Download these apps to stay informed and entertained if you're stuck at home

Key Points
  • You may start to feel a bit stir crazy if you're asked to stay indoors for a long time.
  • There are lots of apps to help you stay informed and entertained while you're stuck at home.
  • Here are some of my favorites to help pass the time.
Hesitant teenage girl looking at camera

As coronavirus spreads, lots of companies are beginning to ask employees to work from home. You may be asked to limit your time outdoors, especially if you have to self-quarantine. That doesn't mean you have to go stir crazy. Use it as time to catch up on books, podcasts, movies and other things you've been putting off.

There are some apps that will help you stay up to date and keep you entertained. Here are some of my favorites that you might not already be using.

Amazon Audible

Audible for iPhone
Todd Haselton | CNBC

I recently got back into audiobooks while driving, but you can just as easily listen to them using the Amazon Audible app on your phone. Audiobooks are expensive and can cost anywhere from $15 to $30 depending on the title (there can be a discount if you already own the eBook, too), but Amazon has a $14.95 monthly Audible subscription that gives you one book per month, no matter the cost.

If you need somewhere to start, I've been enjoying Malcolm Gladwell's "Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don't Know" which sounds a lot like one of his podcasts. Also check out Erik Larson's "The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz." The app is free for iPhone and Android.

Google News and Apple News

Apple News+
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Google News and Apple News are two of my most-used apps. They're free and do a really good job of keeping you up to date on the latest stories, but they also let you break out into different news categories. So, I can follow along with business news from CNBC and other outlets, politics, video games and more. Both also show you the biggest stories of the day from an assortment of the best news outlets, so you can be sure you're always up to date on what's going on.

Apple News also offers a premium Apple News+ subscription for $9.99 per month that includes magazines and access to stories from The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and other newspapers that otherwise require separate subscriptions.


Kindle for iPhone
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I normally read books on my Kindle Paperwhite but you can also download the app and read right from almost any tablet or phone. Amazon's "Whispersync" technology stores your progress if you switch between the app and your Kindle, or even to an Audible book if you own the same title. I also like that I can highlight passages I like, that books generally cost less than the physical copy (around $9.99, usually), and that there are plenty of font sizes and formats to change so the book is always easy to read. It's free for iPhone or Android.


Meditation can help you pass the time while simultaneously managing stress. There are lots of meditation apps available for iPhone and Android, but I've been using Headspace for a long time. There are courses, ranging from the basics of meditation to others that help you stay positive, like "Happiness." My favorites are the shorter ones, like "Breathe," that encourage you to take a quick 1-3 minutes from the day to relax. Some other good ones: "Goodnight" for calming down before you sleep and so-called "Sleepcasts" that are just stories told in a relaxing manner which may help you snooze if you can't sleep when it's quiet. Headspace has a 7-day free trial and costs $12.99 per month (or $69.99 a year with a 14-day free trial.)

The New York Times Crossword

NYTimes Crossword
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I'm terrible at it, but I like to think I'm getting better: The New York Times Crossword puzzle is a fun way to keep your brain stimulated. Monday puzzles are easiest, and throughout the week the puzzles progress in difficulty. If you find you can't do the harder days, you can always go back into the archive and practice on earlier Monday and Tuesday puzzles, or buy packs of puzzles, which cost about $4.99 for 10 puzzles. You'll get a gold medal when you finish a puzzle properly, and it's fun to try to keep a streak going as you complete each day. It costs $3.47 a month if you don't get it with a regular New York Times subscription and is available for iPhone and Android.

Mario Kart Tour for iPhone and Android

Mario Kart for iPhone
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Mario Kart Tour for iPhone and Android (yes, it exists!) might be fun for keeping the whole family entertained. The app was updated on Sunday with support for real multiplayer. That means you can race against your family nearby or friends anywhere in the world. It takes some getting used to: you swipe your finger on the screen to make sure your driver stays on the track, and it doesn't support gaming controllers right now, which kind of stinks. But, if you grew up playing Mario Kart, or just need a fun new game, check it out. It's free.


Pocketcasts for iPhone
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There are lots of podcast apps, and even music applications such as Spotify have some great podcasts. I still default to using Pocketcasts, though, since it puts my library front and center. You can find podcasts for pretty much any topic imaginable, from health and science to politics.

My favorite daily news casts include The New York Times' "The Daily," the BBC World Service's "Global News Podcast" and CNBC's "Squawk Pod." But I also have enjoyed "Serial"; "Ear Hustle," which talks about life in prison; "Crimetown," two seasons about corruption in Providence, Rhode Island and Detroit, Michigan; and murder mystery "S Town," which is from the folks who did "Serial." Pocketcasts is free for iPhone and Android.


The Mandalorian and the Child on Disney+'s "The Mandalorian."

If you haven't tried it yet, it's time to dive in: Disney+ is awesome if you want to rewatch movies you liked as a kid, or if you still haven't watched the hit Star Wars show "The Mandalorian." It should also help you keep your kids occupied. It costs $6.99 a month, or $12.99 a month if you bundle in Hulu and ESPN+, and includes content from Pixar, Marvel, Disney, and TV shows such as The Simpsons. My advice: start with "The Mandalorian," then rewatch all of the Star Wars movies.

Google Stadia

You can play on Pixel phones, Chrome browsers and your TV with Stadia.

If you don't want to shell out $300 for a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One, check out Google Stadia. The game selection is still pretty minimal, but it's growing, and there are lots of really good games to get started with, such as Destiny 2 and Red Dead Redemption 2 (you don't need to have played the first version of either game). It doesn't use physical disks. Instead, everything streams from Google's servers. I like that I never have to worry about sitting around for hours waiting for a game to update, and that I can pretty much play anywhere I have a Wi-Fi connection.

Plus, I can start playing on my TV and then pick up on a computer or my Android phone. Stadia Pro costs $9.99 per month and you should probably buy the Stadia Premiere Edition setup, which includes a controller and a Chromecast 4K for $129. Games still cost about $60 but, again, you get some free as part of the Pro subscription.


CNBC app for iPhone
Todd Haselton | CNBC

And, of course, you can follow the market moves with CNBC. We're also following all of the coronavirus news on our live blog, so you can keep up to date on all the breaking news as it happens. If you have a cable subscription, you can also watch CNBC live through the app, catch up on podcasts such as the "Squawk Pod," follow along with your stock watchlists and more. You can download it on Android and iPhone.

Coronavirus outbreak puts online learning tech to the test
Coronavirus outbreak puts online learning tech to the test