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Apple Maps now charts restaurants & shops at 30 world airports, including three in Canada

Anyone who travels knows that sinking feeling you get when you’re hungry prior to a flight but worried about getting through a long security lineup.

You kind of say to yourself, “Hey, this is a big airport. I’ll go through security and then get a meal on the other side.” So you line up, take off your shoes and belt and go through the scanners. Then you get to the other side.

And, whammo. Not a restaurant in sight. Instead of dining on a bowl of fresh pasta and that arugula salad with a glass of good Italian wine you end up scarfing down two bags of chips and some overly salted pretzels, washed down with a not-so-vintage Diet Coke.

That sort of culinary tragedy is now a thing of the past for Apple Maps users at 30 of the world’s top airports, including Toronto Pearson, Edmonton and Vancouver. Apple Maps now can show you a detailed (and then some) plan of multiple levels at great airports around the globe, so you know exactly what’s on the other side of security even before you arrive at the airport. All you need to do is call up the airport on your Apple Maps app and then tap the button that says “look inside.” Once you do that you can see boarding gates, restaurants, washrooms, check-in desks, shop, baggage claim areas, security check points and more.

I had a chance to check it out in person at Toronto Pearson yesterday and found it a terrific feature. Apple worked closely with Toronto airport officials for a matter of months, fine-tuning all the maps to be sure they included the good stuff like celebrity chef restaurants and the roughly 478 Starbucks (okay, that’s an exaggeration, but only a slight one) at Pearson, but left out anything sensitive the general public doesn’t need to see on a map. They’ve got it down to a science, to the point where the little blue dot that shows your position was mapping almost my exact whereabouts as I traipsed through Terminal One. It even knew what level I was on.

I was told the positioning is accurate to within three meters, so it was easy to see where I was and where I wanted to go during my test run. I was easily able to spot the Roger Mooking Twist restaurant and Boccone Trattoria by celebrity chef Massimo Capra. And the maps provided me with links to their websites.

I even used Siri, the Apple voice command, to ask where I could find a good cup of Joe and a place to wash up afterwards. It worked perfectly.

Not only will Apple Maps show you where you are, you can search for a specific restaurant, such as Twist or LEE Kitchen from Susur Lee.

“I often get lost looking for specific things when I’m travelling so it’s good to know what’s there,” Alison Myers of St. John’s told me as she waited for a flight at Pearson yesterday. “I’d rather walk a little extra distance to get something I really want. I think it’s a good option to have for sure.”

Myers said it would be good for folks who have time to kill at the airport but also for folks who are short on time.

“If I’m rushed I really want to target where I want to go, so it would be a really useful resource. In airports I haven’t been to I would definitely look that up and see what’s around me.”

“At the GTAA (Greater Toronto Airports Authority) we’re always trying to give the passenger an easier experience, make them flow through the terminal faster and more efficiently, and this one of those ways to do that,” said spokesperson Beverly MacDonald. “In the palm of their hand they have access to every restaurant, every shop, to washrooms, the gate areas, security checkpoints, those sorts of things so they can make their way through the terminal a little quicker and be able to find what they’re looking for.”

MacDonald said Apple workers had to walk around the airport for days to map things and match up stores and facilities with the proper location.

That work will be especially useful during the holiday season, which runs from now until early January and will see some 2.7 million passengers funnel through Pearson, many of them hungry or needing a washroom break. Pearson, she noted, has more than 140 shops and restaurants, so there’s a lot to keep track of. And to try to find.

“For passengers who’ve never been here it’s very important to be able to locate yourself, know what’s happening before and after security, if there’s a specific restaurant they’re looking for, or even just knowing where security check points are,” she said. “The Apple Maps provide an easy way to figure out where you are in relation to those sites and to then find your way through the terminal.”

I haven’t had the chance to try it out, but Apple officials tell me that the maps will display restaurants and shops and such in my chosen language if I use the app at an airport overseas. A lot of airports have English signs for travellers, but not everything is marked as well as it could be, so I can see it being quite handy in a big airport such as Hong Kong or Amsterdam.

Of course, airport restaurants and shops can change in a hurry, so Apple has a massive team of people around the world who keep tabs on changes for not only airports but ordinary streets in cities around the globe.

Myers told me she’d love to see one for indoor shopping centres, too. “I got lost the other day looking for the Apple store at a big mall,” she said with a laugh.

As it turns out, Apple already has mapped out indoor malls in nine U.S. cities, including San Francisco, New York and Chicago.

Apple Maps are available for a couple dozen iPhone, iPad and iPod models, including of course the new iPhone 8 and iPhone X. But you need to be sure you’re using the latest operating system, iOS 11.

I used Apple Maps to help find my way around Bordeaux, France this year.

Apple Maps are available for many major international airports, including La Guardia in New York, Chicago’s O’Hare, Detroit, Las Vegas, London Heathrow, Los Angeles, Miami and others. Click here for a full list.

I was told there’s no specific timeline for expanding Apple maps to other airports in Canada or other parts of the world.

Apple Maps, of course, does a lot more than get you through the airport. You can use it to find the quickest way to work or the mall for that last-minute Christmas gift. There’s also a lane guidance system so you stay in the correct lane on that busy highway or confusing interchange and speed limits for major highways, maps that point out the nearest EV charging station and even a feature that helps you remember where you parked your car.

Apple Maps also has transit support in more than 50 metro areas around the world, including major public transit systems in China, Ireland, the UK, Japan and more, so you can navigate through busy stations and transit centres to get where you need to go.

With transit support in over 50 metro areas around the world, including all major systems in China, Ireland, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and the UK, Apple Maps can help you figure out busy stations and transit centres so you get to where you need to go on time. And with a lot less stress.

I’ve used Apple Maps all over Canada and the U.S. I used them to find a church I really wanted to see this summer in Bordeaux, France, too.

I didn’t realize this, but Apple folks told me that Apple Maps are used in thousands of other apps that need mapping information, including Four Square, Air BnB and Instagram.

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