Apple could soon allow iPhone and iPad owners to check how busy a place will be – before they decide to visit. The new feature is seemingly headed to Apple Maps in a future version of iOS and will be instantly familiar to anyone who relies on Google Maps.
That’s because Google added the same crowd-monitoring feature to its hugely-popular Google Maps a few years ago. Using historic location data, Google offers insight into when the busiest times are likely to be. Dubbed Popular Times, this information can be found when clicking on any business, location, or public transport station.
According to MacRumors, Apple is poised to bring the same functionality to Apple Maps. With Covid-19 restrictions set to slowly lift in the coming weeks, the timing couldn’t be better. Despite dropping infection rates, social distancing and mask-wearing are likely to be mainstays for some time to come, so being able to quickly check when a shop, restaurant, or station is likely to be at its quietest is a hugely powerful feature.
MacRumors expects to see the new feature in iOS 14.5, which is tipped to roll-out later this spring.
To power this feature, when you launch specific apps on your iPhone close to a point of interest or business, the handset will anonymously send encrypted location data to Apple. The Californian company will aggregate this data with thousands of others, so it can determine whether a location is open, how many people are there, and more.
This information will be made available to all Apple Maps users.
Within an updated Location Services menu in the Settings app, Apple will state: “When you open an app near a point of interest (for example, a business or park), your iPhone will send location data in an anonymous and encrypted form to Apple, which Apple may aggregate and use to let users know if that point of interest is open and how busy it is.”
Apple Maps might’ve been a bit of a punchline when it launched – in fact, Apple had to offer an apology to users worldwide after it made Apple Maps the default on its iPhone worldwide – but it has come a long way in the intervening years. Apple beat Google to bring more detail into its maps, including outlines of the terrain in parks and three-dimensional impressions of almost all buildings. Indoor mapping has also received a huge boost in Apple Maps in recent years, so you can use it to find your way around a shopping centre and more.