Getting all those holiday gifts where they need to go - on time - is a chore for many of us. What's the best way to ship packages? What does it cost? Major shippers have their own smartphone applications to help out.
USPS Mobile, from the U.S. Postal Service, is free for Apple, Android, and BlackBerry devices. It'll map your way to the nearest post office or mailbox - destinations that are becoming increasingly scarce. There's a zip code looker-upper, a postage calculator, and a package-pickup scheduler.
In addition, you can request delivery of Priority Mail and Express Mail envelopes and boxes, and the built-in scanner will log a package's bar code and track it through delivery.
UPS Mobile, free for Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry, is from United Parcel Service Inc. It uses GPS features of your smartphone to locate a UPS shipping desk and help you estimate what your package will cost to send and how quickly it will get where it needs to go.
With a UPS account ID, you can create shipping labels, e-mail them to yourself, and print. Once shipped, you'll be able to track packages. You can give your package a name instead of a number to make life easier. User reviews are mixed, from "great" to "really buggy."
FedEx Mobile by FedEx Corp. is free for Android, BlackBerry, and Apple units but provides most of its functions via the FedEx website, not within the app itself. Like its mates from the other services, you can find a shipping site, get a rate quote, and track your package after it's on its way. Like the UPS app, you'll be able to create shipping labels. Some reviewers complain that the FedEx app isn't as useful as its UPS cousin.
A number of apps can track packages via multiple carriers. For iPhone, there's the free My Package, by Hironobu Inami, which tracks packages at the Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx from a single app. All you do is copy and paste the tracking number from your e-mail.
Other free apps for tracking Santa's sleigh include TrackThePack Lite, from Sabotage Media L.L.C., which adds DHL, Canada Post, and OnTrac to the shippers it can follow, and Parcel, by Ivan Pavlov, which lists 70 delivery services around the world it can track, using bar codes if you desire.