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AmazingMail’s Web-to-Print Engine for iPhone

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For both iPhone users and developers, a new service from Amazing Mail pushes the envelope — quite literally — of what a mobile device is capable of. The on-demand printing company is offering an integration service for iPhone developers, allowing for the creation of applications that are able to send physical postcards or printed photos.

Two applications have already put this feature into production — Postino (free) and PicCard (99 cents). Both offer the ability to print and send physical copies of photographs taken on your iPhone, priced at between 99 cents and $1.99, depending on where you’re shipping to.

AmazingMail’s CEO Chris Lynde notes:

Postino and PicCard are fabulous examples of how developers can generate margins of 100 percent or more with our web-to-print engine. We’ve already seen both of these apps evolve their feature sets in a matter of weeks based on iPhone user feedback.

For iPhone Users

Postino is a good example of how the service can work. You snap a picture with the iPhone camera, select a frame, draw an accompanying message or signature, and enter the address details of the recipient. The app can also send cards via email, if you’d prefer not to pay for the physical service.


For Developers

The ability to easily integrate physical printing with the iPhone allows developers to exploit a new revenue stream, particularly with the recent addition of in-app purchasing to the iPhone software.

Key features of this new web-to-print service include:

  • Print and mail the next business day to any country
  • High quality card printing
  • Automatically standardize recipient addresses for maximum deliverability
  • Easy-to-use HTTP submission method
  • Wide flexibility in terms of the content able to be printed
  • Environmentally friendly mailing options

A range of potential uses present themselves, both for personal use (sending family postcards or photos to friends), and for business. The relatively low cost of shipping is appealing — $1.50 to send a postcard internationally is certainly acceptable. It will be interesting to see how the model is adopted, and how developers look to merge their applications with a physical printing service in coming months.

From a slightly different perspective, the addition of dock connector APIs in the latest iPhone 3.0 software may further the ability to print directly from the iPhone. I wouldn’t be surprised to see accessory manufacturers produce a portable digital photo printer, as so many have already done for digital cameras.

A Step Backwards?

Part of me feels that this is a move back to a traditional postal medium and unlikely to work long term. The very notion of a “postcard” is beginning to feel slightly antiquated in the modern age, when you can upload images and video to services such as Flickr as you travel.

That said, I’ll certainly be taking one of these applications with me on my next trip, and hope to impress a few friends back home with some unconventional postcards. Work colleagues may be comfortable with Flickr and YouTube, but I know for a fact my grandparents will still feel excited to pick up a customized iPhone postcard from the letterbox.

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