’Tis the season to track packages.
When I was young, making a purchase via what we called “mail order” went something like this:
- Find the perfect gift in a catalog
- Make your purchase by either sending in your billing information or talking on the phone
- Two to six weeks of crossing your fingers in hopes that your gift actually arrives
It was an act of faith, plain and simple. Today, we can monitor every twist and turn in a package’s journey from distributor to doorstop. I’ve found two apps that do just that very well. Here are my favorite smartphone apps for tracking a package.
Before I name my picks, let me share my criteria. First, any app worth considering must support multiple carriers. Sure, UPS, FedEx and others have their own dedicated solutions. I’m sure they’re great too, but unitaskers aren’t allowed, even when it comes to apps.
Next, and this goes without saying, it must be easy to add package info. Those numbers are typically long and complex, and the smarter an app is about managing them, the better.
I also want push notifications. That is, a little alert to pop up, triggered by criteria I define: change in status, arrival in a new state, scanned at a certain facility, etc.
Finally beautiful presentation is essential. While not crucial to functioning, I do have to look at the thing, and it should look nice. With that said, let’s get to my picks.
For iPhone: Deliveries
For me, Deliveries ($4.99) is the package-tracking app I want on my iPhone. I used it for years across many iterations and iPhones. While I’ve tried others, I’ve always come back to Deliveries. It meets all of my criteria and more.
Adding package information to Deliveries is so easy it’s ridiculous. The app automatically notices when a tracking number is on your phone’s clipboard and offers to create a new entry for it. So all you have to do is copy it from the confirmation email and then launch Deliveries. It notices the number as well as the correct carrier all on its own. Just hit the confirmation when it asks if you’d like to create a new entry and that’s it!
One thing to be aware of is that Deliveries won’t always pull the name of the item that’s being delivered. As far as I can tell, that depends on the site of origin. If it can’t see it, you can easily tap the edit button and fill it in yourself. Still, the app does the bulk of the work for you.
Deliveries also supports many carriers, and color-codes entries for easy, at-a-glance reference. For example, packages being delivered by UPS are brown, those from FedEx are purple and so on.
And yes, there is support for push notifications. You can set these up however you like. If you’re a real “Type A,” you can get an alert whenever the package status changes. Otherwise, you can simply get a ping when it leaves the distributor and another when it’s waiting at home.
Lastly, this app looks pretty. Not just pretty, but useful. The color-coding is very helpful and the built-in map support lets you track the journey. In short, Deliveries is absolutely worth every penny of its $4.99 price tag.
Android – ParcelTrack
If you’re on the Android side of things, go and pick up ParcelTrack (free with optional in-app purchases). While it’s not as pretty as Deliveries, it is just as useful, easy-to-use, and reliable. Just like its iOS counterpart, it meets all of my criteria.
As for carrier support, ParcelTrack covers over 20 across the U.S., Canada and the U.K., including UPS, USPS, DHL (Express), FedEx, TNT and more.
As for entering package info, ParcelTrack takes a different approach. When you install the app you’ll receive a special, private email address. Then, when you receive shipping confirmation via email, simply forward it to that special address. ParcelTrack extracts all of the information it needs and creates an entry for you. It works quite well and takes very little time. Also, much like Deliveries, ParcelTrack offers automatic carrier detection.
As your package travels from Point A to Point B, C, D….you get the idea, ParcelTrack sends free push notifications on a schedule that you define. And here’s what else is cool — scan the bar code of a package that you’re shipping and stay informed as it meets your intended recipient.
There you have two great apps for tracking your holiday packages. Whether they’re headed your way our if they’re out to family and friends, you’ll be right there with them.