Cards: Apple’s Warning to Hallmark

When the iPhone 4S was announced, Apple also introduced quite a few other products including Cards, which made everyone tilt their heads slightly to the left and say, “Huh?” It didn’t make a lot of sense to most people, but to me, I got it. I tweeted this right away:

New Cards app for iOS. My mother will buy this today, guaranteed. Make your own greeting cards on your iPhone.

Apple has sold greetings cards for a long time now through iPhoto, but this will take it up to the next step. Get ready to see lots of Apple cards in your mail this holiday season.


As I write this, I’m sitting in front of a cabinet located across from the dining room table. Inside said cabinet are a stack of Thank You cards, blank, that have the same colors as my wedding three years ago. My wife says she’s bad at sending out cards of any type, and those wedding cards are proof of it (although admittedly, I’m accountable for that error as well). With Cards for the iPhone, I think we may stop that trend in its tracks.

Select from a few different subjects, then different card types.

Select from a few different subjects, then different card types.

We’re told from a young age that we should send out cards to celebrate various occasions, but more often than not, we forget to do it. It’s not that we’re bad people, it’s just that sometimes life gets in the way and we get busy. Running to the store to spend 20 minutes picking out that perfect sentiment on paper can be a bit tricky, and forget all the hassle of buying stamps and getting it mailed. We’ll just send them a quick email to say thanks instead.

Some cards allow you to upload or take your own photos.

Some cards allow you to upload or take your own photos.

Cards streamlines the entire process. Pick out your card, customize it to your liking, fill out the address and pay for it via your iTunes account. For a little over $3 with tax, you can send a fully custom card to your friend or relative, and you don’t have to even visit a Hallmark store.

How It Works

None of this would matter if it was a pain to make those cards, so Apple has made it easy. There are six different categories to choose from, and inside each category are various templates. Maybe you just want to write a quick note and don’t want to deal with adding a picture, or possibly you want to customize the image with a shot taken right at that moment to enshrine the situation. Pick your poison and procede.

Upload your own image from your iPhone or take one on the spot. Then edit it in the app.

Upload your own image from your iPhone or take one on the spot. Then edit it in the app.

Once the image is sized and placed to your liking, then it’s time to edit the text which is just a touch away. Tap on the text to call up the keyboard, then enter whatever you like.

Text entry is pretty straightforward.

Text entry is pretty straightforward.

Moving to the Inside

Once you’re done with the cover, tap on one of the remaining two options on the top of the screen, Inside or Envelope. For the inside, just enter in whatever you want and move on to the envelope. The app automatically fills out your information, and then you can pull a contact from your Address Book or just type it in manually, whatever you prefer.

The card opens up so you can enter your text to the inside.

The card opens up so you can enter your text to the inside.

Enter your own address or pull it out of the Address Book.

Enter your own address or pull it out of the Address Book.

With that, it’s time to buy your card, and that’s pretty easy. Click on the $2.99 price tag in the upper right corner, confirm and enter your iTunes password to get the sale moving.

From here, the info goes to Apple where they print the card themselves and ship it off, all for the $2.99 price tag.

The Results

It took a few days to get things printed up and sent off, but a few days later my mother got a card in the mail that looked exactly like the one I had seen previewed just a few days before on my iPhone. When I opened it up, the card looked like this:

The card in real life.

The card in real life.

These are letterpressed cards, which means they have cool grooves in the paper for the artwork. Originally I thought this meant that the text itself was also embossed, but it turns out that it’s not. Instead, all of the designs are letterpress, but the text and image are just printed on the card.

That’s not to say that it doesn’t look good, because it looks pretty amazing. The text was a little gray instead of the sharp black I expected, but not so much that it made me mad. It almost matched the muted colors of the card template that I chose, so I wasn’t quite sure if it was accurate or not.

Custom text on your custom card.

Custom text on your custom card.

Overall, I was very impressed with the card itself. It’s on thick stock, pressed nicely, and just looks amazing. In another interesting twist, there is no identification on the card anywhere that says it was made by Apple. My wife and I have one of the iPhoto books, and that has Apple branding all over the place. I can’t say that I’m surprised that there’s no branding, but I do think it’s an interesting decision to make.

Final Verdict

I’m not a card guy. I don’t buy them for people very often, and when I do, I don’t tend to spend days or weeks working on them. Cards makes it easy for me to make a card and send it out quickly, taking all the hassle out of picking the card in the first place, and making it a very simple process. That’s what I want in a card, because as a guy, I just don’t want to waste my time finding that perfect sentiment in the aisles of my local Target. Why not just create something myself and really express how I feel?

My mother loves it as well, and I expect to get quite a few cards from her in the coming months. Most of them, I suspect, will star her grandson.

As for you, the question goes like this: Do you need to send greeting cards frequently? And if so, do you want custom ones or do you prefer the process of picking them out? Let us know in the comments.


Produce and make your own greeting cards on the iPhone, then send them out yourself.

  • Tim

    I understand where you’re coming from, but as a recipient I don’t care for the idea. I get these cards every Christmas, a family gathered in front of the Grand Canyon or whatever. “Look how much he’s grown…” etc. etc. Then the card goes back in the envelope and put in a stack.

    However, the cards that have beautiful artwork on them I put out on the table or shelf to see. It’s not a wasted piece of paper at that point and is something I enjoy for a couple of weeks.

    If someone is going to send me a picture of themselves for Christmas, I’d rather it be tucked in the card, that way if they are truly special to me I can do something with it later, frame it perhaps.

    $3 seems also pretty expensive when you can run down to the card store and buy a card for 99 cents.

  • Anti-Tim

    You’ve got to be kidding me Tim. On no planet can you buy “a card with beautiful artwork” for .99 let alone $3 and have it cover postage. I’d rather see something original from the people I love than some stupid rubber-stamped message written in Hong Kong. You’re out of your mind. These things are awesome. I’ve received one and I loved it.

  • Bill Dalzell

    Just used Cards for the first time today to send a birthday card to my mother. She is turning 90 and doesn’t have a computer or email, so having a card delivered by the postman is natural for her. For us, being able to create a card with a picture of my wife and me on our Grand Canyon raft trip and customize the text, all done on the iPhone, is natural to us. Additionally, 4.99 plus tax to avoid the hassle of special Canadian postage and running around town is a good deal to me.

  • iynque

    Did I miss the warning to Hallmark? I was hoping to read about some spicy legal tangle between the two companies. :(

    I’m a little put off by the conclusion, which states that the Cards app is a good solution to the problem of expressing yourself to people you care about. If you don’t find a card to be appropriate, don’t send one. I would hate to think I’m that much of a burden to someone that they are desperately searching for way to make the relationship cheap and easy.

    I’ll also call into question the “as a guy,” reasoning. You could say, “as an emotionally stunted guy,” or “as an inconsiderate guy.” I’m not some kind of faggy imposter just because I’m capable of choosing a card at Hallmark.

    Er… ahem… Nice article! I’m pretty excited about the easy, inexpensive cards I’ll be sending out, complete with my own photography! It’s just in time too, having just moved 700 miles away from friends and family.

  • Brian

    It’s a cool app. The only bummer is you can’t sign it. Dead text is a bit impersonal for loved ones even if you can add a photo.

  • Kennedy

    Hmm. Not a bad idea, and nicely done… but I agree 100% with Brian. The lack of a HANDWRITTEN, personal message inside, or even a human signature, kills it for me. We’ve been seeing mass-produced, custom photo greeting cards for years, so the novelty of something that looks like a “proper” greeting card but has a personal photo is… well, there is no novelty anymore. But at least most of those receive a handwritten signature at the very least. Honestly, I’d rather receive a handwritten post-it note than an unsigned one of these.

  • Joseph Awad

    I have been waiting for this for a long time. When can we access this from the desktop. How about a service for regular mail. The Post Office has missed a big opportunity to keep their business up.

  • Sharon Chapman

    Very good post Kevin and the baby is beautiful! I love pretty much all things Apple and this is no exception. However, I have been sending cards for a few years from a company that innovated sending cards from your desktop (or iphone app), Send Out Cards, and you can choose many fonts including your own handwriting, all for less than half the cost of the Apple Cards. Apple so far has only a small number of options but Send Out Cards has thousands to choose from and an amazing program to create your own with templates or you can make them from scratch from your own pictures. You can also include gifts, books or gift cards. I do not want to spam your thread so if anyone is interested in more info just reply to me and I can give you a link for a 3 minute video.

  • Harry

    My only complaint is that you can’t time the arrival date to coincide with a birthday or similar celebration. If we could designate a day for the card to be actually mailed, that would be a big improvement.

  • NL

    I think it’s a great business idea. I’ve seen the quality of the cards and for those middle of the road clients, not too high end, but not sporadic, I find this idea to be a time saver while still retaining some personality. I agree that the Mac version is a bit expensive compared to the iPhone version and that both of them tend to be a little high for 5×7 cards. However, all I have to do is point and click to my goal, and that…is priceless. I think I’ll be weighing the cost of this vs the traditional boxed sets this year and see how it works for me.

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