MoPho one-ups Apple’s Cards app with on-demand printing

A new iOS (s aapl) app out this week brings an extended suite of real-world printing options to your iPhone and its photo library. MoPho (iTunes link) is a little like Apple’s own Cards app, but you can print your own mouse pads, mugs, beer steins, t-shirts and more on-demand and have them shipped right to your door.

MoPho lets you either select a photo from your existing picture library, your Facebook, Flickr(s YHOO) or Picasa(s GOOG) albums, or snap a photo in the app, and then preview it on one of their available ready-to-print products. Those include an “HD aluminum art” plaque, two varieties of 11 oz. mugs, a double-sided keychain, a mouse pad, a set of four coasters, a 20 oz. frosted glass stein, a restickable poster, or a t-shirt. MoPho also says it plans on introducing other products, including an iPhone case.

Once you’ve picked your product and cropped or zoomed your photo as desired, you go through a fairly painless checkout process. It involves a few more steps than Apple’s Cards app, since you aren’t going through in-app purchasing to pay for your item, but it’s easier than going to one of those customized gift shops at the mall to have it done.

Penguin Digital, the company behind MoPho, has big plans beyond simply selling direct to consumers. It’s planning an SDK for public launch in around a month’s time, according to Kris Minkstein, who handles business development and marketing for the company. The SDK will allow other appmakers to integrate purchasing of real-world products like those offered in MoPho into their own software, without having to worry about logistics, supply and shipping.

Considering how many photo apps are out there right now doing well, it’s a smart strategy. Imagine being able to order customized physical goods right from within Instagram or Camera+; something tells me more than a few folks would jump at the opportunity.

Right now, MoPho only ships to U.S. and Canadian addresses, but further international expansion is in the works. MoPho is already doing pretty well with customers, apparently, having broken the top 100 for Photo & Video apps in its first day of availability in both Canada and the U.S. The SDK is the real story here, however; it’ll be interesting to see how third-party adoption progresses, and how else we might see on-demand, real-world commerce make its way into the App Store ecosystem.