Use the Map

One of the core features of the HERE SDK for iOS is Mapping, which includes adding a map view, changing the location displayed by the map, and modifying its properties. The primary component of the mapping API is the map view, which is integrated as a UIView subclass. The map view represents a vector based view to display a map and various properties.

HERE map data is updated on a weekly basis to ensure you always get the freshest map data available. By integrating the map view you can automatically benefit from this.


If you want to create a simple map application, refer to the Get Started section.

To manipulate the map and its properties it's best to start looking at the Camera section. More features include:

  • Map gestures to handle common map gestures and default map behaviors like pan or rotate.
  • Map schemes to instantly switch default map styles such as satellite versus normal map layer. More on the available map schemes you can find below.
  • Map items to place objects and shapes onto the map and interact with them.
  • Custom raster tiles to show custom server images as an additional map layer.
  • Custom map styles to load custom map schemes.

Performance Optimization

By default, the MapView is rendered with 60 frames per second (FPS). Via mapView.frameRate the maximum frame rate can be adjusted - for example, to reduce CPU / GPU usage on low end devices. It is also possible to deactivate automatic render cycles by setting FPS to 0. Setting negative values has no effect. The value can be set individually per MapView instance - in case your app contains multiple MapView's.

Another option is to use custom map styles that contain less elements to render.

To shrink the size of the HERE SDK framework, unused fonts can be removed before shipping an application.

Load Map Schemes

The HERE SDK supports five preconfigured map schemes:

  • normalDay: A lossless scaleable vector base map for usage during daylight.
  • normalNight: A lossless scaleable vector base map for usage during night.
  • hybridDay: A day version of a hybrid scheme combining satellite imagery with vector street network, map labels and POI information.
  • hybridNight: A night version of a hybrid scheme combining satellite imagery with vector street network, map labels and POI information.
  • satellite: A bitmap based map showing satellite imagery for various zoom stages.

Note that it is also possible to fully customize your own map styles, except for the satellite imagery.

Use the following code snippet to load a map scheme:

let mapScheme = MapScheme.normalDay;
mapView.mapScene.loadScene(mapScheme: mapScheme, completion: onLoadScene)


// Completion handler when loading a map scene.
private func onLoadScene(mapError: MapError?) {
    guard mapError == nil else {
        print("Error: Map scene not loaded, \(String(describing: mapError))")

    // ...

It is recommended to use the day variants during day time when the surrounding light is brighter. The night variants are optimized for usage when there is less light. For example, an application may switch from day to night scheme when a driver is passing through a tunnel - if you are using the Navigate Edition, you can get notified on changed road attributes to know when you are driving through a tunnel. This allows an application to switch the map scheme on the fly. Note that this is not happening automatically.

The HERE SDK is also not automatically detecting the current time of the day to switch between day and night modes. An application may decide to do this based on the user's configuration or by checking the device clock.

From left to right: MapScheme.normalDay, MapScheme.normalNight, MapScheme.hybridDay, MapScheme.hybridNight

The available map styles are optimized to easily add additional content and overlays onto the base map without visual interference. The map schemes are less colorful and support a clean and neutral tone to maximize readability even in case of color blindness:

  • The street network is designed in gray scales and provides a hierarchy through brightness, contrast and widths.
  • Colors are overall rather bright set up.
  • Key colors are grey, blue, green, white.

In addition, the HERE SDK offers a satellite scheme, that does not contain any labels:


Add Map Layers

On top of map schemes, the HERE SDK allows to add certain kinds of layers that show additional information such as the current traffic flow. Below you can see how such layers can be enabled:

mapView.mapScene.enableFeatures([MapFeatures.trafficFlow : MapFeatureModes.trafficFlowWithFreeFlow])
mapView.mapScene.enableFeatures([MapFeatures.trafficIncidents : MapFeatureModes.defaultMode])
mapView.mapScene.enableFeatures([MapFeatures.safetyCameras : MapFeatureModes.defaultMode])
mapView.mapScene.enableFeatures([MapFeatures.vehicleRestrictions : MapFeatureModes.defaultMode])
mapView.mapScene.enableFeatures([MapFeatures.landmarks : MapFeatureModes.landmarksTextured])
mapView.mapScene.enableFeatures([MapFeatures.extrudedBuildings : MapFeatureModes.defaultMode])
mapView.mapScene.enableFeatures([MapFeatures.buildingFootprints : MapFeatureModes.defaultMode])

Note that not all feature layers are available for all editions. Take a look at the API Reference to know which layers are supported. Note that adding a layer may have a minimal performance impact on lower-end devices.

Below you can see screenshots for all supported map layers:

The traffic flow layer shows active traffic jams on the streets. The traffic incidents map layer shows incidents such as accidents, construction works, and more. The safety cameras map layer shows speed warning cameras. The vehicle restrictions map layer shows truck-specific information.
The 3D landmarks map layer shows textured landmarks. The extruded buildings map layer shows a 3D representation of buildings. The building footprints map layer shows 2D footprints of buildings. The building and footprints map layers are enabled by default. This is how it looks when they are disabled.

Note: The map layers buildingFootprints & extrudedBuildings are enabled by default on the MapView.

Remove Unused Font Files

The HERE SDK contains fonts to render map labels for all supported languages. If you want to optimize the size of the overall app, you can remove selected fonts. For example, the font with Chinese, Japanese and Korean characters includes support for Simplified Chinese (GB2312), Traditional Chinese (Big 5), Japanese (JIS 0208) and Korean (KSC 5601). This font uses the Simplified Chinese ideographs for shared Unicode code points. To remove this font, open the heresdk.framework file and remove the following files:

  • geoviz/DroidSansFallback.ttf

When you remove a font, it is recommended to switch the map language to any other language than the removed font. At least one font needs to be left to see any map labels. Note that each time a label needs to be displayed in a language for a font that was removed an error message is logged - for each character that is missing.

Set a Map Language

You can customize the language that is used on the map to show labels for streets, cities and other map data. By default, the local language of a region is used.

Call MapView.primaryLanguage = languageCode to set the language for the world - or set nil to switch back to the default behavior. This will set the language for all instances of MapView. If a language is not supported in any region of the world, the local language for that region is shown instead.

Geopolitical Views

The HERE SDK supports multiple geographic political views and disputed borders to show the map boundaries based on an international view (default) or a local country view. The local view affects only particular areas on the map when a border and possession or control is claimed by two or more political entities - usually a country.

You can change the default geopolitical view by setting a three letter language code for the politicalView member accessible via SDKOptions. The supported country codes are accessible on the coverage page.

When set, the map view will show all country boundaries according to the geopolitical view of the country that has been set and the MapView will show the borders accordingly.

Note that this is released as a beta feature.

If you want to change the geopolitical view at runtime, use the following code snippet:

// Optionally, clear the cache, so that changing the options has an immediate effect.
SDKCache.fromEngine(SDKNativeEngine.sharedInstance!).clearCache { (error) in
    if error == nil {
        // ...

var options: SDKOptions? = SDKNativeEngine.sharedInstance?.options
options?.politicalView = "ARG"

// Now initialize the HERE SDK again using the new options.

Make sure to call this not during any ongoing HERE SDK operation, as setting new options requires also to create a new shared instance. Ideally, set the options and the politicalView only once before initializing the HERE SDK for the first time during the app's lifecycle.

Availability of Map Data

By default, a few regions in the world including Japan, China and Korea, contain limited map data. To get access to the full map data, please get in contact with your HERE representative.

Map Data Format

The HERE SDK stores all kind of data in map tiles. This can include data needed for rendering purposes in the map view, but it is not limited to this. For example, map tiles also contain data about places or road attributes that are not visualized on the map view, but are needed for other purposes such as turn-by-turn navigation.

The information that is stored in a map tile is categorized into several layers that hold the information for such distinct topics as traffic or landmarks.

Under the hood, the Navigate Edition uses the Optimized Client Map (OCM) catalog format which provides a compact, fast and flexible map. The OCM catalog is compiled from HERE Map Content (HMC).

The OCM format allows to store all used data permanently in the device storage or temporary in the map cache. This way, an application can access the same features - regardless if the device is online or not.

Note that internally the Explore Edition uses a slightly different map format which is not supporting the offline use case.

Adapt Map Caching

To better support online and offline use cases, the HERE SDK supports caching of downloaded vector map data. This happens in the background. While interacting with the map, the data is stored locally on the device and can be accessed even when the device loses connection or operates in an offline mode.

The integrated map caching mechanism supports the standard vector based map schemes - satellite images and other raster tiles are also cached, but in a different cache that is not configurable.

Please note that the amount of cached data is limited and will be overwritten with new map data while using the map. In most cases, this is sufficient to give the user the impression of a faster start-up time - as no additional data must be downloaded when you start an app again at the same location as before.

When the cache is full, a least recently used LRU) strategy is applied.

The cache path and maximum size can be specified when manually initializing the HERE SDK using SDKOptions. Note that the cache path can be also set via your Info.plist file. Check the Engines section for more details.

Note: There can be a separate cache defined for customer raster layers.

This is how you can clear the map cache:

SDKCache.fromEngine(SDKNativeEngine.sharedInstance!).clearCache { (error) in
    if error == nil {
        // ...

Note that setting the shared instance of the SDKNativeEngine to nil does not clear the cache.

By setting an empty string as cache path, you keep the default cache path - which is also accessible via SDKNativeEngine.sharedInstance?.options.cachePath:

// Specify credentials programmatically and keep default cache path by setting an empty string.
let cachePath = FileManager.default.urls(for: .documentDirectory, in: .userDomainMask).first?.path ?? ""
let sdkOptions = SDKOptions(accessKeyId: "YOUR_ACCESS_KEY_ID",
                            accessKeySecret: "YOUR_ACCESS_KEY_SECRET",
                            cachePath: cachePath)

It is also possible to specify the cache path from the Info.plist file. Consult the API Reference for the SDKNativeEngine to see an example.

Questions And Answers Around The Map Cache

  • What is a map tile? Map tiles are stored in the map cache. A map tile contains data relevant for search and routing, as well as vector data for the visual representation. It is stored in the Optimized Client Map (OCM) format. Map tiles are available for different zoom levels. A map tile may contain different data, depending on the zoom level.

  • What is the impact of missing data in the map cache? Usually, the map cache is never assumed to be complete and there can be always tiles missing for a surrounding area. This is because map tiles get loaded only on demand while they are rendered. When there are tiles missing from the map cache then, for example, the OfflineSearchEngine will not find POIs or road names that are part of the missing tiles and the HERE Rendering Engine cannot render such data. Also, the OfflineRoutingEngine might fail - unless it finds a route around the missing tiles. Note that the OfflineSearchEngine and the OfflineRoutingEngine are not available for every edition.

  • What is the size of the map cache? The size of the map cache can be changed by the application. Use at least 256 MB (default). Values above 512 MB or 1 GB are recommended. For turn-by-turn navigation (which is available e.g. for the Navigate Edition), map tiles of zoom level 14 are needed, which equals a circle of roughly 2 km. However, this can vary a bit from location to location.

  • What is the eviction policy of the cache? The HERE SDK uses a LRU (least recently used tile) logic to evict the tiles when the map cache becomes full. There is no sophisticated logic to evict, for example, tiles that are farther away from the current location - as it is not foreseeable which areas of the world the user might visit next. However, the map cache is not session-specific, its data from the last time the device was used, ie. from the last power cycle, is still there the next time the app is used. Note that the cache is specific per app, not per device.

  • Is any previously cached map tile searchable offline? Yes, it's always searchable with the OfflineSearchEngine. However, sometimes not every map tile contains the same search results for every zoom level. Note that the OfflineSearchEngine is not available for every edition.

  • Is only one map tile cached at a time? Yes, only one tile at a time may be added unless its location is on the edge of two tiles. Depending on the zoom level, rendering of the map view will require several tiles - this is not happening automatically and only when the zoom level changes.

  • Are satellite images cached? Yes, when the satellite map scheme is set, the corresponding imagery is also cached, but satellite images cannot be used after 90 days (for contractual reasons) and will be evicted. In this case, the HERE SDK checks if there are newer satellite map tiles available and if yes then the images are automatically updated in the cache. If the images have not been changed, then only the timestamp is updated so that the images can be reused after this check for another period of 90 days. However, the LRU strategy still applies. Note that non-satellite map tiles are only evicted when the cache is full - there is no staleness of old tiles and no automatic deletion of old tiles based on time.

  • Is there always "base map" available, such as a globe view? The HERE SDK downloads automatically the world tiles, ie. the top most zoom level tiles for the globe. This means that there is always a map available for the globe with a very limited amount of information for rendering purposes. The shapes of countries and continents are visible and capitols are shown with text labels.

  • Is the cache auto-cleared? No, a full cache is only cleared based on a LRU strategy (see above). If tiles have not been fully downloaded due to a connectivity interruption, these tiles are preserved and the download continues when connectivity resumes.

  • If connectivity is available, will a whole route be cached in advance? No, this is not happening automatically. However, you can use the RoutePrefetcher to download map data into the cache along the route corridor. Look into the turn-by-turn navigation section for more details. Note that the RoutePrefetcher is not available for every edition.

HERE Logo Watermark

When using the HERE SDK, it is required that the HERE logo is always visible on the map view. By default, the HERE logo is located at the bottom right corner of the map. However, you can easily customize its location to meet your app design by calling setWatermarkPosition() on your map view instance. It is recommended to change the default placement only when it is required due to overlapping UI elements. Note for very small views: If both edges of the map are less than 250 density independent pixels in size, the watermark will be hidden automatically.

Add Support for CarPlay

The HERE SDK can be seamlessly integrated with Apple's CarPlay solution.

For example, you can use the premium offline & online search capabilities of the HERE SDK to search for places in your car - or integrate a full-blown navigation solution. Follow the Integrate a HERE Map into CarPlay tutorial to see how you can get started and show a map view on a car's head unit display.

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