4 gadgets guaranteed to make your commute fly by


(MoneyWatch) Got a long daily commute to the office? Sure, there are ways to make it more productive and get work done while you travel. For instance, you can turn your smartphone into a mobile hotspot and log on to your laptop while riding the train or bus. Or you can get a Bluetooth headset and return business calls while driving (but watch the road!). But sometimes, taking some time away from work for some gadget-driven fun can re-charge your battery, whether you're on your way in to or away from the office. Here are four gizmos to try:

"Pocket" app. Even if you turn your phone into a hotspot, download times while you travel can be painfully slow. And if you're underground on a subway or on a plane, you're probably out of luck altogether in terms of an Internet connection. The Pocket app solves these common commuter complaints by allowing you to save videos, articles and other items to view offline. As the company's website says, "If it's in Pocket, it's on your phone, tablet or computer. You don't even need an Internet connection." You can drag stuff into Pocket from your computer browser, your email, or even other apps like Twitter. Then, enjoy it at your leisure.

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Earworms. If you want to learn something while passing the time, this might be your pick of the list. Earworms combines music with words and phrases in an effort to work them into your brain -- just like a song you can't get out of your head. Except instead of music, you're learning key phrases of a foreign language. It's perfect for commuters since you're instructed to simply listen and absorb; no need to repeat out loud, which could be awkward for your fellow train passengers. The sets are available in 14 languages via CD, audio-book download or an Apple-compatible app.

Spotify. Not only is this Web cloud-based music service loved by commuters, it's gained critical acclaim: PCMag.com awarded it an Editors' Choice award for revolutionizing how we listen to streaming music. Essentially, it's equal part iTunes, Facebook and Netflix. For $9.99 per month, users can download songs, see what friends (and famous folks) are listening to and build playlists that are accessible, both on and offline, on multiple digital devices. For budget watchers, there are cheaper versions, including a free one that comes with ads and without offline listening capabilities.

E-readers. E-readers like the Kindle, Nook and iPad are a commuter compromise for book lovers. While you don't get the satisfaction of flipping a paper page, your shoulders and back will thank you for the lighter load, especially if you're walking from public transportation to your office. Speaking of public transportation, the smaller e-books are great for one-handed reading -- perfect if you're bracing yourself on a moving bus or train with the other hand. If you're just reading, the $79 version of the Kindle from Amazon (with ads) is a "best buy." Want more features? Read CNET's review of the latest and greatest.

If you walk, drive or take public transportation, hope this makes your commute seem shorter. If you're a biker, you probably have enough to distract you, but for some ways to make your ride smoother, read"5 ways to make biking to work an easy ride".

What gadgets do you use to pass the time while you commute? Please sign into the comments section and share.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user JoeJoeJoe93

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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.