, getting eyes on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Samsung Gear VR. 

At Wareable, Husain's role is to investigate, report and write features and news about the wearable industry – from smartwatches and fitness trackers to health devices, virtual reality, augmented reality and more.

He writes buyers guides, how-to content, hardware reviews and more.

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