Review: Parcel Tracker
While Email is increasingly replacing paper mail, the Internet age means that we're receiving more parcels as we order items online rather than bringing purchases home from retail stores. Correspondingly, courier and postal firms have implemented tracking services (with varying degrees of success) so that we can track our parcels in real time. Parcel Tracker is a Windows Phone 7 application which takes advantage of these services, giving you push updates and live tiles for all of your deliveries.
Version Reviewed: 4.7
You start using Parcel Tracker by entering a tracking code from your delivery service. The app tries to make this as easy as possible for you by including a barcode scanner. However, when sending a parcel I have never been given a barcode. Instead, I always get an alphanumeric code.
Still though, there's Bing Vision, right? Wrong! Whenever I've used Bing Vision to scan a Post Office receipt (e.g. for special delivery parcels), Bing Vision recognises everything but the tracking code! Therefore, unless the tracking code comes in an email, where it can be copied and pasted, the code has to be manually entered into Parcel Tracker. This is absolutely not the fault of Parcel Tracker – it's just how things are.
Adding a parcel
After the tracking code is added, there are just two more steps to registering your parcel. Choose from the long list of tracking services and add a name for your reference. The services covered by the app are Canada Post, City Link, DHL – UK, DPD – UK, FedEx – UK, Parcelforce, Post – Denmark, Royal Mail, TNT, and Yodel. Clearly there's a UK bias here – unless the application is filtering for my part of the world, which would seem to be the case judging from the Marketplace screenshots.
Once a parcel has been added, it appears in the main list. Items here look appropriate to the subject matter, thanks to boxes with rounded-corners and the service logo shown vertically on the left of each. It all adds up to give the appearance of a label stub.
Once you've added a parcel to your list, the hard part begins – waiting!
Your deliveries list
While you can manually refresh an item to see if its status has changed, there's no need because Parcel Tracker is one of the few applications that utilises the Microsoft Push Notification System (MPNS). This means that the developers have incurred the cost of setting up a server which will poll the delivery services for you, and when they see a change, they'll push that to your device via MPNS.
What's more, you can add a live tile to your Start screen for each parcel, so even if you miss the toast notification, you can always see the current status via a tile. Tiles are themed for the corresponding delivery service and flip between showing the logo of the company and the last known status of your parcel.
At this point you may be concerned about privacy given that the Parcel Tracker server is checking on the progress of your parcels, and relaying that via MPNS. To put your mind at rest, the 'About' page gives the following disclaimer:
"The live tile feature send[s] anonymous data to a server hosted by Microsoft Windows Azure. This data is only used for checking status changes when the application is not running. This data is not shared or even viewed. If live tiles are disabled, the server deletes all records of this device"
Whether you believe that or not is up to you, but it is good enough for me.
Live tiles and notifications
Tapping on an item in your delivery list to view more details gives all of the status updates that the corresponding delivery service offers; this can be a full history of updates or just the latest, depending on the service. This view also gives a two stage pivot with the second part being a map which, in theory, displays the location of the parcel. More often than not, I have found that the location is either unavailable or incorrect. However, this is a non-essential part of the tracking process. As long as you have a status report telling you which sorting hub the parcel was last logged at and when, that should be enough to make a customer service enquiry when necessary.
You can also send a copy of the latest status to someone by email. This is particularly handy if you're sending a parcel to someone, and you want to keep them updated on its movements too. It's a shame that email is the only option for sending though, as SMS would be preferable sometimes. You can work around this by starting the email, copy the status to the clipboard, discard the email, and then paste the status into a text message – which is, admittedly, quite a kludge.
Viewing parcel information
Sending and receiving parcels can be stressful, and the best antidote to that is information, even better if it's in real time. That's precisely what Parcel Tracker does.
The thing that separates this from other tracking apps, or even checking on a desktop website, is its push notifications, as it takes all the stress out of having to remember to keep checking, and checking, and … you get the idea. It also turns the experience of tracking a parcel into something exciting, as you get an unexpected tinkle on your phone, and when you look you find that your parcel has completed another leg of its journey. Yay! ^_^
Therefore, my verdict is that Parcel Tracker is the best parcel tracking application for Windows Phone 7, and for a mere £1.29 is well worth the money. Just be sure to use our AAWP App Directory link, as there are other apps out there going by the same name!
Reviewed by David Gilson at