Commuting--whether you're driving or taking public transportation--can be a drag. Fortunately, you have your smartphone. Here are a handful of apps you can load on it to not only get to and from work faster but become more informed while doing so.
There's a lot going on in the world, and keeping up with the news can be just one more thing piling up on your already overflowing to-do list. Meet Umano, a free app for iOS and Android that lets you safely consume the news while doing other things, such as driving or taking public transportation. Subscribe to channels spanning a wealth of topics, including technology, business, sports, and politics, as well as specific national media outlets such as Inc., The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Umano's stellar features include the fact that real people--not a grating computerized voice--read the stories, the ability to speed up or slow down playback, and a car mode that increases the size of player controls for easy viewing at a glance.
Yes, the Weather Channel has an app for iOS and Android that works fine, but it's clogged with ads. Instead, try Yahoo Weather, a beautiful weather app for iOS and Android that sources home screen photos from Flickr taken in cities you choose to monitor. You can set it to send you push notifications for severe weather alerts, swipe to the side to toggle between cities, or swipe up to get a five- or 10-day forecast as well as details about the current weather such as what the temperature actually feels like, humidity, visibility, and UV index. If you find a forecast particularly interesting, Yahoo Weather lets you share it with others via text message, email, Twitter, or Facebook.
Automatic is a device you plug into your car's onboard diagnostic port. The $100 hardware works with a mobile app to tell you how you can drive smarter to save fuel, track how much you drive and the miles per gallon you're getting, as well as diagnose (and sometimes even let you disable) a check-engine light. Other useful features include Automatic's ability to call 911 or designated contacts in the event of a crash, as well as help you remember where you parked.
If you need to track mileage, this app for iOS and Android does it well. Once TripLog GPS detects you've plugged your phone into a power source or paired it with your car's Bluetooth radio and you're driving more than five miles an hour, it will automatically start tracking your mileage and vehicle location according to GPS. The free version of TripLog GPS lets you track trips as well as fuel and maintenance purchases. In-app purchases ranging from 99 cents to $9.99 add advanced features such as unlimited receipt photos and customizable reports. A premium business version includes fleet-management functionality and the ability to edit data on the Web and generate customizable reports.
This gamified, crowdsourced, and GPS-enabled iOS and Android app shows you the fastest route to your destination according to data uploaded from more than 50 million Waze users who get points for reporting things such as traffic jams, accidents, stalled cars, and police, all of which show up as emoticon-like pins on a live map. Is someone waiting for you to show up? Waze lets you share a link with others that shows them your real-time location and ETA.
Want to give up your commute altogether? Check out my popular story "More Evidence It's a Mistake to Make Employees Work in the Office."