Some of us are lucky enough to be able to work from home, and we have discussed 16 iOS tools to help those telecommuters work better. But what about the rest of us who still have to go back and forth between home and work every day? While we can’t help you move the workplace closer to home, we can suggest several iPhone apps to make the long commuting hours to be more fun, bearable, and even productive.
Many people choose reading as their favorite pastime. And thanks to today’s modern smartphone technology, you can literally bring hundreds of books in your pocket to read on the go. But why limit yourself to books while there are virtually unlimited materials to read.
Curated News and More: Flipboard (free)
There were tons of news curator apps at the beginning of touchscreen revolution, but few survive until today. Flipboard is one of the survivors. After acquiring its best rival – Zite, Flipboard is stronger than ever.
If you’ve been living under the rock and still haven’t tried Flipboard, you can start by adding topics that you like and Flipboard will bring you updated news and related stories based on your preferences.
Manga: MangaRock (free)
If you are a manga (Japanese comic book) lover like me, you will be delighted to know that you can find and read almost every popular manga available using MangaRock. You can search and add your favorite manga titles, and MangaRock will bring you the latest chapter available straight to your iPhone screen – courtesy of the many scanlator groups out there.
While those dedicated fans make their work available for free, they always encourage readers to support the artists by buying the official manga releases when they become available.
Comic Books: Scribd (monthly membership)
Scribd has come a long way from a simple document sharing sites to one of the top reading materials providers. Today, Scribd gives you access to millions of books, documents, sheet music selections, audiobook, and comic books. All you can read and listen for a fixed monthly membership price.
Even though I can confirm that there are only limited comic book titles available through Scribd, the ones that do available are enough to last you many years to come. If you are a beginner comic book geek, Scribd might be the closest thing to heaven. As for avid readers, you still might find some titles that you haven’t read.
Digital Books: iBooks (free)
In the realm of digital book readers, Apple’s iBooks is one of the best. It’s a beautiful ebook reader and audiobook player. The app works flawlessly with ePub format; it also handles PDF very well.
While it displays PDF as it is, iBooks can modify the look of ePub ebooks. You can change the font size, and it will automatically adjust the page layout to fit. There are also options to change the font face, brightness, background color, and switch between day and night theme.
Many of my friends use their commuting time to catch up with their favorite TV series and movies. But even without that, the internet is a vast source of watching materials.
Movies and TV Shows: It’s Playing Pro (US$ 4.99)
Among many video player alternatives for iOS, my favorite one is It’s Playing Pro. Other than the ability to find and add subtitle files directly from the app, it’s also able to play from cloud storage like Dropbox and from local wireless networks.
You will never have to worry about file format as It’s Playing Pro can play anything that you throw at it. The app supports TV-out and AirPlay, multiple gestures for easy video playback, and also the ability to play YouTube videos.
Another video player that you can try is VLC for mobile (free).
Online Video: YouTube (free) and TED (free)
YouTube needs no introduction. This video sharing site is the main source of Internet video. While you can watch YouTube using Safari (or other mobile browsers) just fine, the official app comes with a few tricks of its own to make the watching experience better.
But there are still people who don’t know TED. You can say it’s a knowledge sharing site. Experts on various topics from all over the world spare few minutes of their time in TED stage to share their expertise and experiences. I’m still learning tons of new things from TED, and if you are trying to find new and exciting things to watch during your commuting time, try TED.
There are different ways of absorbing information. Some people are visual, some are kinaesthetic, and some are auditory. Those who belong to the last type prefer listening to information as it’s easier for them to acquire. But no one is purely visual, auditory, nor kinaesthetic; so while these apps are for the auditory, anybody is welcome to dive in.
Music and Radio: iTunes (free) and Apple Music (free 3-month trial with monthly subscription)
The most obvious entry in the listening section is music. Apple has done a great job reviving music to its feet with iTunes and iTunes music store. Every iOS device comes with Apple’s stock music player, so you’ll have no trouble getting started.
The average of us have at least few albums on our music collections, and that should be enough to accompany your commuting trips. You can expand your collection by subscribing to Apple Music and get virtually any music that Apple has in its collection.
Another streaming music service that you can try is Spotify (free to download with monthly subscription).
If you are an old-school radio kind of person, Apple Music also comes with customizable radio stations. And, of course, there are alternatives: TuneIn Radio (free) and iHeart Radio (free).
Podcasting: Overcast (free) and Podcast (free)
An unexpected star rose up from the growing popularity of iPod back in its glory day: Podcast. Everybody today knows what podcast is, but not many know that it started out as a mean to listen to on-demand radio show on the go (while commuting, for example) without the need to connect to the Internet. So, people in those days subscribed to radio shows, downloaded the content in their computer, uploaded the casts into their iPods to listen on the road. Hence the name: Podcast.
Now there are thousands of shows that you can subscribe to from various kinds of genres. I’m not a podcast person myself, but I listen to Serials by The American Life and recommend it for those who love investigative mystery.
Audiobooks: Audible (free)
I love books, but I’m the kind of person who can’t read on a moving vehicle. That’s the reason I foray into the audiobook territory. Listening to books need some getting used to, and some books are better in their printed glory. But it’s a whole new world to discover. Listening to Jeremy Irons reading you Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist was a meditative-like experience that I didn’t get from reading the book. And if you haven’t tried audiobooks, may I recommend the British version of Harry Potter? It’s a listening experience that’s hard to beat.
While you can use almost any player to listen to mp3 audiobooks, you’ll need Apple’s iBooks or Audible to play protected audiobooks. Those players are free, but you have to acquire the audiobook from iTunes Store, Audible store, or somewhere else.
It’s also known that doing social networks is a verified way to waste time. You shouldn’t spend most of your working hours on social networks, but you can utilize your commuting time to socialize – virtually.
There are the obvious Facebook, Twitter, and Path; but may I interest you to try the more visual Instagram and Pinterest? What about the more texting-based like WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Telegram? All of them are free to use. More social networks are available by the day, and you are welcome to try all of them. But as the saying goes, social networks are as good as the people who use them. What the use of joining the ones that have none of your friends in it?
I save the best, and the most difficult to list down, for last. Playing games might be the most favorite past time activities for everybody. Since everybody has their favorite games, it’s difficult to narrow down the apps into limited selections.
As for me, I like games that can be settled in a quick one go. Play it once until it finishes, or pause it if you need to without disturbing the flow. Play it again next time if you want to. Other requirements are: the games should be challenging yet easy enough to play; but not too easy that they become boring.
Some of the fun and free games that I play are 1010, Piano Tiles, and Plants vs. Zombies 2. While the more thinking types – and free – are: Sudoku, 2048, and Freecell.
SEE ALSO: Some Unique Photo Apps for iPhone
Other than the listed activities above, what else that you can do to fill in your long commuting hours? You can continue your work remotely; there are apps for that. You can also use free and fun music maker apps to create your next Grammy-quality songs. Or you can share your favorite activities using the comment below.