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For a lot of entrepreneurs, shipping can cause a ton of headaches. Good news is that a number of low-cost applications for smartphones and tablets are helping to make the process a little easier.
The big-name shipping companies, like UPS and FedEx, all have their own apps that can help users create, manage and track shipments. But small businesses can also find a growing family of inexpensive, third-party mobile logistics apps that offer deep features for using multiple shipping companies.
Here's a look at four mobile apps that can fit most small business's logistics needs:
1. Delivery Status Touch for iOS devices
This Apple-only app by Northville, Mich.-based developer Junecloud uses a colorful interface with easy to read maps that give you a quick visual on where your shipments are.
For $4.99, Delivery Status Touch covers a wide range of shippers, including heavies like UPS, FedEx, USPS, DHL and TNT. It can also track shipments from Amazon and Apple as well as international shippers such as Japan Post. A downloadable desktop widget means you can switch between your mobile device and computer.
Features include the ability to share shipping information with others directly from the app and options to filter information by the status of the package and whether you are sending or receiving. The app also offers a useful barcode scanning feature.
The basic version is free, while the pro version costs only $2, and is ad-free and syncs between multiple devices.
3. Parcel Tracker for Windows Phone
Businesses that use Windows software have their own shipping tool. Parcel Tracker uses Windows' new tiled "metro style" interface to bookmark critical shipments as a tile button on the phone's start screen. This means you can jump to an important shipment without having to spend time searching for it.
Parcel Tracker includes barcode scanning and supports more than 65 shipping companies. It's available from the Windows Phone store for $2.49.
4. JumpTrack for iOS and Android
This app by Eagan, Minn.-based Jump Technologies offers an entry into sophisticated supply chain management for companies that want to do their own shipping. JumpTrack is a proof-of-delivery app that works with a cloud-based delivery management system. The app captures and stores signatures and photos of deliveries. It can also track the status of shipments and delivery drivers throughout the day. And all of this information can be shared with customers via email.
JumpTrack can be a handy tool for businesses with complex supply chain management challenges to test the waters of an upgraded system. Prices start at $75 per route configured in the system, but could be less depending on how many fleet vehicles you have.
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