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Travelocity, the online travel company, has launched a service which enables travellers to make and send personalised postcards direct from their mobile phones.
The service, developed by the mobile imaging company InAMobile, allows UK camera phone users to take a picture, add a greeting and address and send a physical postcard to any address served by the Royal Mail anywhere in the world.
The service, launched in April, is similar in concept to others already in the market but is significantly easier to use than many of the earlier services.
The traveller takes a picture, adds a message and sends it via the local mobile operator’s picture messaging (MMS) service to firstname.lastname@example.org. They get back a text (SMS) message prompting them to reply with the recipient’s name and postal address, separated by commas.
The system then manufactures a physical postcard and sends it to the designated address by first class post.
The service is easier to use than those of many of its rivals which use a range of approaches.
The first mobile postcard services required the user to add the recipient’s name and address to the original picture message in a specialised format which was rather complicated. Users tended to make mistakes so postcards often failed to arrive.
Most operators have now switched to other methods.
With the O2 service, users send their picture messages to a special number and get back an SMS message that contains a link to a Wap site.
Here they can see a preview of the photo plus a form where they can fill in the recipient’s name and address, a text caption for the photo printed on the front and a personalised message printed on the back.
Vodafone has taken another approach in the service it offers via its Vodafone live! portal.
It pre-installs special software in Vodafone live! handsets which contains an easy-to-use address element.
However, all of these offerings are hampered by their reliance on MMS systems for transmission.
This limits the size of the picture file which the user can send, so restricting the quality of the end product.
While today’s megapixel cameraphones produce picture files of about 300 KB and can be used to produce 6 inch by 4 inch prints of near 35mm quality, few if any of them can send MMS messages greater than about 100 KB because of interoperability problems.
And few if any operators will allow larger files to be sent over their MMS systems.
So the phone needs to compress the image and much of the quality is lost.