From Your iPhone, With Love: Thank You Pen Does What Cards App Can’t [Feature]

From Your iPhone, With Love: Thank You Pen Does What Cards App Can’t [Feature]

Say hello to Thank You Pen.

A warehouse nestled in the heart of Louisville, Kentucky is home to hundreds of unnamed machines. Each white box gently wields a robotic arm that grips a normal-looking pen. As I walkdown the aisles separating the machines, disjointed sounds of clicks and squeaks fill the air. I’m in the home of Thank You Pen, a new startup that aims to blend technology with good, old-fashioned, dead-tree communication. “And while the service’s creator modestly says he can’t compete with Apple, Thank You Pen is doing what Cards can’t: putting love, care and soul into every card sent.”

From Your iPhone, With Love: Thank You Pen Does What Cards App Can’t [Feature]

Rows of white boxes replace humans by churning out handwritten messages.

With the Thank You Pen iPhone app, anyone can order a custom card to be delivered by the United States Postal Service. The catch is that each card looks like it was written by hand. Christopher Davis, the main guy behind the app, has been working on Thank You Pen for several months, and the app received a major update in the App Store last weekend.

From Your iPhone, With Love: Thank You Pen Does What Cards App Can’t [Feature]

“As technology progresses, I believe people still want a personal connection,” remarked Davis. “People like receiving mail, but people don’t like sending mail because the process sucks.”

“The idea for Thank You Pen was to take something that people were already doing, but hated doing, and make it cheaper and faster. We also want to make it super personal. Having the handwritten look makes all the difference. All of a sudden it’s über-personal, and you’ve done it in under a minute from your iPhone.”

From Your iPhone, With Love: Thank You Pen Does What Cards App Can’t [Feature]

Selecting a card with Thank You Pen.

Thank You Pen is free in the App Store. Once you download the app, you can choose from 5 different categories of cards: Birthday. Get Well, Romance, Thank You, and Thinking of You. Each category has 6 card designs to choose from. Like Apple’s Cards app, Thank You Pen cares about good design. What I like about Thank You Pen is that there are multiple card designs that look way more distinctive than anything Apple would make.

From Your iPhone, With Love: Thank You Pen Does What Cards App Can’t [Feature]

Made with a machine.

Unlike similar apps, the cards Thank You Pen makes look completely handwritten. Davis showed me a card up close and I would never have been able to guess that it was made by a machine. You can order a free sample card yourself and see; it really does look like someone took the time to sit there and write the card. That’s the magic.

“We live in a day and age where things are based off speed and convenience,” said Davis. “If it’s easy to do it and it doesn’t take a lot of time, then we’ll do it. Even if it’s a little more expensive than the alternative, we’ll do it. And it’s all because it’s easy and it’s quick.”

Thank You Pen has plenty of competition. Apple got in the card-making game when it released its Cards iPhone-only app in October of 2011 at the iPhone 4S media event. The app lets you choose a card on your iPhone, add a short message and photos from your Camera Roll, enter shipping info, and pay for the card with your Apple ID. Individual cards cost $3 to ship in the U.S. and $5 for international addresses.

From Your iPhone, With Love: Thank You Pen Does What Cards App Can’t [Feature]

Ordering a card with Thank You Pen.

Thank You Pen will ship first class in the U.S. for $2, and international shipping is planned for the next version.

From Your iPhone, With Love: Thank You Pen Does What Cards App Can’t [Feature]

This machine has written its fair share.

“I’m not so worried about Cards, because I just can’t compete with Apple,” said Davis as we stopped to look at one of the patented writing machines Thank You Pen uses to fill orders. “They have more money and resources than I’ll ever have. I just have to be great at what I do.”

From Your iPhone, With Love: Thank You Pen Does What Cards App Can’t [Feature]

Thank You Pen lets you add gift cards to your card order.

There are also 5 or 6 other apps in the App Store that are doing card deliveries already, but none of them match Thank You Pen’s level of personal charm. Any card or postcard app puts out computer-generated text. Thank You Pen adds a touch of humanity. When you’re ordering a card, you can choose to have to written in male or female font. Davis plans to eventually let business submit custom fonts, but custom fonts for everyone isn’t on the table right now. When it comes to developing Thank You Pen, Davis wants to keep simplicity at the forefront.

“You look at some of the other options in the App Store and they give you like 60 cards to choose from,” said Davis. “I want to offer 6 to 8 designs at the most. The whole idea is to make it fast. And if you have to think about what kind of card you want to send for a long time, that defeats the purpose. But I do have a lot of extra designs I can filter in and use to replace other cards.”

From Your iPhone, With Love: Thank You Pen Does What Cards App Can’t [Feature]

Where the Thank You Pen operation sorts its outgoing mail.

A huge Thank You Pen update will be dropping in a couple months. Davis is planning an iPad version and completely revamped workflow on the iPhone. Facebook and Instagram integration for adding photos to cards is coming, and there will be a public API for allowing other apps to integrate with Thank You Pen. Another universal app for sending postcards with photos from a Camera Roll on glossy stock paper is also in the works.

From Your iPhone, With Love: Thank You Pen Does What Cards App Can’t [Feature]

Making a card.

In the meanwhile, check out Thank You Pen in the App Store. Send a card to your mom and remind her that you love her.

  • davester13

    Really?  A fake personal message?

    Why not, you know, actually take the time to write a personal message?
    Or do people really know a lot of people enough that the receive expects a personal message, but the sender couldn’t really be bothered to do so.
  • Timothy Williamson

    I think it’s a cool idea, you don’t have to find a card, envelope, postage, and put it in the mail, all you have to do is start up the app, choose the card, and write your message.

  • RilesPro

    Love this, thanks. Downloading app

  • joesforza

    why can’t you purchase as an ‘in app purchase’ ?????

  • Christopher Davis

    Hey guys! First of all, a HUGE thanks for my friend, Alex for writing this article! We’re super excited to finally be up and running, and can’t wait to see what the future holds. 

    @davester13 

    Really?  A fake personal message?

    Why not, you know, actually take the time to write a personal message?
    Or do people really know a lot of people enough that the receive expects a personal message, but the sender couldn’t really be bothered to do so.

    That’s a great question! We love sending cards… but we hate the process that it takes to see it through! It just takes so long… and it’s costly too. We hated the fact that the process mostly deterred us from sending cards. That’s why we built Thank You Pen! For those who want to use it, it’s the fastest way to send a card, while still maintaining the personal touch that is so often lacking in our digital world. We even ship everything First Class, just to make sure that it arrives quickly and safely. 

    @joesforza:

    why can’t you purchase as an ‘in app purchase’

    You have a heart after my own, my friend. This is something we’ve been trying to accomplish for a while now… Sadly, Apple will not allow anyone to sell a tangible product through in-app! Wild! 
    Thanks, everyone! Hope that helps some! 
    Christopher Davis
    Czar of Product Development
    Thank You Pen

About the author

Alex HeathAlex Heath is a staff writer at Cult of Mac and co-host of the CultCast. He has been quoted by the likes of the BBC, KRON 4 News, and books like "ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation." If you want to pitch a story, share a tip, or just get in touch, additional contact information is available on his personal site. Twitter always works too.

(sorry, you need Javascript to see this e-mail address)| Read more posts by .

Posted in Featured stories, News, Top stories | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , |