Once in a while, an app comes along that’s so cool and does what it does so well that John Gruber writes about it on Daring Fireball. Usually, he knows what’s good. One of his more recent picks was Photolettering. The iPhone-exclusive app is really simple: Take a picture or use one of the shots in your library and touch it up with some great typography and a couple simple filters.
Keep It Simple, StupidPhotolettering has an interface that’s just plain simple. A question mark hovers on the top left of the screen at nearly all times in case you have any problems figuring things out, but trust me when I tell you that you won’t. The app is so easy to use that my own mother wouldn’t have problems with it, which is a compliment to the designers.
- Step one: Take a picture.
- Step two: Add your text, choose a font, pick a colour and move it around.
Breaking Your Bank in the AppThere’s another issue at hand, though. At the time of this writing, three fonts come with the app. They’re pretty versatile ones, and I think most people would be able to get by with them the majority of the time. That’s a loaded sentence, so let me break that down and put it as simply as possible: anybody who’s geeky enough to want this app based on the developer’s street cred is going to want more of the fonts sooner or later. There are twenty-one in the app, and they come at a hefty $0.99 each, or $10 for the whole package.
- Step three: Let’s get some image filters going!
And we’re done!One of my colleagues suggested Over as an alternative, but Over comes at an entry cost of a couple dollars and still offers a limited selection of fonts (although they admittedly offer more through in-app purchases than Photolettering). I haven’t had the opportunity to play with Over, but I haven’t heard the same raving reviews of their typefaces as I have Photolettering’s (and I’m also not positive that Over allows you to send postcards). From the designer’s perspective, Photolettering is a dream — but most people don’t care about the designer’s prospective. I would recommend weighing your options before investing into either app.
This is the catch.Obviously, Photolettering is great for travellers. If you’re out of the country, sending a postcard with “Wish You Were Here” written on it in gorgeous lettering with a fantastic picture you took yourself is a one-of-a-kind gift idea. Beyond that though, I’m not sure there’s much of a use for the app. I’m not an Instagram user; I feel it’s one social network too many for my liking, and I like the idea of using this as an Instagram replacement of sorts. But there just aren’t that many filters. Photolettering features four filters, which is frankly not enough for any Instagram (or even Flickr) junkie.
The Bottom Line
Photolettering is really good at what it does. Simply put, this app is drop-dead simple to use. But it’s not necessarily something I think you need to whip out your iPhone for and download right away. It suits a niche. It has a lot of limitations and a lot of in-app compromises. Every design decision is a compromise, and these are the ones the developer chose to make. Most of them keep the app as simple as possible. I can’t stress how easy this is to use. But that doesn’t mean that the purchasable fonts in the app, despite their beauty, are going to be worth your hard-earned cash. This is an app for geeks. It’s a beautiful app, but it serves a niche. If Photolettering fits that niche in your life, I’d recommend it for its sheer simplicity alone.