Android App Review: Parcels

One of the main drawbacks of living so far north in the Highlands of Scotland, is that packages take longer to be delivered, regardless of whether you pay for next day delivery or not, it’ll still take 3-7 days to get here on average. In addition to this, some couriers will charge upwards of £20 just to deliver to the Highlands, something online retailers only tend to find out after the order has been submitted, and usually have to send an email to me letting me know that I’ll have to pay a £30 postage charge for a £5 item. I digress however, as this was intended to be a review of an Android application that has made my online ordering woes a little more tolerable. It’s called Parcels, and it allows you to input any tracking codes you’ve been issued for your purchases, and follow the progress of them all from within a rather pretty and intuitive interface.

The main screen of the app, displays the packages you’ve entered, and their current status, whether delivered or in transit. Each item in the list is big, bright and bold, with a user-provided title shown prominently for each item so that you know which item is which, and colour coded to match the courier’s branding colour schemes, a nice touch I feel, as it makes the entries more colourful, and serves as a good reminder of which courier is handling each item. It also can include a two letter abbreviation of the courier company’s name.

The main view listing the current status of all your tracked parcels.

The main view listing the current status of all your tracked parcels.

In the preferences you have multiple options to select how often to refresh the status of the parcels, you can have it update when you start the app, when you click to go into each items detailed view, you can set it to update when you shake the phone, using the phones motion sensors, and you can also tell Parcels to run as a background service, regularly checking at an interval of your choosing. The background service will pop up with notifications when the state of your parcel changes, and you can choose to have a ringtone play or for the phone to vibrate. When all of your parcels have been delivered, it will automatically turn off the background service so that it isn’t needlessly wasting battery.

The information listed for a tracked parcel.

The information listed for a tracked parcel.

When you click on an added item, it will pull up a more detailed view for that particular parcel, showing each step of the items progress, the layout and information displayed here can vary, as it’s pulled from a long list of different couriers, who all display different information on their tracking websites, but the app attempts to acquire every bit of information the courier provides about your parcel, and displays it in a way that seems far more concise and straightforward than the couriers website can sometimes be. When waiting several days for a much-needed item, constantly going to the couriers website, finding the button for tracking, and then digging through your email to find the tracking code, can be infuriating and time-consuming, this app, makes it all painless, you enter the tracking code once, and can open up the app and check the details as often as you want, or make it all far simpler and just wait for the automated notification from the background service, so you can get on with your day-to-day life while knowing exactly where your package is, and how close it is to being delivered.

The parcel tracking map view, giving a visual guide to location of your package.

The parcel tracking map view, giving a visual guide to the location of your package.

There is another feature I want to mention, as it’s pretty cool, and it’s the Map view, which shows the path your package has taken within a Google maps view, with a marker for each depot that your package has visited. This view only appears when the geographical data is available from the courier however. It’s fairly interesting to me though, as it allows me to see just how far the item has had to travel to get to me, often from one end of the country to the other. I can somewhat understand why it costs way more to have items delivered up here, but it’s still no less annoying, especially when it’s a relatively cheap item that simply couldn’t be bought anywhere within a 100 miles.

Overall, I think this app is essential for anyone who orders a lot of stuff online, and especially for those who tend to lose track of which parcels are yet to be delivered. I believe a lot of people ignore the tracking codes most couriers assign, as it’s usually far too much effort to use the couriers website to follow the progress of the parcel, with this app, these tracking codes suddenly become useful again.

Free Parcels

by Timo Behrmann
Go to Android Market
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