One of the lesser known features of iOS is that your iPhone can learn your habits and advise you about travel times to your frequent destinations, without you having to say that you’re planning on going, or even having it scheduled in your calendar? Perhaps you wondered why the Notification Center on your iPhone was telling you that it would take you 32 minutes to get to work, and more importantly, how it knew that that is where you wanted to go? This helpful note about your upcoming travel time is a result of the Frequent Locations and Next Destination features in iOS 7.

The Notification Center is a great new tool in iOS that can give you quick little snippets of information about the things that are important to you. All in one place, you have a collection of all of your recent notifications that have been triggered by any of your apps (provided that you have allowed them), whether they are final scores of the game, or missed text messages or phone calls. In another place, specifically on the Today tab, you have a different collection of information: date, weather, calendar, stocks, reminders, etc. All very helpful things that are relevant to you at the current time. However, sometimes the Today tab will tell you that it will take you so many minutes to get to some place. What’s up with that?

Frequent Locations is one of the Location Services that Apple uses to gather information about your habits. Obviously, people who are more concerned with their privacy would want to have this feature turned off. However, for those who think that it’s a remarkably helpful tool, you will want to leave this turned on. What it does is essentially keep track of all the places that you go with a phone, and over time, can figure out which of these places you visit the most often – hence, “frequent locations.” It obviously takes a while for accumulate enough data to reliably say you visit certain locations with a predictable frequency, but once you’ve had it running for at least a few days, it does a pretty good job of predicting when you will likely be heading towards one of your most often visited locations. For example, if you head to work at 7:30 every morning, it will quickly recognize this. Similarly, if you go grocery shopping every Saturday afternoon, it will also recognize this frequency.

This information works in conjunction with Apple’s Next Destination feature. What this does is analyze your Frequent Locations list, figures out where you will likely be heading to next, and displays a travel time to this location on the Today tab of the Notification Center. This travel time takes into account distance and traffic, pulled from Apple’s Map service, helping to give you a reasonable estimate of how long it may be expected to take for you to reach your next destination. So, every morning, you may start seeing in your Notification Center that it will take you 32 minutes to get to work under current conditions, or on Saturdays, you may see that the grocery store is 12 minutes away. My favourite example is when it tells me that it will take me 25 minutes to get home from work, around 4 in the afternoon – I love the afternoon commute with minimal rush hour traffic!

These two features are fantastic additions to the Notification Center, to help you to better manage your time. They are turned on by default, and after a few days of learning your behaviour, your iPhone will start providing you with some of these travel time predictions. However, if you are worried about your privacy and would rather not have these features turned on, it is simple to easily disable them. All you have to do is go into your settings app, then tap on Privacy, then Location Services. At the bottom of that list is a button for System Services. When you tap that, all you need to do is turn off the Frequent Locations at the bottom of the list!

Frequent Locations and Next Destination are two great new additions to Apple’s Notification Center in iOS. If you’re alright with the thought of having your iPhone know where you are, and analyzing that data to predict where you might go so that it can provide helpful advice to you, then I’m sure that you will find this an amazing new feature.

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