In the olden days, you drove to the pharmacy or, if you were so lucky, Hallmark store, searched through hundreds of holiday cards, beholden to whichever cards made you cringe the least and that you could match envelops to, drove home, filled them out, then drove to the post office to send them on their way. Now, thanks to folks cleverer than you, all it takes to send some holiday cheer is a few taps on your iPhone or iPad. There are some apps that even mail cards for you, so you never have to bother looking for stamps again. Here's a look at some of the better ones out there, which send cards electronically or the old-fashioned way -- snailmail -- categorized by the type of sender they'll suit the most.
For the letter writer
Blue Mountain Cost: Free to download Compatible with: iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later The Gist: Create stationery using one of ten designs, personalizing it with your own photos and font, then send via e-mail or Facebook. The Good: The designs are fairly elegant as far as holiday images go -- almost arty. The Bad: Blue Mountain can't resist the advertising opportunity, attaching an ad with each card. And with a paltry ten designs, that's puny compared to other apps (see below).
For the sender without a lot of time on his hands
eCard Express Cost: $1.99 to download Compatible with: iPad. Requires iOS 3.2 or later The Gist: Customize cards from more than 200 designs, personalizing via a simple interface in "as little as five taps," then send via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter or MMS. The Good: The interface is pretty intuitive, and lets you send out greetings fairly easily and quickly. The Bad: The clip art's pretty cheesy -- which is why people are prompted to customize their own cards in the first place.
For the Apple loyalist
Cards Cost: Free to download, $2.99 to mail 4X6 letterpress cards in the United States, $4.99 anywhere else, plus tax Compatible with: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 5.0 or later The Gist: Create your own cards, personalizing with your own text and photos, then send them off without hunting down a mailbox. Cards arrive in five to seven business days in the United States. The Good: There are multiple language options available, and it's compatible with lots of features on the devices, such as Contacts and Photos. The Bad: There's still many kinks to work out. Users lament the lack of mail merge, lack of portrait views, limited occasions available and the fact that iTunes doesn't bundle the charges if you're buying more than one card (like, say, 37). And, at 21 designs, it's pretty limited compared to other apps.
For the person doing this at the last minute
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Sincerely Ink Cost: Free to download; starting at $1.99 to print and mail 5x7 postcards in the U.S., including postage, $2.99 anywhere else in the world (discounts are available for those buying in bulk) Compatible with: iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later. Also available for the Android The Gist: Choose from more than 30 designs, personalize with a photo and then mail. The Good: Delivery can be in as little as three days, and it's guaranteed -- if your card gets lost, you can send another free of charge. The Bad: Only postcards are available -- as opposed to cards -- and rightdesigns are limited compared to other apps.
For the app that does everything except decorate the tree and bake some cookies
Red Stamp Cost: Free to download; premium designs starting at $0.99; printing and mailing range from 49 cents to $1.99/card, 29 cents postage included Compatible with: iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 4.2 or later. The Gist: Personalize cards, notes and invitations from more than 400 (!) modern designs, then print on "high-end, eco-friendly" paper and mail. E-mailing, texting and posting on Facebook and Twitter are also available. The Good: For those sending lots of cards, you can integrate your device's contacts. Plus the designs are pretty stylish. The Bad: No Grinch here, this one's pretty solid, though only postcards are available to mail with this one as well.