- Google Play (free)
I was going to recommend the Songza app, but they just merged with Google Play. I’m slightly less enthusiastic now given the easy navigation that Songza had, but they still have great playlists and I’m definitely converted from Pandora, which had far more obnoxious and frequent ads. There are rare 5 second (then you can skip) ads on Google Play, you choose a playlist by your mood or a favorite artist, and you’re good to go. I also find it tends to stream more easily than Pandora did. I don’t endorse headphones while riding, but if that’s your personal choice, you should definitely try out Google Play.
(At least until they decide to start charging for it. I still remember the days when Hulu was free..)
- Dark Sky ($3.99)
I learned about this app from another bike commuter, and I love it for its handy visuals and detailed breakdown of impending precipitation/wind/temperature changes. Like any weather forecasting system, it’s not always 100% accurate. If you want to know if you should finish your errands or maybe stay at the library for another 10 minutes to avoid a shower that’s passing through, this app helps you do it. And yeah it costs money, but you probably have an iTunes gift card in a drawer somewhere, so instead of buying music (see aforementioned app) just buy this one.
- Udemy (free; in-app purchases)
This is my most recently acquired app on this list, and I’ve only downloaded one class so far but I’m already impressed. You can browse Udemy.com for free or paid classes, download them for later or stream them on the go. Right now I’m listening to “How to Double Your Productivity by Tomorrow Morning” which I strongly recommend, especially for Type A people. It’s actually more about setting goals and getting what you want out of your life rather than just productivity, and definitely worth checking out (especially with a new year approaching). Some courses are more audio than visual so you don’t even have to stare at a screen as you stretch your brain. Great way to use your time on the bus (many of these courses would be difficult to focus on while driving in my opinion).
- Breathe (free; in-app purchases)
I actually use this app more at home, but if you feel like unwinding at the end of your workday on your way home, this app is a fun and weirdly addicting way to do a mental/physical “check in”, hit the pause button in your day and do a quick meditation. I always feel far more relaxed and energized after using this app, plus it gives you badges when you get an achievement. So it’s like Candy Crush, but totally good for you. #yourewelcome
- Duolingo (free)
Another reason your car sucks? I’ve always got more! If you want to learn another language, you have to listen to audio tracks that have you repeating the same phrases over and over. Duolingo is a free app that makes it into a fun game, plus you actually learn how to spell and conjugate, not just mimic what you hear. You can choose one from a long list of languages, or you can be indecisive and study Spanish, French and German at the same time. Is that just me? I’m a linguistics nerd, but this app is super fun for anyone.
- Overdrive (free)
Check with your local library and ask what kind of online setup they have for audio and e-books. I listen to about 1 book a week on audio, mostly on my commute. Most libraries have some kind of setup for online access; my library uses Overdrive, and it’s fantastic. The only downside is that I feel guilty for not going to the actual library anymore, because the app is so stinking convenient.
- Poshmark (free)
This is kind of related to commuting.. but also a blatant ploy to share my love of selling stuff that doesn’t fit me anymore since I started bike commuting. Oh, and my referral code. Which is HBRZO and will get you $10 to spend when you sign up (current promotion; normally $5).
I really do adore this app though. I used to consign my like new/ name brand items with shops, but I might as well have donated them for the money I ended up getting. On Poshmark you get 80% of the sale price, and the buyer pays for a shipping label that ships anything up to 5 lbs so it is worth it if you’ve got stuff that you know in your heart really should not be sitting in your closet. It is time intensive however, so if you want to sell your stuff be prepared to put in the time to share listings regularly (it works like a social network in terms of exposure). I like to mindlessly share listings while listening to podcasts on the bus. Otherwise, it’s fun to shop for some sweet deals as well!