We used to wait: Apple bringing back the greeting card

Oct 6, 2011
Tech

Has someone at Apple been listening to The Arcade Fire lately? That’s about the only explanation I could come up with after their iPhone 4S announcement included a nod to a new greeting card app that will be released alongside iOS 5 on October 12. I don’t think it’s that strange to suggest there was […]

Has someone at Apple been listening to The Arcade Fire lately?

That’s about the only explanation I could come up with after their iPhone 4S announcement included a nod to a new greeting card app that will be released alongside iOS 5 on October 12.

I don’t think it’s that strange to suggest there was a little musical inspiration behind the app either. It’s hard not to be struck by the opening lyrics to the band’s song “We Used to Wait” off the Grammy-winning 2010 album The Suburbs:

I used to write / I used to write letters, I used to sign my name / I used to sleep at night / Before the flashing lights settled deep in my brain.

Of course, Apple can’t exactly do away with the “flashing lights.” That’s sort of their bread and butter. So instead, they’ve done the next best thing and brought the greeting card into the flashing lights era.

The app works as a digital store for greeting cards. For $2.99 you can design a card and then have it mailed to your destination of choice. When it arrives, you get a notification letting you know. As intriguing of an idea as that is, it’s not entirely new.

Apps like Postagram Postcards and Postcard on the Run already provide that exact service, in fact. Sure, they’re postcards and not greeting cards like Apple is promising, but it also only costs $0.99 a pop to get them in the mail. And really, your friends would be just as surprised to see you had mailed them anything in the first place.

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What’s strange is that Hallmark’s own app doesn’t do this already. Instead, the Hallmark app functions more like a store locator. You can find deals and stores with it but you’re not able to design and send your own cards. That’s a big loss for America’s largest greeting card producer.

Of course, the biggest difference between these apps is that Apple is behind Cards. According to a story at Mashable the greeting card industry within the United States brings in an estimated $7.5 billion in sales each year. It’s a safe bet that Apple putting their considerable muscle behind this new-meets-old tech project should tick that number up a bit higher.

Even with all the greeting card and postcard apps hitting our devices, that might not be enough to help an ailing United States Postal Service, anyway. A 2009 story in The Washington Post notes that the 4 billion mailed cards a year account for about 2 percent of the total mail volume in the United States. While 4 billion is a pretty impressive number, 2 percent certainly is not.

So no, Cards may not solve all of our problems, but as someone who actually does remember mailing out an actual letter or two in my day, it makes for an exciting app idea. Here’s hoping it’s executed with the skill Apple is known for. That would be well worth the wait.

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Dan Kricke

Dan Kricke has been playing with electronics and writing about them for years. He loved his Sega Dreamcast and now the PlayStation 3. On the iPhone, he's a fan of sports apps and anything that offers new music.

 

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