Best free stuff, 2013 edition

Best free stuff, 2013 edition: The connected commuter

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The Connected Commuter

One day we may all be lucky enough to work from home. For now, however, a regular commute is the reality for many of us. Fortunately, you can make the most of your daily journey and perhaps even cut back on your travel time with the aid of nothing more than your smartphone and a few simple apps.

Best Free Stuff Commuter Waze
Waze offers drive times based on traffic conditions.

The first tool on every driving commuter’s list should be Waze for Android, BlackBerry 10, and iOS. Waze is a turn-by-turn navigation app designed specifically for commuters. The app offers you the optimal route to work based on real-time traffic conditions harvested from other Waze users. You can also use the app to get deals from nearby businesses, check local gas prices, spot traffic-cop locations, and share road conditions to help other drivers. The key to Waze, however, is that you need a critical mass of users in your area to make it useful; rural riders need not apply.

If you have a lead foot and no need for optimized traffic routes, check out Trapster. This crowd-sourced app for Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Phone lets you discover speed-trap locations and road hazards, and share any road problems you see.

If you’re looking to find the cheapest local gas prices, you can use Waze, as mentioned earlier, but its accuracy on that score is hit-or-miss, especially if you're away from major cities. GasBuddy for Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Phone is much more reliable. It uses your location to help you find the best crowd-sourced gas prices near you, and its horde of active users help keep prices timely and accurate.

If you rely on public transit for your commute, try HopStop to find the most appropriate public transit route—whether bus, train, subway, taxi, on foot, or a mix of two or more—in nearly 120 regions across the United States. HopStop is available for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.

Once you’re on the bus, catch up on your reading with Flipboard for Android and iOS. Flipboard is a personalized magazine app that takes links shared with you on Twitter and Facebook, as well as any RSS feeds you like, and presents the articles in a highly visual format. To work best, however, Flipboard requires an Internet connection. For offline reading, try Pocket for Android and iOS: It lets you download articles from many of your favorite news sources in a text-centric format before you hit the subway.

Next up: The six best free tools for the techno traveler.

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