Hipster: Send a Postcard

There are many ways to share where you are: a phone call, a text message, a Facebook check-in, Foursquare … each of these are available directly from that phone in your pocket, and it’s easy to forget their origins.

One of the oldest ways of sharing where you are (or where you’ve been) is by sending a postcard. These simple cards were nothing more than a picture and whatever you could scribble on the back without completely obscuring the address, and for years they worked just fine.

Postcards have been largely forgotten, and Hipster aims to bring the oldest form of rubbing in the fact that you’re in a cooler place than the recipient into the modern age.

It All Starts with a Photo

The first thing that you’ll want to do with Hipster is get everything set up, but the second thing — and the most important thing — that you’ll want to do is start sending postcards. Hipster uses a custom camera that, unfortunately, leaves a sour first impression; despite the improvements to the default camera with iOS 5 (and my 4S having an A5 chip) the camera used in Hipster feels crazy slow. It looks nice, but is frustrating with its sluggishness, offering a frustrating first experience.

I've seen this screen for entirely too long.

I've seen this screen for entirely too long.

I hope that this is fixed, because it could dissuade someone from using this otherwise awesome app. Everything else works quickly, from posting your card or adding frames and viewing other postcards from your history. I’m confused at this one issue, but I have seen improvements from the 1.0 version of the app, giving me hope for a faster experience in the future.

Once you have your subject captured, you’re ready to customize the card, hopping around the app and enjoying everything that it has to offer.

Customize Your Postcard With a Frame and a Note

Adding a custom frame will be the main draw of the app for many people. Each frame has a unique feel, giving you control over the shot and allowing you to customize your virtual postcard similar to the way filters work with Instagram. I found that there was a nice variety, with the developers even going so far as creating custom frames around Halloween.

It all comes down to the effects.

It all comes down to the effects.

Switching between frames feels very fast, and is non-destructive; each time you adjust a frame you’ll be starting over with a clean slate, so you don’t have to worry about choosing the “wrong” frame early on. With the speed of the app making it easy to cycle through frames I felt encouraged to experiment, a good thing with apps of this kind.

140 characters seems to be the sweet spot for most text-based items.

140 characters seems to be the sweet spot for most text-based items.

The other direct method of changing the postcard is adding a personalized note to the back. I enjoyed doing this as it displays well within the app and also translates well as a comment on the various platforms that Hipster can post to (more on that later). The 140 character limit might be connected to Twitter’s same rule, but I believe that it’s also a lesson in brevity. With something mobile like Hipster, the fewer elements (and words) that you have, the more of an impact you can make.

Location, Location, Location

Since each postcard is meant to share where you are, a key part of this app would have to be a robust location system. Hipster, in my experience, managed to grab my location wherever I was, with access to local restaurants and stores as well as important landmarks and larger chains.

And, let's face it, not being able to let everyone know that I'm eating massive amounts of chicken is horrifying.

And, let's face it, not being able to let everyone know that I'm eating massive amounts of chicken is horrifying.

Let’s say that the app doesn’t find your location right away, though; fortunately, you’re covered. You can choose to look through a list of locations near you, you can add your current location to the list, or you can search for a location that might be tagged to the wrong spot. The one time the app didn’t pick up where I was I went to add the location to the list and found that it was present, just misrepresented.

The map view is actually pretty awesome, and I wish I had more friends (sharing their location)

The map view is actually pretty awesome, and I wish I had more friends (sharing their location)

Beyond that, one feature that I found really interesting was the Map. By viewing this pane you can see your postcards based on location, with a thumbnail of each displayed right over where they were taken. If you add friends to the app you can also view their postcards. It would be nice to be able to view other check-ins from Foursquare or Facebook, but I’m used to being the only person I know using apps like this. Still, the map view is excellent, and I can see it providing a wealth of pictures for someone with the right friends living in the right areas.

Sending a Card to your Friends

Of course, the main point of this app has to do with sharing the cards you create with your friends. Items can be posted to a variety of services, including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr and Flickr. Right there I imagine that most everyone’s favorite social or photo-sharing network would be covered.

I'd share this sort of thing with Twitter, but I've found that people only like me for my witty jokes.

I'd share this sort of thing with Twitter, but I've found that people only like me for my witty jokes.

One interesting thing that would make the service stick out to me is the ability to send a card to a real address, similar to Apple’s recently-released Cards app. I understand that this may not be in the service’s business plan, but it would be interesting to be able to send my grandmother a postcard with the tap of a few buttons using a photo that I had taken and edited.

Conclusion

Given the app’s free nature, I can’t find a strong reason to avoid playing with the possibilities, even if it’s only for a moment. Hipster is another entry in a slew of apps coming out that not only utilize other, more established networks (like Twitter or Facebook) but also add some functionality on top of them.

There are improvements to be made, though. I understand that having a customized camera view adds another layer of immersion to the app, but it feels like performance suffers for a little bit of added immersion. With the recent improvements I believe that Hipster can be as quick (or close to as quick) as the other camera apps.

If you want to share where you are with a photo and a note instead of a simple check-in, or you want to share a photo with multiple networks, Hipster is the best way to do so. Odd name aside, the app does a good job of balancing new technology with a nostalgic root.


Summary

Hipster is an app that allows you to create and send virtual postcards.

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