Ok, reality check. The point-and-shoot camera is dead but we are taking and sharing more pictures online than ever before. On our smartphones and computers we are amassing huge collections of photographs, very few of which will ever leave their virtual home and appear in the physical world as a printed image. And yet, we all love to get a scrapbook, a framed picture, a postcard. There is just something more lasting about holding a picture in your hands than receiving another mindless mass album share via Facebook. Plus, let’s not forget: there are actually people out there who do not stare at a screen 24/7 (often they are called “your grandparents”) but would really appreciate to get the occasional picture update and show it to their friends.
How to you get your pictures on paper? Well, you guessed it: there is an app for that. In fact, many apps. Really, a lot. I know this because we just had twins and had to send out quite a few thank you cards all around the world. Since everybody wants to see baby pictures, I decided to test some of the top postcard apps and send out some smartphone snaps as printed cards.
So just in time for the holiday season, here is my rundown of postcard-printing and delivering apps from least to most favorite. (There are others that let you send out fancy customised greeting cards as well but I’ll keep it simple and just focus on the postcard apps, because really, all people want to see is the picture.)
Note: All apps were tested on iOS, specifically the iPhone. All are free to download.
Available on iOS, Android and Windows Phone, $1.99 per postcard
This app covers the basics: snap a pic or pick a snap from you camera roll, add some style and text, and send it off. That’s the idea behind most of these apps but Postino makes the process less intuitive than it should be. Instead of following a natural flow, every section has to be edited separately which takes a while to figure out. The cards look fine in the end though–that is if you avoid the 1990s Clipart-style frames and borders on offer. In general, this app looks a little bit outdated and urgently needs a facelift.
Cards cost $1.99 a piece, pretty much standard in the field. Unfortunately, somebody couldn’t resist the metaphor, so instead of paying for a postcard you first need to buy a “stamp” in order to send your creation off. Like several other apps, this one tries to address the main issue of smartphone postcards: they are not handwritten and therefore a bit impersonal. What’s the solution? Senders can add their signature via finger drawing. But let’s face it, one barely readable signature doesn’t make the card feel more personal, so the feature is unnecessary. Postino, however, really fails when it comes to address integration. Even though you can access your contacts it somehow doesn’t pull the address of the recipient into the required fields. So start typing away.
Final Verdict: It does the job but it’s clunky and looks outdated.
Available on iOS, $2.79 per postcard
Montager offers something few other apps offer: you can include up to three images on one postcard (a montage, yes). There is no shortage of different layouts and including pictures works seamlessly. The app was originally conceived as a simple photo layout app (like so many others out there) so you can save your creation as a new photo and email it. In fact, they just recently added the option of sending a printed postcard. The process is handled by Sincerely, the Amazon of the postcard/greeting card app world (they also own Postagram and Ink Cards). You will have to set up an account which can be painful and add your credit card information which is standard payment procedure for all apps.
Adding message and address works smoothly and you can even include a “profile picture” of yourself. The card will ring you up at $2.79, one of the highest among all the apps I tested. I’m not sure if it’s worth it. Cramming three pictures on a 4 by 6 card most often just doesn’t look good unless you really put some thought into the composition.
Final Verdict: Good for people who have a hard time deciding which picture to send. But a little bit on the pricey side.
Available on iOS and via Email, $4.99 for five postcards per month, first three for free
Seattle represented! Created by a small developer team from our favorite city, Postcardly is really a web service and an app. It is unique because it essentially converts emails with image attachments into postcards. It seems pretty simple and is a really innovative idea. I didn’t test the email application of Postcardly but just used their iPhone app which also sends postcards. Of all the apps, this one is the most stripped down – just picture, message and address, that’s it. This minimalism might sound good but I ran into several problems: after typing my card and trying to access my contacts, privacy settings had to be changed, deleting all my work in the process. Once I had access to my address book I found out that I still had to type the entire (international) address because the app doesn’t pull in the country field from the address book.
Unlike the other apps, you pay for Postcardly on a monthly plan ($4.99 for five postcards). That’s a good deal if you want to feed Grandma with lots of cards but not if you just send one or two. There is a free trial though and the first three postcards are free.
Final Verdict: The email version is the main show, the app seems a little bit unpolished.
Available on iOS and Android, $0.99 for postcards within US, $1.99 for international delivery
Postagram has been a driving force in this field and was recently acquired by Sincerely, the aspiring online greeting card giant. The original idea was to offer a simple way to turn Instagram pictures into postcards. This DNA is still partly recognizable in the fact that on Postagram all pictures are square. So pick one that fits this dimension is my advice. You can also pull in pictures from Instagram’s big daddy, Facebook and – uniquely – Dropbox. After cropping and scaling you can add your message and profile picture. Postagram cards are special in two ways: they are black and the image is perforated and can be popped out of the card by the recipient. In my experience that’s great for families with kids, they love to pop out that picture.
The app is well-designed and tightly integrated with Facebook. In fact you have to sign in so that Postagram can remind you of upcoming birthdays and more opportunities to send a Postagram. Cards within the US are $0.99, $1.99 for international delivery. Really though, you don’t have to a pay a penny because they offer free cards all the time. The catch: there are ads on the cards and some people are really turned off by that. All in all, I’m aware that they tried hard to create a unique mailing piece called a “Postagram” (as opposed to a postcard) but it doesn’t work out for me: the image is relatively small and the text is on black background.
Final Verdict: Well-crafted app with a unique product. But the star is the product, not the picture.
Available on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, $2.49 for postcards within the US, $2.89 for international delivery
Postcards on the Run is probably the best marketed app in the field which might have something to do with the part-owner Selena Gomez and the founder’s appearance on the ABC show “Shark Tank”. The app also offers the most add-on services. You can not only send postcards, you can also attach a video via QR code and – in slightly weird twist – add a scratch and smell coating to your card. Yes, you heard that right. For 50 cents more your postcard can smell like pine, bubblegum or anything else from a choice of ten scents.
Creating a postcard in this app is easy relatively fast, there are not too many design choices to make. In your message you might want stick to the point – only 200 characters are available. Cost per card is on the higher side, especially since the delivery times seem to be longer than with other apps.
Final Verdict: You’ll be done with your postcard in no time but some of the add-on novelty might wear of quickly.
Available on iOS and Android, $1.99 per postcard
This app is from Sweden and it comes with a good, clean Scandinavian design. It is also the only one with a built-in photo editor which might or might not be necessary. The postcard creation process is very intuitive and smooth. Unlike the other apps, Postify offers a variety of design choices that don’t get into the way. So, if you want to send a card quickly, you can just pick your photo, add a message, pull in your address and be done. But if you want to make it look a little bit nicer – pick a nicer font or polish the image – you can do so.
Postify sends nice, solid, glossy cards and they have different printing locations around the world. Unfortunately, the app doesn’t do the best job telling you when the card might arrive. $1.99 is an average price but they regularly run promotions so there is a good change you can snag one for free.
Final Verdict: Offers tools to make great-looking postcards in a well-designed package.
Available on iOS and Android, $1.49 per postcard
My favorite postcard app is Touchnote. To be honest, Postify and Touchnote are pretty close but in the end a few features make the difference. First, Touchnote seems to have a faster interface with nice animations. Second, it has more space for text. Third, it offers seasonal customization, which can come in handy around Christmas or other celebrations. Finally, cards are only $1.49.
Ok, Touchnote does not have a built-in photo editor but there are about one billion photo editing options available, many of which do a better job than the bare bones editor available in any of the apps in this space. It does not pull in pictures directly from Instagram but I don’t think it’s too much hardship to download an Instagram picture to the camera roll. What it does have is a smooth postcard creation process with a good mix of design options and shortcuts to get the card done in a reasonable timeframe.
Final Verdict: Just enough options to make the card special without slowing you down.