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As more places begin to open up in the wake of the pandemic, it’s time to start thinking about returning to the office, and commuting again.
A study conducted by the US Census Bureau found that the average person spends roughly 28 minutes commuting each way. That means you’re probably going to spend about an hour going to and from work up to five days a week. If you’ve traditionally had a tough time commuting, or want to reclaim some of that lost time for yourself, we can help.
We’ve collected the best tech for your commute, whether you travel on public transportation or drive into work. Some gadgets are designed to distract you, while others can help you stay productive. Either way, you’ll have better options than staring down at your phone, or casually reading advertisements on highway billboards or inside your train.
1. Noise-Cancelling Earbuds
Noise-cancelling earbuds are the superior choice for commuters because they’re smaller. It’s easy to pop them into your ears before you hop on public transportation, and take them out once you arrive at the office.
The best pair of active noise-cancelling earbuds we’ve tried recently is Sony’s new WF-1000XM4s. They blocked an impressive amount of noise during our testing, which included wearing them on a plane.
If you’ve had trouble tuning out the world on your way to work, or need to crank the volume to painful levels to overpower the sound of screeching train tires, this is the pair to get.
2. An E-Reader
The Kindle Paperwhite is the perfect commuter gadget if you’ve been trying to find more time in your day to read. Its six-inch e-ink display is larger (and easier on your eyes) than a smartphone, and it can hold thousands of digital books. The device itself is roughly the size and weight of a paperback book, but a lot thinner. Despite its size, the Paperwhite can last dozens of commutes on a single charge.
3. A UV Sanitizer
If you’re still wary of taking public transportation because of germs, Monos’ CleanPod can help. The handheld tool uses UV (ultraviolet) light to kill up to 99.9% of bacteria (including some that can get you sick) in about 30 seconds. We’ve tested the CleanPod and found it easy to operate. If you want a little more peace of mind before you take your seat on the subway, or when you get to your desk in the morning, keep Monos’ CleanPod in your bag.
4. A Game Console
The Nintendo Switch is the most powerful handheld gaming system available right now, and its ultra-portable Lite version is perfect for commuters.
It has a 5.5-inch HD display, enough storage to hold dozens of games, and a library that spans thousands of titles in every genre. Its battery lasts up to seven hours per charge. Again, you could play games on your phone, but the Switch Lite will offer a far more immersive experience from a device that’s optimized for playing games.
Plus, it has first-party Nintendo games from the Super Mario and Legend of Zelda series that you won’t find anyplace else.
5. A Smartphone Controller
If you do want to spend your commute playing games on your phone, the Razer Kishi will substantially upgrade the experience. The controller snaps onto the sides of your phone, and plugs directly into its charging port. This means you don’t have to charge the Kishi, and it won’t have any lag. This is one of the best tech accessories we’ve tested in quite a while, and one we recommend to anyone who plays games on their phone.
6. A Battery Pack
Nobody wants to deal with battery anxiety on their commute, and Anker’s PowerCore Slim is the ideal solution. It’s small enough to slip in a backpack pocket, but has enough juice to fully recharge most smartphones at least once. It has a USB-A and USB-C port, too, so you can even charge two devices at the same time.
7. A Car Bluetooth Adapter
If you drive to work, listening to music or podcasts is a great way to pass the time (while continuing to focus on the road, of course). Roav’s Bluetooth Car Adapter allows you to stream music from your phone to your car’s stereo system wirelessly by transmitting it at a specific radio frequency, which is displayed on the adapter. Tune your car’s radio to that frequency, and you’ll be able to listen to your tunes. The best part is that the adapter also has two USB ports, so you can charge your phone with this accessory.
8. A Tablet
If your commute is really long, and you like watching movies and TV shows, getting a tablet is a no-brainer.
Apple’s iPad Air is a lux option, but its 10.9-inch high resolution screen will be a night-and-day difference over the one on your phone. This tablet has enough storage to hold dozens of movies and TV show episodes with space to spare for photos, music, and games.
If you want to look over documents and notes before your first meeting, or catch up on the news on your way back, the iPad’s wide array of apps (and desktop-class web browser) make that a cinch. The iPad Air is the best tablet available for most people, and it’ll turn your commuter train into a business class-like experience.
9. A Smartwatch
If you’re trying not to spend your entire commute with a phone in your hand, a smartwatch can help reduce the number of times you reflexively put your hand into your pocket. You can quickly glance at the time, set a timer to let you know when to get off the train if you’re resting your eyes, and receive the most important notifications from your phone on your wrist. The Fitbit Versa 3 has all of those features, better battery life than the Apple Watch, and health features that allow you to track your activity, heart rate, and sleep.
8. A Commuter Backpack
Brevite’s Jumper was designed for photographers, but it’s ideal for commuters. It has a dedicated slot for a laptop, plus its compartment dividers let you adjust the backpack to fit the gear you need to carry every single day. We appreciated its light weight during our testing, and its overall build quality is outstanding. If you need a backpack for traveling, the Jumper’s pass-through straps allow you to easily attach the backpack to your luggage’s handle.