Take awesome VR tours with Apple Map’s Flyover feature


Google Maps has long had a spot on my iPhone’s and iPad’s home screen. Apple Maps has not. With iOS 11, however, I have moved Apple Maps up, not to my primary home screen, but to my second home screen. The reason? The new VR goodies added to the Flyover feature.

The Flyover feature isn’t new to iOS 11 but it gets a boost from Apple’s ARKit platform, which allows developers to add AR and VR effects to their apps. Now, you can control Apple Map’s Flyover feature by tilting and panning your iPhone or iPad and even walking around with it.

Wait, what is Flyover?

Flyover takes you on a 3D tour of a city or landmark that looks and feels like you are flying over it. The new VR effects really add to the experience.

Cool, where can I use it?

Flyover is available for hundreds of cities around the world and some landmarks in the western US. You can see Apple’s list of supported locations here. In spending way too much time playing with Flyover for this article, I found most of the landmarks on the list don’t actually let you do a Flyover. I really wanted to fly around Devil’s Tower, Wyo. and down into the Grand Canyon, Ariz., for example, but neither offered Flyover despite being on the list. The only landmark I found that let me do a Flyover, in fact, was Yosemite National Park, Calif.

Um, how do I use it?

Search for a city and you’ll see a Flyover button on the information panel if that city supports the feature. Tap the Flyover button to begin. You can pan and tilt your device to move around, and walking and turning with your device also moves you around the map. It’s really cool to be able to control the map just by moving your device and walking with it and not needing to interrupt the flow by blocking your screen with your fingers with taps and swipes. If you need to, though, touch gestures are supported; you can swipe to move around and pinch to zoom in and out.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Careful where you are walking — not only for your own personal wellbeing and safety but also to keep your camera unobstructed. The VR effects use your device’s camera to track your movement, and if you block the camera with your finger or get too close to an object, you’ll see a Low Detail warning pop up.

To exit out of a Flyover, tap the screen and then tap the X button on the right side of the small information panel that slides up from the bottom of your screen. You can also tap the Start City Tour button on this info panel that will fly you over the city without you needing to tell it where to go.

So, does my iPhone or iPad support it?

You’ll need a semi-recent device. Check the list to see if your iPhone or iPad supports ARKit. For devices that don’t make the cut, you may see a Flyover Tour button that’s just a rebranding of the City Tour from supported devices. It takes you on a guided 3D  tour of a city that automatically moves you around and lets you swipe, pinch and rotate to control your direction and view. 

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