How to send greeting cards right from your iPhone

Apple may have discontinued its Cards app, but there are other ways to turn your snapshots into printed, stamped, and mailed greetings.

CleverCards integrates with Facebook so you can quickly see whose birthdays are approaching -- and send them cards, of course.
CleverCards integrates with Facebook so you can quickly see whose birthdays are approaching -- and send them cards, of course. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Until recently, I was a fairly regular customer of Apple's Cards app, which allowed me to choose any photo in my Camera Roll, add it to a greeting card for just about any occasion, write a personalized message, and get it printed and mailed to the recipient(s) of my choice -- all for just a few bucks.

Convenience, thy name is Cards.

Or so it was, until Apple quietly and unceremoniously pulled the plug back in September . I'm bummed, because the app helped me out of many a last-minute oh-crap-I-forgot-so-and-so's-birthday jam.

Thankfully, there are alternatives. Apps like CleverCards, Ink Cards, and JustWink Greeting Cards give you Cards-like options for creating and mailing real-world greetings, and often with a lot more selection than Apple's app ever offered. Here's a rundown of worthwhile picks:

CleverCards: Designed to send both real and digital cards, CleverCards requires you to sign in via Facebook or create an account before you can even use it. If that's a turn-off, read on -- the other two apps don't force you through that hoop.

However, if you're willing to link CleverCards with your Facebook account, you'll find it clever indeed: The app shows your friends' upcoming birthdays, complete with profile photos of each person for easy perusal. Tap a person, choose a card, and you're off to the races.

Ink Cards.
Ink Cards. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

You can also create a new card for any of the usual occasions (graduation, inspiration, and so on) and send cards to people who aren't Facebook friends. CleverCards charges $2.99 and up for printed, mailed cards, but also allows you to send unlimited digital versions free of charge.

Ink Cards: This app offers a fairly mammoth selection of cards across a wide range of categories, but they're not greeting cards in the traditional sense. Rather, they're customized postcards, with a message and/or photo on the front side and optional secondary message (and mailing address, natch) on the back.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, and indeed Ink Cards is the cheapskate's choice at just $1.99 per printed, mailed card. (I suppose it's also the environmentalist's choice, as there's no envelope headed to a landfill.) Each one comes on heavy, glossy, 5x7-inch stock. And after you send your first card, your second one is free.

JustWink Greeting Cards: Here's an app for customizing actual greeting cards from the folks at American Greetings. Interestingly, the selection is somewhat seasonal: right now you can order Thanksgiving and Hanukkah cards, but there's nothing yet for Christmas, Valentine's Day, etc.

JustWink Greeting Cards.
JustWink Greeting Cards. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

JustWink also has traditional categories like Birthday, Thanks, and Congrats, along with some nontraditional ones: LGBT; Thnx, Soldier!; and Sh*t Got Real.

Whatever category you choose, browsing is admirably simple: Just tap a card, then swipe it open to read the inside. Once you've made your selection, you can add a photo, a personalized message, and even a handwritten signature -- a great touch. Physical cards cost $2.99 to print and mail. You can also send digital cards via e-mail, Facebook, or even text message if you're really trying to get in under the wire.

Of course, you can always take a more creative approach to your mailed greetings. For example, I recently sent someone a batch of Polaroid-style snapshots courtesy of Printic , with a birthday greeting portioned out across the caption area of each picture. The total cost was about the same as a card, and the photos are better suited to refrigerator mounting and other more permanent homes.

If you've found a greeting-card app or solution you like better, talk it up in the comments.

 

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