The right app can transform your commute. Sabri Tuzcu

You get up in the morning, drink some coffee, and face your first challenge of the day: the daily run to the office. Whether you drive or take public transportation, you get to deal with all kinds of potential unpleasantness, from road work to overcrowded subway trains. That’s when you should turn to your phone. These six apps will help you get through your daily commute with your sanity intact—and you might even have fun along the way.

1. Pocket Casts

Pocket Casts
Pocket Casts David Nield/Popular Science

You might balk at the idea of spending money on a podcasting app when plenty of free ones are available (and iOS comes with one built in). But Pocket Casts, which comes with just about every feature you could wish for, is worth the expense. It provides variable speed playback, podcast syncing across devices, automatic silence trimming, a powerful discovery section, and more.

How does this help you on your commute? You can shut out the world with podcasts on anything from modern day sports to ancient history, (use Pocket Casts’ built-in Volume Boost for the clearest-sounding audio). If you’re yet to jump into the world of podcasts, we have some excellent science and science fiction recommendations. These audio stories can help your commute fly by, whether you’re listening on the subway or in the car.

Pocket Casts for Android ($3.99) or iOS ($3.99)

2. Citymapper

Citymapper David Nield/Popular Science

Sure, Google Maps and Apple Maps will do a decent job of getting you from A to B on public transit systems. But Citymapper does everything better (although you should check to make sure it covers your city before purchasing). The app helps you navigate around the maze of bus, underground rail, and overground rail options like a pro, throwing in biking, walking, and Uber options in for good measure.

It’s the little details that make Citymapper special, from the advice on which train car to sit in, to real-time warnings when you need to get off at the next stop. With the app’s help, you can stay one step ahead of the commuting masses. It will you get home as quickly as possible at the end of a long day, and it really comes into its own when you need to get around strikes and delays.

Citymapper for Android (free) or iOS (free)

3. Headspace

Headspace David Nield/Popular Science

You could spend your bus or train trip to work staring blankly out of the window—or you could put that time to good use. Load up Headspace to get in the right frame of mind for the office, or allow yourself to relax on the way home. The meditation app can work its magic with just a few minutes out of each day.

Headspace teaches you meditations and mindfulness through a series of simple lessons on your phone. The first few lessons are free so you can decide if it works for you before parting with any cash. One of the app’s main strengths is the careful, patient way it helps you progress as far as you want to. Your commute can be calmer than you think.

Headspace for Android (freemium, upgrade for $12.95/month) or iOS (freemium, upgrade for $12.95/month)

4. Audible

Audible David Nield/Popular Science

You may not have the time to read as much as you’d like, especially if you drive or cycle to and from work. Audible can fix that for you. The Amazon-owned audiobook service offers all the basics you’ll need to browse and listen to books on your phone. With a library of over 200,000 titles to choose from, it’s very well stocked.

Dig further into the app, and you’ll discover more advanced features like variable speed playback and offline listening (handy for those times when you lose your signal on the subway). If you prefer ebooks, then install Amazon’s Kindle app instead. The phone app lets you read ebooks on your phone, and it can sync your reading with a Kindle ereader.

Audible for Android (freemium, upgrade for $14.95/month) or iOS (freemium, upgrade for $14.95/month)

5. Instapaper

Instapaper David Nield/Popular Science

Speaking of reading, your commute time gives you a great opportunity to catch up with all those web articles you couldn’t finish on your laptop. Save that content to the Instapaper service with a browser extension, and you can read them at your leisure on your phone.

Instapaper cuts out all the distracting advertising and other on-screen clutter from your articles and presents them in a way that’s easy on the eye—you can even customize the fonts and colors. If you’re driving, don’t worry: It can also read articles to you out loud. You can also queue up links based on how long they take to read.

Instapaper for Android (free) or iOS (free)

6. Duolingo

Duolingo David Nield/Popular Science

We’ve already suggested that your commute doesn’t have to be a dull grind. One of the ways to liven it up is by learning a language on your way to and from the office. A lot of apps can help with this, but one of our favorites is Duolingo. It’s free to use, even as you advance through the app, and it splits learning up into simple, distinct chunks.

That means you can dip in and out as your commute allows. Pick one or more of the app’s 15 languages, and you can practice your speaking, reading, listening, and writing through a series of simple exercises and games that get more challenging at just the right rate. You also get daily reminders to keep dipping into your lessons, encouraging you to stay committed.

Duolingo for Android (free) or iOS (free)