iOS 4: Getting Street View (Even When Maps Says You Can’t)

Google Maps’ Street View is fantastic technology, and being able to use it on mobile devices is even more awesome. I find, though, that my iPhone often won’t show Street View in a place where I suspect it should be available. This seems to happen if my destination is set back from the road a little or if there’s a long driveway leading to it, which makes sense considering that Google’s been sued for taking pictures on private property. Fortunately, if you’re willing to work with Maps just a bit, you may be able to get a Street View even when the address in question shows you can’t.

If you’re not familiar with Street View, you definitely should brush up. In short, Google’s driven around a lot of the world in cars (and in some places, tricycles and snowmobiles!) with camera arrays, taking pictures and putting together panoramic images. This technology has been available on the iPhone since 2008, and I personally love it. Which, by the way, has nothing to do with me being a terrible navigator. NOTHING, I said.

So to use this fancy feature, go to Apple’s Maps application on your iOS device, enter the address you’d like to check out, and touch the Search button. Street View is indicated for a location by an orange silhouette icon that appears above the familiar red pin. To see the Street View, you just tap that orange icon, and you’ll be taken to the magical wonderland that is your virtual destination. If no orange icon appears above the pin (meaning there’s no Street View there), click on the “turning page” icon at the lower-right of your screen.


As you can see by my greenish arrow, there’s no orange Street View indicator for this address. So I’ll touch the icon at the lower right.


When you do that, more options will be revealed, including “Drop Pin.” Choose that, and then touch and hold on the new purple pin to move it around. Drop it on the nearest road, and hopefully you’ll see the Street View icon appear. You can then touch that little orange beauty to get up close and personal with your destination—or, at least, the road closest to it.


When I place my pin on the closest road, shazam—Street View is available.


Note that these instructions are specific to the iPhone 4, but the steps you’d take for the other iOS devices are very similar. 


I can see the house just fine from the road, even though the darned Maps app lied and told me Street View wasn’t available. Can I call an app a butthead?


If you’re curious about how much of your country (or the world) Google has currently completed, you can check out their map of Street View availability. It’s pretty amazing how much of the planet they’ve covered so far. I, for one, welcome our new Googley overlords.