Android Postcard App Review June 4, 2012 at 12:30 am
Summer is here, and that means vacations. And going on vacation means walking past rack after rack of postcards. I have seen some beautiful photography and some horrific photography on display. Friends and family always love a postcard, but filling it out, buying a stamp and finding a mailbox can be a pain. Why not pull out the smart phone and use it to send a photo you took? Before I hit the road this summer, I wanted to find an app that I could rely on for getting cards to my family.
- Have a photo I took with my phone printed at Costco to serve as the image quality baseline.
- Upload and modify same photo using three different postcard apps from the Google Play store.
- Have the postcards sent to me.
- Compare the postcards to each other, and the Costco print.
Here are the possible contenders:
Postdroid starts off odd from the start. In the Play store, it is titled “Postcards, Mugs, Calendars…”, but when you load it on your phone, it is called Postdroid. Weird. Every time you enter the app, you get to see an ugly splash screen. Is there a lot of background work happening every time the app starts? Why is this here?
Once in the app, things go downhill fast. First, you must register to use the app at all. When you register, Postdroid’s servers send you a welcome e-mail with your password in plain text. That is one of the worst security problems I’ve seen in an app.
The user interface is one of the poorest I’ve seen. Looks like something that came from the days when Google’s G1 was the only Android phone in existence. However, you get a pleasant surprise when you go into the image editor. It looks fantastic and has a lot of options. It turns out that the developers are using an editing module from Aviary. This was a great choice. The fun is short-lived, however: The app force closes (that’s Android speak for “it crashed”) when you try to save your edits. I tried several times and it never worked. I relented to just using the raw photo without edits to get through this problem.
Disaster quickly struck again as the app force closed again when I tried to use an address from my address book. I decided to cut my losses here…
- Great image editor
- up to 450 character message, which is the largest of the group
- Several force close issues
- Very amateur user interface
- Have to wait for the splash screen to go away each time you start it
- Password comes in plain text in an email
Touchnote was the next app on my list. It has a very clean and intuitive interface. I was able to get right in and make a postcard. The image editor is very basic. It allows you to zoom, crop and rotate with simple touch controls. That’s it. I find the simplicity is great. If you want to do crazy “hipster” filters or other editing, you can use another app, such as Pixlr-o-matic, and then use that file for your postcard.
Setting a contact, or multiple contacts, to receive the postcard was easy as well. The message field gives you 220 characters to say what you want. All that’s left is a preview. If you like it, enter your payment details, and for $1.49 a card, it’s off.
The postcard took three “post-office” days to get from what appears to be Phoenix, AZ to me in Portland, OR. Pretty quick! The quality of the print was OK; I doubt any grandma or parent would ever complain. But discerning eyes will notice the Touchnote postcard has kind of a “screen” look to it that is absent in the Costco print.
Touchnote adds a map under the “stamp” on the postcard that isn’t shown in the preview before you send it. The picture I used didn’t have any location data saved in it, so it must have used my location at the time I made the postcard. This could cause some confusion if you take a picture in a place where you don’t have a data connection, get on a plane, then send the postcard when you get home. There appear to be no controls to change the behavior of this map.
- Decent quality
- Clean UI
- If you want a one-stop-app, the editing tools are sparse
- No idea how the little map works
You want to get a big picture to Grandma fast? This is your app.
While I’ve never met the developers of Postagram, I’m pretty sure I could tell you how it was created: A couple of marketing guys were having beers when one said how cool Instagram is. The other one said “Totally, I’m going to Tweet about it!” They immediately locked eyes and Postagram was born. You get square pictures, just like Instagram, and your messages are limited to 140 characters, just like Twitter.
The application works well, but it looks like a direct port from a iPhone. They didn’t do much to make it work like an Android app. My biggest gripe is that the app scans your phone for photos every time you launch the app. The first time I started, that took over 60 seconds. Later starts took around 10 seconds. They also allow you to use your gallery application, so I’m not sure why they go through this process.
Image editing is very limited, just zooming and cropping. You can access all of your Instagram pictures, or images from any other editing/filtering apps via the standard Android Gallery.
A nice touch is the addition of a personal avatar. This is a little picture you can make of yourself, so when you send that awesome sunset picture, the recipient will be able to actually see who sent it.
Postagram is the most limited of the bunch when creating a message. Only 140 characters to get your poetry across.
Enter some credit card info, pay $0.99, and the card is off!
This postcard took five “post-office” days to get to me, two longer than the Touchnote card. Interestingly, it appears as if this also came from Phoenix. Also interesting is that the print quality looks almost the same as the Touchnote card. They are slightly different sizes, but it is very possible they both use the same printer.
The square picture is perforated, so the picture can easily pop out of the postcard and be posted on your grandma’s refrigerator. The message is printed to the left of the picture so it can be read while looking at the picture, and it is also on the back of the picture so it’s still there after the picture gets popped out. Nice touch.
One oddity is a QR code that the recipient can scan that will notify the sender that they have received the postcard. While cool, in theory, are you going to send postcards to people who have the ability to scan QR codes? Those people will have already seen your pictures on Instagram or Facebook. While it would be awesome if my grandma started whipping out a smart phone, it just isn’t going to happen.
- Cheapest option
- “Hippest” looking postcard
- Cool avatar image of sender
- Slower delivery than Touchnote
- Only 140 characters for the message
- Slow start-up due to picture loading
- Won’t allow returns in the message
If you can’t remember the last time you shared a picture that wasn’t square, this is your app. Even if not, the low price and “hipster” feel might work for you.
It’s easy to say stay away from Postdroid. As for the other two, it’s more of a personal preference. If speed trumps all, then Touchnote is the way to go. If you need to pinch pennies, then Postagram. Other than that, it comes down to preference. Do you want a big 4×6 (inch) picture, or the now-cool, but smaller, square format? Either app will more than likely put a smile on whoever is opening the mailbox!