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MacInspires Education - Using the Compass in Maps for Your iPhone or iPad

Did you know that the Maps app on your iPhone and iPad has a compass built in? Read on to learn how it can be one of the most useful tools you have for navigation.

MacInspires Educational Tips: Using the Compass in Maps

One of the most useful tools your phone has that many people don’t even know exists is the compass.  Now, I haven’t used a compass since I was a kid in science class, but as an adult I have found that something so simple can save me a lot of headache and aggravation. I am one of those guys who thinks he has a great sense of direction and when lost I love to jump to the conclusion that while walking or driving I know exactly what direction I need to turn to get to get to my destination. 

This type of Magellan-like internal compass I think I have has let me down more times than I would like to admit, so this built-in iPhone and iPad feature lets me know exactly what direction I am facing so I can see where I need to go.  My best example of this is when I am in Manhattan and need to get to a cross street coming out of an office, but have no idea which way the street numbers are going. 

The iPhone and iPad have the Compass app to help show you which direction you are facing, but if you’re in an area with cellular reception or are using an iPad with cellular data turned on, a much more practical and useful approach is to use the Maps app. This lets you see which direction you are facing on a map of the area, so you can quickly see landmarks or whatever else you are looking for.

This will work on any iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with internet connectivity, though it’s likely most useful in the 3G/4G enabled models for obvious reasons.

  • Launch the Maps app and tap the arrow icon on the bottom left of the iPhone or the top center of the iPad to locate where you are
  • When Maps has centered on your location, tap the arrow icon again

The arrow icon will switch to show what looks like a flashlight beam coming out of the point. This orientates the Maps app based on which way you are facing. Use this feature to either quickly find North, South, East, and West, or if you’re in the middle of nowhere you can use it to find your way to the nearest road or familiar landmark that you see in Maps. You may get a warning when you first try this that says, “Compass Interference”.  Don’t worry, as the device is telling you that there are lots of things around you that are interfering with the compass signal. The screen will show you a figure 8 image and ask you to move your device around with your hand in a figure 8 motion to help it get re-acclimated.  Once this is done, it will show you exactly what direction you are facing. As you turn your body the map will turn with you to show you which way you are facing. To turn it off, just tap the arrow again and it will disable the compass and reorient the map back to facing north. 

This feature will not work if you have “Location Services” turned off in your settings, so make sure you have location services turned on when you want to use it.  Thanks to this handy built in feature I now feel truly Magellan-like, and no longer need to use my list of excuses, like, “They moved the sign!”,  which I love to use. 

This tip is part of MacInspires “Say Hello to your iPhone and iPad Part 2” class offered once a week at MacInspires, 53 Greenwich Ave, Greenwich, CT.  We offer over 30 different Apple-based classes and all of our class offering and descriptions are on our website. 

Visit us at MacInspires.com/education to learn more or call us at 203-531-5720 to book a class. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Suzze June 27, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Who knew? Love these tips.... Please keep them coming!

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