Visual directions on the Apple Watch

After communication, probably the thing I value my iPhone for the most is in helping me navigate – Maps, Citymapper, boarding passes, planning train journeys and so on. I love that I simply don’t have to stress about that stuff in the slightest any more. Moving some of that stuff onto the wrist makes a huge amount of sense, and it was going to be one of my key uses for an Apple Watch too.

Having watched the tour for Maps, though, I’m just a little disappointed. Functionally, completely fine, and the haptic feedback will doubtless work well. But I’m disappointed because the turn-by-turn directions are presented non-visually. It’s ‘in 30 yards, turn left onto Durham Road’ stuff. As I say: functional, will get you there, and is doubtless suited to how many people navigate.

My mind, though, is better-suited to visual cues. When I’m using a satnav in my car, I turn voice prompts off and I rarely read any road names; instead, I’m just glancing to see where the wiggly blue line of my route is leading and translating that into the landscape I see out the window. I’d far rather be able to glance at my wrist and see a visual confirmation of where I should be going, just like I do on my iPhone while driving, rather than having to think consciously about distances and hunt for sometimes missing or obscured street names around me.

It might be fixable; I can’t imagine that showing 2D visuals would use any more power than the current system, even if it’s decided that showing a live 3D representation is too much of a trade-off. I note too in that video that there are two paging dots at the bottom of the directions screen, so it’s possible that there’s a nice visual map on the other tab Apple just isn’t showing in the video.

And indeed it might be, as is so often the case, that Apple knows what I want better than I do myself, and that I’ll quickly and completely become comfortable without that visual crutch, happy to depend utterly on the haptic feedback. Only a few days left before we can find all this stuff out!