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Santa trackers, apps help you keep tabs on old Kris Kringle
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It's Dec. 6 — do you know where Santa Claus is? More importantly, do your kids know? With all the Santa-tracking websites out there, it's a wonder there are any surprises left on Christmas morning.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command Santa tracker still seems to be the most popular way to keep tabs on Santa's progress around the world on Christmas Eve, but several other trackers are elbowing their way into the competition — in a nice, not naughty way, of course!

The main contender is the Google Santa Tracker. Certainly, of all the trackers, this one has the most adorable graphics. With access to Google Maps and other tools, Google Santa is bound to be among the most accurate out there. A clock counts down the days, hours, minutes and seconds before Santa leaves. Meanwhile, there's an animated village with amusing videos and activities. You'll see the same countdown timer and Santa's village on the smartphone app, Google Santa Tracker (Android; free). And you can use the app to track Santa on Christmas — but only after 2:00 a.m. Hopefully your kids are nestled all snug in their beds by then!

But what about the original NORAD Santa Tracker? This year the popular website is all new, with improved mapping provided by Microsoft, a countdown and new games every day. On Christmas you'll be able to track Santa and his reindeer and find out how many of his packages he's delivered. Apparently this year's Christmas Eve voyage will be escorted by fighter jets, loaded with missiles. Some kids may be thrilled by this; some parents may be alarmed at the militarization of Santa Claus and his sleigh. At any rate, you can follow along via the smartphone app as well (iOS, Android; free).

There are other Santa-tracking websites, but none with anywhere near the technological prowess and graphic charm of NORAD's or Google's.

However, there are some good options for following Santa with your smartphone (because maybe you're out caroling or attending midnight mass). For iOS, there's Santa Tracker – North Pole Command Center 2.0 ($1.99; a free lite version also available). In addition to a graphically-rich, global 3-D map showing Santa's current and past locations, you also get stats like percentage of presents delivered, current speed and last place visited. The app plays Christmas carols and lets you message Santa — he'll message you back (with parents' help). There's lots of bells and whistle to this app as it also has a blog, some simple games and recipes.

For Android there's Santa Tracker – 2013 ($1.99), which in addition to tracking Santa's movements via map also allows you to send and receive letters from Santa. (Users seem a bit disappointed by the boilerplate format of the letters, so this may appeal mainly to very young children).

Does Santa want you tracking his reindeers' movements with such precision? Who knows. But following the Jolly One looks more fun this season than ever before.

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