Walking directions with the Apple Watch is a killer feature

IMG_1423It’s difficult to navigate an unfamiliar city on foot. You don’t want to look like a tourist (or a mark), so you pull out the internet-connected computer in your pocket, enter an address and start to follow along. It’s a logical move, but not ideal for several reasons:

  1. It’s very distracting. Staring at an iPhone while navigating a crowded sidewalk means you might bump into people, trash bins, hot dog carts…who knows what.
  2. Your more susceptible to pick-pockets and other n’er-do-wells. Nothing says “I’m a tourist!” quite like staring at a map while in Times Square, digital or not.
  3. Spoken directions from the phone can be hard to hear and annoying to others.

Conversely, the Apple Watch excels at delivering walking directions. It’s safer and more convenient than relying on an iPhone. Here’s how to get walking directions with Apple Watch.

Getting directions on Apple Watch

The first step, of course, is to get your destination’s address onto the Apple Watch. There are several ways to do this, and the fastest are these:

  1. Ask Siri for directions. The virtual personal assistant will automatically open Apple Maps with the directions ready to go.
  2. Start on Apple Maps on your iPhone. The app will automatically sync with Apple Watch. After you’ve entered the information on the iPhone app, open the watch app to view the directions.

Following a route

Once you’re ready to get moving, just tap Start. The Watch will guide you along, via clever use of Apple’s Taptic Engine:

  • A series of 12 taps means turn right at the next intersection.
  • Three pairs of two taps mean turn left.
  • A steady vibration means you’re at the last direction change.
  • A more urgent vibration (which I call “the freakout”) indicates your arrival at your destination.

Imagine walking from, say, the train station to a hotel in a city you aren’t familiar with. You’ve got a bag in your hand and a million things on your mind, like check-in, getting settled and whatever brought you there in the first place. Now you can walk with your eyes front and your head up. Perhaps you’ll even note a few landmarks along the way, to make the return stroll easier.

It’s a feature I love to use. Try it yourself.

3 Comments

  1. “A series of 12 taps means turn right at the next intersection.
    Three pairs of two taps mean turn left.
    A steady vibration means you’re at the last direction change.
    A more urgent vibration (which I call “the freakout”) indicates your arrival at your destination.”

    Really? The taptic engine is horrible. I couldn’t imagine reliying on it for anything, Even with the prominent haptic turned on, I will rarely feel notifications, especially if I’m walking around. Also, I have to count the number of taps? 12 taps! That’s the most absurd thing. If I’m walkng to a destination, I’m not going to focus on my watch so I will inevitably think, wait. “How many taps was that? Do i go turn left? Or right?
    Is this a late April Fools joke?

  2. You didn’t mention that you should change the setting from “Drive” to “Walk” in the iPhone app if you are walking, rather than using a car.

    (Or does the watch detect that you are walking, and use the appropriate set of navigation instructions? If not, there’s an idea!)

  3. I like to describe the difference between “turn right” and “turn left” as following:
    The heartbeat-like vibration means left (because it’s sorta common knowledge that your heart is on the left) whereas the harder staccato Vibration means right (because most people are right-handed, sorry lefties!).

    I never had someone walk the wrong directions with this info – even those who can’t differ between left and right in some situations.

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