We tend to think of the daily commute as time wasted. According to the US Census, more than 32 percent of Americans have a daily commute that takes longer than 30 minutes (2009), and that time can really drag if you don’t have something fun and interesting to occupy your mind. Fortunately, technology is on your side as there are a handful of great mobile apps for your phone or tablet to help get your creative and analytical juices flowing before you even reach the office. From music programs like GarageBand to portable art studios like the Adobe Idea Vector App, we’ve rounded up our 10 favorite mobile apps that will make you wish your commute were longer.

Getting up at the crack of dawn is hard enough, but if you’re one of the many who have to endure a painstakingly long commute, you know that keeping your spirits high and your mind alert can be quite a challenge. The US Census reports that more than 32% of Americans have a daily commute that last longer than 30 minutes (2009) – If this number includes you, you’ll be happy to know that technology is on your side and there are plenty of apps out there to get your creative and analytical juices flowing before you even reach the office. So whether you’re a backseat carpooler, a faithful bus rider, or a subway swiper, check out our 10 favorite inspirational apps that are sure to make your commute fly by in a snap!

New York Times Crosswords

The New York Times crossword puzzle has been a classic time-killing staple for commuters since 1942 – and now it has gone digital! With this app you can play the same puzzles that are published daily in print, or take on one of over 6,000 classic puzzles from The New York Times archive. You can also compete against top players via the online leader-boards, and write in ‘pen’ or ‘pencil’ for that ‘old world’ feel.

Available for Apple products and Android

Brain Trainer by Lumosity.com

Get your brain geared up and ready to go first thing in the morning with the Brain Trainer. This thinking man’s app was developed in part with the world’s leading neuroscientists from top universities — including Stanford, UCSF and Berkeley — who sought to create a cognitive program that enhances memory, processing speed, attention, flexibility, problem solving, and even mood! You can play one session per day, and each session has three games that have been designed to improve different brain functions. This nifty app also allows you to track your progress to see how your Brain Performance Index (BPI) changes over time with use.

Available for Apple products

Memory Mice Brain Teasers

For those of you who want to ease into the day with pleasant graphics (and sans complex math equations), then you’re sure to enjoy the Memory Mice IQ Brain Teaser app. This fun game tests your ability to memorize sequences by asking you to pop memory mice into their proper order. While this app may sound rudimentary, the creators claim that less than 1% of the population is able to complete the full 24 levels.

Available for Apple products

Braingle – Brain Teasers & Riddles

Is it a duck or a rabbit? Braingle has wrangled up thousands of brain teasers, riddles, optical illusions, logic problems, and mind puzzles to create a comprehensive app sure to awaken every nerve fiber in your cerebrum. With over 15,000 brain teasers available, and more being added daily, you’ll be well-stocked with enough problems to solve until you hit retirement!

Available for Apple products

Sodoku Magic

Turn all those Soduku puzzles you find in newspapers and magazines digital with Sodoku Magic. Just take a photo with your iPhone’s camera and get your Sodoku on without a pen or pencil. Sudoku Magic also generates an unlimited number of new puzzles (ranging from easy to extreme), so you’ll never run out. The puzzles are automatically saved when you close the app.

Available for Apple products. While this particular version is not available for Android, you can try out Magic Square which equally as mind-tingling.

Adobe Idea Vector App

Designed for savvy creatives who love spending hours tooling away with Adobe CS software, Adobe Ideas is an amazing app that let’s you design on-the-go using vectors, layers, and color themes. Use a stylus or your finger to draw strokes that appear smooth at any zoom level. But what really makes this app so cool is that you can take all your new drawings and import them into Photoshop or Illustrator for further refinement. Now there’s no reason to ever stop creating!

Available for Apple products

Procreate: Turn your iPad into a Canvas

Turn your iPad into a canvas for your next painting with Procreate! Strokes are rendered at a speed and precision that will have you channelling Rembrandt before you even know it. You’ll see your stroke blend, decay, and even smudge in realtime. Each brush has over 25 settings that can be adjusted to achieve the effects you desire — this includes stroke plot, shape, grain, paint dynamics, min/max limits and source images. Anything you create can be exported (layers intact) into Adobe Photoshop.

Available for the Apple iPad

TED Talks

Get inspired to change the world by watching a couple TED Talks before you head into the office. TED’s official app presents over 1,200 talks from some of the world’s most fascinating people: education radicals, tech geniuses, medical mavericks, business gurus, and music legends. The entire library is at your disposal, and it works when you’re connected or disconnected from the web. And if your commute ends before you’ve gotten a good fix, you can bookmark or download talks to enjoy later.

Available for Apple products and Android


GarageBand has gone app-happy with a cool new tool that lets professional, aspiring and closet musicians rock out before they start their daily grind. GarageBand turns any iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch into a collection of instruments that can be played, recorded, and then tinkered with in a full-featured recording studio. The app lets you play instruments ranging from pianos, to organs, guitars, drums, and basses – and they even sound and function like their counterparts. Bands also get an extra boost with this app – you can gather your friends to play and record like a real band with Jam Session. Just use the built-in microphone or a guitar to record the pieces of your performance.

Available for Apple products

TNR-i by Yamaha

The TNR-i app is basically the iOS version of the company’s Tenori-on, a funky electronic instrument that you’ve seen musicians like Little Boots or Björk using on stage. The app works with a grid of 16 by 16 LED switches that you tap to activate different sounds. While it’s deceptively simple in appearance, the innovative trance-like sounds it’s capable of creating are only limited by your imagination.

Available for Apple products