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May 10, 2010

Bill Atkinson PhotoCard for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch

Reviewed by David MacNeill

At first glance, the idea of an app that sends digital postcards via email or postal service seems like a non-starter. But Bill Atkinson PhotoCard is so compelling, inexpensive, and just plain fun that I quickly found myself looking for reasons to send cards to everyone I care about.

Bill Atkinson PhotoCard is a universal app optimized for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch that guides you through creating a postcard with photography on the front and text, stickers, and an audio attachment on the back. PhotoCards can be sent to any email address for free or to any postal address for about $2 domestic or $3 international. These custom 8.25" x 5.5" cards are printed on high quality card stock on an HP Indigo digital press, coated on both sides to survive the postal system and sent First Class. Postage is applied electronically and the first card you send from the paid version of PhotoCard is free. Of course, by printing and mailing you lose the audio attachment, though my guess is there is a way to insert a custom audio playback circuit into them in some future version of PhotoCard.

Bill Atkinson is an alumnus of the legendary team that created the original Macintosh computer back in the early 1980s, leaving Apple in 1990 after 12 hyper-productive years. He has since become one of the world's most accomplished nature photographers and has pushed the craft's technical envelope, most notably in the area of extremely high-definition printing. PhotoCard, naturally, comes with a gorgeous collection of his work that you are licensed to use on your PhotoCards. The free "Lite" version comes with 10 of Bill's images while the $4.99 paid version ships with 150. I will not attempt to describe his breathtaking images as it would not do them justice; click over to his web gallery and feast your eyes.

PhotoCard's stickers add a dash of colorful clip art that will appeal to kids of all ages and that beats the heck out of text smileys to add a little expressiveness to your postcards. The paid version contains 350 while the free version offers 15. What I find more appealing is the dialog bubbles that contain embedded audio clips that PhotoCard lets you record on the spot. Imagine taking a photo of a park or restaurant you are visiting and then including a snippet of ambient sound to enhance your recipient's sense of being there.

Laying out your postcard is easy. The app offers a selection of fonts and sizes as well as the ability to crop, rotate, and brighten or darken any photo you capture with PhotoCard or select from your personal photo library. Stickers and dialog bubbles can be placed anywhere you like and they will reposition themselves if you attempt to overlap either the address or stamp areas. To delete one, drag it off the edge of your card.

Commendably, the free version is blissfully free of ads and shares all the features of the full version with the exception of the additional photography, stickers, and free first postal card offer.

PhotoCard works essentially the same on either iPad or iPhone, the iPad version showing off those stunning images on its big screen as well as allowing you to rotate the interface vertically so you can view both sides of your card simultaneously. Navigation could not be easier and the guided help pages are excellent. It's easy to whip up a card in a few minutes and send it off, which is consistent with what postcards have always been: a quick and informal way to tell someone you are thinking about them from wherever life takes you.

Whether PhotoCard's novelty will wear off in time remains to be seen, but I doubt that it will. A PhotoCard is infinitely more fun to send than an email with a photo attached, and there will always be those people who love to receive a beautiful photo in the mail that they can put on their refrigerator, bulletin board, or cubicle wall. In our age of ubiquitous digitization of experience, getting something tangible and beautiful from a friend delivered to your mailbox is all the more enjoyable for its rarity.

~ David MacNeill (personalmediareview@gmail.com)

David MacNeill produces PersonalMediaReview.com, covering the tools and technologies for creating and enjoying media. He is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Digital Camera Magazine, the first all-digital photography magazine, and executive editor of Handheld Computing Magazine and Pen Computing Magazine.

Posted by dtm at May 10, 2010 09:41 PM

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