It’s about that time of year again. The holidays mean receiving those homemade cards of all the family dressed in their best sweaters, including the family dog. Every December I receive those family photo cards from extended family, cousins, recently married friends and everyone in between. Some are really corny, while others aren’t half as bad. Nonetheless, it’s a tradition that will probably never die out. When did this time-honored tradition start and how has it changed over the years?

It was Sir Henry Cole from London who commissioned the first commercial Christmas cards in 1843. The illustration on the card showed a family with a small child drinking wine together. Apparently the card was found to be controversial, but over 4,000 copies were printed and sold. We’ve come a far way haven’t we? Greeting cards have shifted from traditional printed cards to digital e-cards and now do-it-yourself through your smartphone.

With the rise of improved and better cameras on mobile devices, like the iPhone 4S camera, the way we look at greeting cards is changing once again. There was the in-between phase of e-cards. E-cards never seemed that special, never too sentimental, or really thought out. Just point, click, type a few words, and there you go.  They just don’t cut it. Now with better mobile cameras, there are several apps out there that aim to change the way holiday cards are created.

Who are these companies that want to change the face of greeting cards? Apple is one of them. Not actually available yet, Apple Cards is their version of the greeting card. All you do is snap your photo, choose the design you want, pick an address to send it to and you’re done. The one thing that’s missing is human writing – that personal touch you get from a written note.  You can send the cards via real mail, or electronically. Other mobile apps allowing the same are Sincerely Ink, Postcard on the Run and Postagram, to name a few.

How much difference does it make from signing and writing a personal note on a card, to choosing a pre-made card from your local pharmacy, or shooting your own photos and sending via your phone? What do you think actually makes that personal touch in a card that we can really appreciate?