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    The Tip

    Posting an update, the old-fashioned way

    I enjoy the charm of sending and receiving postcards in the mail — the USPS kind of mail. But all of my good intentions are thwarted by laziness. Excuses are plentiful. The store selling postcards doesn’t sell stamps. Once I procure a stamp, I have no idea where to find a mail box, and then there’s the whole business of actually writing something on the back.

    I have no more excuses. I now use apps on my phone that produce actual postcards that arrive by means of snail mail to my friends and family. By choosing my own photos, I can add myself into the scenery (to the chagrin of friends who are tired of seeing my face). And I can send these cards from anywhere in the world, without hunting for stamps.

    I tested three postcard-producing apps. Essentially they work the same way: Choose a photo (or photos) from your phone, write a message that will appear on the back of the postcard, address the card, pay for the card (postage included), and hit send. The card is printed and sent by mail to the recipient. Even though their concepts were similar, the end result was different for each app.

    Postcard on the Run (iPhone, Android)

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    This is perhaps the best known of the phone-to-mail postcard apps. Its founder appeared on the show “Shark Tank” and pop tartlet Selena Gomez invested in the company. But of the three I tested, I found it the least inspiring. The design allows for just one photo and no caption. The only room for creativity is in changing the size and color of the border. The advertising on the back of the card is obtrusive. You can add a scent(!), but no thanks. The app also froze up many times during use. Cost per card (including postage) ranges from $2.49 (inside the United States) to $2.89 (outside).

    Popcarte (iPhone, Android)

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    My favorite feature of this app is that it has built-in templates to give your postcard a theme, and the designs are quite professional. The postcards are beautifully printed in France, but this is the app’s biggest drawback. I sent myself a postcard from Florida, and it arrived in Boston 2½ weeks later. So if you’re not in a rush for your postcard to reach its destination, this app gets my recommendation. Cost per card (including postage) is $1.99.

    Touchnote (iPhone, Android)

    Of the three apps, Touchnote was the only one that allowed me to play with the layout of the card using multiple photos, and the only one that allowed me to write my own caption to accompany the photos. It’s a beautifully designed and easy to use app that strips away unnecessary clutter (such as adding a scent), resulting in a clean, contemporary look. (The card pictured at left was created using Touchnote.) I also like that it automatically places a small map on the back of the card showing where the photo was taken. Cost per card (including postage) is $1.99, less expensive when additional credits are purchased.

    CHRISTOPHER MUTHER

    Christopher Muther can be reached at christopher.muther@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther.