18 apps and games to make your commute the best it can be

Millions of people commute to work every day in the United States. A survey conducted by the U.S.
Census Bureau in 2013 found that 86% of workers commuted by automobile — and the vast majority of them drove alone.

Getting to work can be a the most dreaded, frustrating part of someone’s day, but it doesn’t have to be. There are a bunch of great smartphone apps to help you navigate (whether it be on public transit or driving) and keep you entertained.

Whether you're new to a big city or a seasoned public transit veteran, Citymapper will be your best friend.


The app plugs into a city's public transit data and becomes an all-knowing psychic for getting you from point A to point B in the quickest way possible. You can save bookmarks for your home and work address so that navigating between them is only a tap away.

Citymapper has all kinds of little details that make it a commuter's dream come true. For instance, it will tell you where to sit in the subway car so that you're as close as possible to your stop's exit. You can also set your desired departure and arrival times to plan for a trip in the future.

Citymapper works in dozens of cities around the world, including New York, San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

Cost: Free

Available on: iPhone, Android

There are three navigation contenders for car commuters: Google Maps, Waze, and Apple Maps.

Google / Waze / Apple

If you're driving yourself to work, you have several options. The three main maps apps are Google Maps, Waze, and Apple Maps. They all have their own pros and cons, and deciding on the right one is similar to picking a wireless carrier -- it's going to come down to what works best in your area.

Anecdotally, Google Maps (on iPhone and Android) is considered to be the most reliable navigation app (it also does public transit directions). People like Waze (on iPhone and Android) for its crowd-sourced traffic and police location information, but the app's design leaves much to be desired.

Apple has been rapidly improving its Maps app that comes preinstalled on nearly every device it sells. The company is adding transit directions in its forthcoming software update iOS 9, but it supports considerably fewer cities for transit directions compared to Google Maps.

Paired with its $100 adaptor, the Automatic app will turn your old car into a futuristic vehicle from 'The Jetsons.'


OK, so your 2000 Honda Civic won't be able to fly, but Automatic will make it much smarter.

Here's how it works: Plug the $US100 Automatic adaptor into your car's diagnostic port under the dashboard (every car made since 1996 has one). Pair it with the mobile app, and you'll suddenly have access to all kinds of helpful information, like exact mileage and the ability to see the specific issue(s) causing your check engine light to come on.

There's a lot more Automatic can do, like help you find where you park your car and even integrate with expensing tools like Concur.

Cost: $US99.50 one-time payment to buy the car adaptor, free app download

Available on: iPhone, Android

Catch up on articles you've saved from the web with Pocket.


Pocket is a free bookmarking service that works on just about every browser and device imaginable. When you come across a webpage you want to save for viewing later, whether it be a YouTube video or long news story, you can save it to Pocket to come back to.

Pocket's mobile app lets you download your queue for offline viewing, which is great if you don't have cell service on your commute. The service will also read articles to you in a Siri-like voice, which can be handy if you commute by driving your own car.

Cost: Free

Available on: iPhone, Android

Listen to your favourite books with Audible.


Audible, which is owned by Amazon, is the best way to listen to audio books on the go, thanks to its huge library and ability to store books for offline access.

If you're a Kindle user, Audible can even sync up to let you pick up where you left off if you want to start reading the old-fashioned way (with your eyeballs).

Cost: $US7.49 per month for the first three months and $US14.95 per month thereafter

Available on: iPhone, Android

Overcast and Apple's Podcast app will let you listen to your favourite shows.

Overcast / Apple

If you're into podcasts, check out the free Overcast app on the iPhone. It has a friendly design, a simple interface for finding new shows, and downloads episodes to your device so you don't need an internet connection to listen.

Overcast is free to use, but an in-app purchase unlocks the ability to subscribe to unlimited shows, special playback effects, and more.

If you don't have a lot of storage on your phone and would rather stream podcasts, try Apple's Podcasts app in the App Store. It's not perfect, but it gets the job done.

Download your favourite jams for offline listening with Spotify.

Tech Insider

If you're a Spotify Premium subscriber, you can download any music you want on the service for offline listening. Now you'll never be without your necessary tracks on the subway again.

You can also use it to stream music through your wireless data plan, but keep in mind this will count against your monthly data usage.

Cost: $US10 per month

Available on: iPhone, Android

Read a book with the Kindle or iBooks app.

Amazon / Apple

Amazon's free Kindle app (iPhone, Android) is the best e-reader if you have non-Apple devices and want to sync your reading progress between them.

If you're completely in the Apple ecosystem, then consider the iBooks app. The books cost money of course, but the apps to read them luckily don't.

Journal your life with Day One.

Day One

Day One is a modern-day journaling app that incorporates photos, links, and all other sorts of data to help you log your life and tell stories. It has a built-in web publishing tool for sharing your entries with friends, but the app really excels at giving you a distraction-free environment to write.

Cost: $US4.99 on mobile, $US9.99 on desktop

Available on: iPhone, iPad, Mac

Get the weather forecast every morning with Poncho or Dark Sky.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Poncho is a free service that delivers a personalised weather forecast each day to either your email inbox or phone via text message.

After setting up your profile on Poncho's website, you'll get a forecast tailored to your specific commute every morning and/or evening. Unfortunately, the service is only available in a few states like New York, Florida, and California.

If you have an iPhone and want an app that knows the weather forecast in more locations, consider Dark Sky for $US3.99. It does hyper-accurate hourly forecasts and can even send you a notification when it's about to rain.

Some games you should be playing include...

Snowman / Hipster Whale / ustwo / Threes!

'Alto's Adventure' - You play a snowboarder trying to make it down a mountain while dodging obstacles and performing tricks. Beautiful gameplay that's incredibly simple.

  • Cost: $US1.99
  • Available on: iPhone

'Crossy Road' - Think of it like a modern day 'Frogger' with a unique twist. You'll keep trying to beat your high score until you've flattened thousands of pixelated animals.

  • Cost: Free (optional in-app purchases available)
  • Available on: iPhone, Android

'Monument Valley' - This beautiful puzzler has won a bunch of awards for a reason. It's an incredibly immersive mobile game you need to play.

'Threes!' - If you like games involving numbers, you'll love this one.

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