Apps for commuter

After 2 months of daily commute between South Bay and San Francisco, I’ve accumulated a list of Android apps that I can’t live without, and a list of missing features/apps I wish I had.

Getting there

First up is the good old timetable. CaltrainDroid (free) has a simple interface for looking up Caltrain schedule, and would have been perfect if it could auto-update the starting station based on current location. Similarly I use QuickMuni (free) for Muni schedules, although in my experience it is not as accurate as most reviewers claim on Google Play.

One feature I would gladly pay for is an alarm that sets off automatically as the train gets close to my destination. I doze off pretty much every trip, and one time I woke up only to find the train completely empty (luckily I did mean to get off at the final stop). An auto alarm would have been a life-saver.

On a similar note, I also wish there’s a “set alarm” option directly from the schedule so I can easily remind myself to do the Cinderella dash to the train station (particularly when there’s only one train per hour in the evening, which is what I hate the most about commuting in SF).

Time Killer

3 things that I commonly do during my commute are: News, Music and Games.

Like most people I use my time on the train to catch up on news. However for various reasons (wanting to finish going through my Twitter feed; content not suitable to read on small screen…etc) sometimes I’d rather save up interesting contents to be read at a later time. I recently discovered Pocket that does just that, which also integrates directly with many content apps. However as of the current version it doesn’t save the source of the content, making it hard to respond to the original poster in the case of social media.

I originally switched to the paid version of Spotify while working overseas this summer (required for roaming), but now that I’m commuting it just makes sense to keep the premium account which also lets me play on mobile. The song selection and quality are both excellent, and if you’re a SoundHound user there’s a nice integration that lets you add to Spotify directly from SoundHound once you’ve identified a song.

I love puzzle games and while I’ve tried many on the Android, ilomilo remains my favorite, which unfortunately is available exclusively on Windows Phone (Used to own a Samsung Focus for 2 years and it’s a great phone). You can also check it out on Xbox live.

Keep it running

This is not an app, but one of the worst nightmare for any commuters is to run out of battery on your phone, so I always bring with me an external charger. It’s fairly light and more than fully charges my phone when the battery is full. It also has an external indicator to show how much power is left which is handy.

If you’re a fellow SF commuter, I would love to hear what’s on your phone!

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