How To: Unlock Virtual Reality 'Flyover' Cities in Apple Maps on Your iPhone in iOS 11

Unlock Virtual Reality 'Flyover' Cities in Apple Maps on Your iPhone in iOS 11

A little-known feature in Apple Maps for your iPhone lets you tour big cities like your Godzilla, and it's actually quite easy to access — if you know the secret.

Despite being around since the introduction of Apple Maps in iOS 6, the "Flyover" feature that's baked in is still relatively unknown, mostly because of its past limitations. When it was first made available, you could get realistic-looking bird's eye and 3D views of buildings and landmarks in and around major metropolitan cities, but that was the extent of it back then.

In iOS 8, Apple added "City Tours," in which you'd be automatically guided through cities via Flyover and shown all the highlights that one would want to see when they're actually travelling there on vacation.

Now, things have gotten even better in Apple Maps' Flyover feature, thanks to iOS 11. Instead of the just using the 3D manual satellite views or City Tours you have no control over, iOS 11 gives you an actual Flyover feature you can navigate.

With the help of the new ARKit for next reality developers, you can spin around and walk around with your iPhone up to navigate the city using virtual reality. As you can imagine, a VR headset will make the experience more immersive. You'll see the names of cities and important monuments and buildings overlayed on the Flyover map, and you can pinch to zoom in and out to go to different areas of the city.

Step 1: Know What Cities Will Work

Even though Apple has been working on Flyover since 2012, you won't be able to use the feature everywhere. However, there are 300 cities available, so there's still plenty to explore. You can see the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, check out the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, or even just check out the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, California. For a complete list of supported Flyover cities, check out Apple's website.

Step 2: Activate Flyover Mode

Once you've chosen a city to explore, just perform a search for it in Apple Maps on your iPhone, then tap on the top result for the city. On the next screen, you'll see a "Flyover" button on the bottom information panel. Just tap on that and you can start exploring the destination you chose.

Step 3: Explore the City Like Godzilla

Maps will give you some quick instructions to move forward, backward, or side to side to explore the Flyover view, so do just that. Just be careful not to obstruct your iPhone's camera, as it's needed to help Flyover accurately guide you along as you move. If it is obstructed, Maps will let you know to aim your camera at a different surface.

If you don't want to actually get up and move around (which is an easy way to knock stuff over if you're not paying attention), you can still navigate the city with pinch and swipe gestures. You'll still need to spin around to get different views, and look up and down, but you won't have to actually get up and walk around.

Step 4: Take a Flyover Tour

If you want to get to know the city you're looking at a little better, try taking the "City Tour" for it. You can access the "Start City Tour" button either right when you enter Flyover mode or by pulling up the info bar at the bottom. You can hit "Pause Tour" if you want to take a little break, or you can just hit the X to close out of Flyover mode completely.

While the Flyover mode isn't completely new, its new virtual reality features make it much more useful. Plus, it's just a lot more fun to explore cities around the world, especially if you have a VR headset.

Cover photo, screenshots, and GIFs by Justin Meyers/Gadget Hacks

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