(Pocket-lint) - Christmas is almost upon us and that means the big man is out delivering presents. You can keep an eye on him as it does it too.
There are a few really good options for the young and old to keep abreast of the movements of Father Christmas online.
Plane Finder is a relative newcomer to the concept. It has added Santa's sleigh to its usual aeroplane tracking system, both online and in its iOS and Android apps, and it's worth checking out. Also, Sky has added its own Santa Tracker to Sky Q in the UK - you can just use your voice to ask "where's Santa?" or "where's Father Christmas?" using the Sky Q remote.
However, both NORAD and Google have been offering similar services for many years now, and they offer much more than just tracking - including games and other great bonuses. But which of them should you bookmark?
What is NORAD Tracks Santa and what does it feature?
The North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, has been tracking Santa for over 60 years. NORAD has a website that lets you track the big bearded man as he delivers presents around the world. When you go to the website, you can enter Santa's Village to learn about different holiday traditions as well as NORAD and it's ongoing to mission to track Santa.
NORAD's website looks slightly more dated and not as bright and vibrant or modern as Google's. We enjoy that there are cute animations on the homepage, but everything looks a bit cluttered at the same time. The highlight of the site is probably the music player at the bottom. We also like the Let's Go button placed over the Earth at the top, which brings you directly to Santa's Village.
It's worth exploring Santa's Village throughout December so you can play new games everyday and listen to Christmas songs. However, if you visit the site on Christmas Eve, you'll immediately see a countdown that's superimposed over animated artwork depicting the Earth orbited by satellites. And, of course, mounted at the very top is the North Pole, home of Santa and his little helpers.
NORAD website and app
How NORAD tracks Santa:
It's important to remember that NORAD and Google usually position Father Christmas at different places, and that's because they use different methods to track Santa. It's also because Santa tends to moves so fast that he's hard to pinpoint! Once you spot him in one location, he jumps to the next in an instant. From the web browser, NORAD automatically takes you to a 3D view of where Santa is flying.
At the bottom of that screen, you'll see an estimate of number of gifts delivered. You can also see where Santa was last seen and where he's heading to next. You can click and drag with your mouse to rotate the view, as well as use keyboard buttons in the top right corner to zoom in and out. Furthermore, you could use 2D/3D button in the top left to get a 2D-view of the world.
Camera icons show places where he has been spotted on NORAD's Santa Cam, and when clicked, you'll see video of Santa flying around different landmarks and major cities of the world. To see all the clips that have been recorded, in the NORAD map, you click an icon on the tracker map to see a playlist. Many of these features are also available through the NORAD mobile apps.
What is the Google Santa Tracker and what does it feature?
Google's been tracking Santa since 2004 and updates its annual Santa Tracker because it wants kids checking back every day in the run up to Christmas. Like NORAD, the refreshed tool doubles as a hub of activities. Google also an area called Santa's Village, too, and since 1 December, people have been able to visit the village to play games and learn about holiday traditions around the world.
Google has updated its tracker in recent years to make it easier to navigate. Before, it wasn't clear what was new, but now, there's a clear timeline for each day in December, leading you along a path to Christmas Eve. You can also click the menu button in the top left of the page to see what content is new today. Google's content offering is really, very good. The games are fun and the ability to learn code is cool.
You can even watch Santa prepare for take off on Christmas Eve. But we quite like the Santa Selfie activity, which lets you shave Santa's beard and blow dry it. You can even change its colour to yellow or pink or whatever to help Santa get ready for the big night. On Christmas Eve, both the website and app show a countdown.
So, children who are especially anxious for Christmas to get here now will probably prefer Google's offering (ho ho).
Website and app
How Google tracks Santa:
Similar to NORAD's tracker map, Google's map shows Santa's current location, along with details about his next stop, an estimate of gifts delivered, and his distance from you. Google's map shows places Santa's visits by default, so you can click on that location to learn more about it and see animated videos. You can also see occasional status updates from Santa (sort of like a News Feed).
The app works with Android Wear watches, too, so you could download a Santa Tracker watch face, allowing you to step away from your phone or computer for the night and really enjoy time with family. But, if you don't mind being tethered to a desk, Google also offered a Chrome browser extension. It puts an icon in the top right of your browser to reveal Santa's location at a glance.
The Android app can load Santa's position as well, and it has the ability to Chromecast Santa's location. But the easiest way to find Santa's location is to simply go to Google.com. From there, all you have to do is search for "Santa" to get his current location.