In this age of sharing images via email, social media and text messages, one form of photo communication has sadly been left behind. It is something we all used to look forward to getting from anyone who was traveling. I’m speaking of the humble postcard.

Be it a trip as mundane as a work conference in Kansas City or as exotic as a trek through the Amazon rainforest, getting a postcard in the mail was something that we all looked forward to from friends and family. Even today, if I want to make my grandmother happy, sending even the cheesiest of postcards will bring a smile and a thank you. Perhaps more surprisingly, my kids go completely nuts when someone sends them a postcard. At 6 and 8, they both already have email addresses, but the postcards all go right up on the wall above their beds.

But what if we could merge the old-school and the new-school? What if, instead of relying on the spinning metal rack of cards at a roadside diner or airport giftshop, you could easily send a postcard of an image you took yourself? Through the magic of smartphone apps, doing so is far easier than you might expect.

Putting them to the test

I tried out five different postcard apps on an iPhone 5s: Touchnote, Postcard, Ink, Postagram and Snapshot Postcard. All of the apps are free and charge only for sending cards. I sent myself three postcards from each app using the same three images. One of the images was taken with a DSLR and another with a Micro Four Thirds camera, then transferred to my iPhone. The third image was a photo taken with the iPhone’s rear-facing camera. The data regarding pricing was reported by the app companies themselves. I did my best to make it clear what the costs would be for both US and International users. If the company reported specific non-US pricing, it is listed. But if they did not, pricing will be in whatever your local exchange rate is from USD.

Touchnote
www.touchnote.com

Cost: $2.99/£2.99/€2.99
Usable worldwide: Yes
Cardstock: 110 lb glossy
Android/iOS: Both
Additional products: Greeting cards

As with all of these apps, Touchnote has iOS and Android versions. What is unique is that it also has a web interface so you can order while at your desk. This is actually surprisingly handy if you intend to send non-phone images regularly. Full-bleed, white border, square or 1-6 multi image layouts are available. Images can be cropped, zoomed and rotated within the app. In addition to traditional messages on the back of the postcard, Touchnote allows you to add up to a 33 character caption on the front side as well. There is a confirmation email after you send a card and you can see (as well as copy for future use) all of your past sent cards in a nice timeline view.

Postcard by PrintMe
www.printmeapp.com/card

Cost: $2.99/£1.79/€2.49
Usable worldwide: Yes
Cardstock: 300 gr/qm (aprox 110 lb) luster
Android/iOS: Both
Additional products: Greeting cards, photo books, calendars

Postcard by PrintMe aims to be more of a 'photo products' app than the others in this article. That said, its postcard options are plenty strong on their own. Full-bleed, white border, and multi-image layouts are available, as well as many 'occasion/holiday' designs. The image can be zoomed and cropped, but not rotated.

Rare in these apps is Postcard’s ability to change the font for your message on the back. Sadly, there is no drop-down list, you just have to keep pressing the 'font' button over and over. Still, it is one of the only apps that give you any font option at all. Much cooler is the 'signature' box option which allows you to sign your name on-screen and have it print on the card. Finally, though I did not test it, Postcard offers the option to pick up folded greeting cards, but not postcards, next-day at Walgreens locations.

Postagram
www.sincerely.com/postagram

Cost: $0.99 domestic $1.99 international
Usable worldwide: Yes
Cardstock: 12 pt (approx 92 lb) with thick glossy laminate
Android/iOS: Both
Additional products: None

Looking to differentiate itself from the other apps out there, Postagram is unique both because it is designed around a, presumably, Instagram-inspired square image layout, and also because that square image comes pre-perforated and ready to pop out in a sort of trading-card style. Your message is printed on both the back of the image 'card' and on the front side as well. In a nice touch, you can choose a secondary 0.75 inch x 0.75 inch 'avatar' style secondary image to appear in the corner. Which is neat for including an image of yourself along with your landscape image from a trip somewhere, for example. Currently the non-image area of the Postagram cards are black. However, an upcoming app update will offer more colorful options.

Both Ink (described below) and Postagram are from the same company, so if you have set up an account on one, it will work on the other. They apps are also virtually identical in design and features, with the few small differences owing mostly to the differing focus of each product. There are some basic Instagram-style image filters available as well as the ability to zoom and crop. Rotating your image does not seem to be an option. To make sending multiple cards faster, you can copy a past card and update the address/message. There is a clever payment option that allows you to take a photo of your credit card instead of entering in the numbers manually. Both apps are very good with order-received/card-sent confirmations. I will say that unless you turn them off, they are both a little heavy on the marketing notifications ('It’s a week until Mother’s Day!' etc).

Ink
www.sincerely.com/ink

Cost: $1.99 within the USA, $2.99 International, $2.99 extra for “Premium” option
Usable worldwide: Yes
Cardstock: 12 pt (approx 92 lb) with thick glossy laminate, Premium cards are 120lb with eggshell finish
Android/iOS: Both
Additional products: None

Ink is designed as more of a greeting-card style postcard app, with many pre-formatted designs for various holidays and occasions that you can add your image to. But they also offer standard postcard options as well as full-bleed, white border or multi-image layouts. Ink postcards are the largest of any tested here, at 5x7 (vs roughly 4x6 for the others). They also offer an upgraded “Premium” card that is printed on heavier matte cardstock and comes in an embossed envelope with a real stamp.

SnapShot Postcard
www.snapshotpostcard.com

Cost: $1.99 domestic $2.99 international (first card is free from anywhere)
Usable worldwide:  Yes
Cardstock: 110 lb glossy
Android/iOS: Both
Additional products: None (though they do have a greeting card app, SnapShot Greeting Card, as well)

SnapShot Postcard is the only one of the apps that offers a quick 'getting started' video as part of its signup flow. While none of these apps are what I would call confusing for anyone who is used to mobile apps, a quick video walkthrough is pretty handy for those who aren’t as tech savvy. Another area where SnapShot Postcard is ahead of the others is that you can send your first card free. Trying a product before you buy is always a nice thing. While user interface is not particularly fancy, all the basics are there in the app. You can set a return address, place a caption on the front, and crop/zoom/rotate (with a handy 'shake to reset' function). You can choose borders or full bleed for your images. The borders are fairly cheesy and there isn’t any 'white' border option, so full-bleed is going to be your best bet. You are asked if you would like to send the same card again to a different address, handy for vacation or family photos where you might send the same card to many people. There is a nice order history, but you cannot copy old cards.