Put yourself in the picture with PixyMe

Do you remember the personalized movies that had been showing up in your email a while back? The one that sticks in my mind was a 'get out the vote' video the Obama campaign sent out a month before the presidential election. The story told by the video was that Obama lost by just one vote and it was you, whoever you are. You name was smoothly integrated into about a dozen places in the narrative. It was a real attention getter.

PixyMe (US $1.99) brings a static version of this technology to your iPhone or iPod touch. This beautifully designed and rendered app lets you incorporate any name or short phrase seamlessly into an eCard or postcard, appearing as though it were part of the photograph. The resulting personalized photo can be either emailed, sent to Facebook, saved in your photo album, or sent as a high-quality physical postcard to any address in the world. It works remarkably well, as you can see from the picture on the right and the gallery below.

It's unfortunate that this app has the all too common problem of dropping you into the fray with scant instructions. That would be okay for a simple one-trick-pony, but this app is fairly complex and has functions that need explanation. There is an info screen at the end of all the options, but all it gives you are the raw basics and a link to get to the PixyMe site. What you probably don't know is that on the site is a great introduction and all the information you need to get started quickly in a video tour. You can view it at the end of this post. I feel that this video should be incorporated into the app or directly linked to rather than dropping you at the site. That's my only complaint. The rest of the app is a delight.

To get started you are presented with over 100 stock photos presented in a Coverflow manner allowing you to flick your finger and scroll through all the images. Another way to find stock pictures is through about a dozen categories such as Holidays or Entertain. Tap on a picture and an edit window opens displaying the picture and letting you enter the name or phrase you want to insert. Next, choose 'send' and you are presented with the four options including 'save' which will save it to your photo library.

The first time you send a card as an email you are taken through a quick authentication sequence where you supply your email, a confirmation email is sent and a generated number needs to be entered into the app. This is a one time occurrence. Once done, an email window opens with a thumbnail of the picture in the upper left and an unmarked '+' button that opens up your contacts list while staying in PixyMe. Write your email, see a preview, and send it. If you would like to to send it as a physical postcard the cost is $1.99 for US addresses and $2.99 everywhere else. You need to enter your credit card information into the app and it gives you the option of having the number stored, but the information is kept locally on your iPhone/iPod touch and not on a remote server.

Another way of using PixyMe is with your own photos. If you have an iPhone you can use the built-in camera within the app, but if not, you can use saved pictures from your photo library. Since the app isn't in total control of your photos the amount of personalization is less than in the stock images, but still impressive. Select Library, choose any picture, and it is displayed along with a dozen frames with names like: Cake, Blocks, Daisy etc. These frames are overlays that graphically surround your picture and display the personalized name or phrase. You can change frames to see what each looks like, tap on 'text' to add or change the customized name, and since it's an overlay, move, or resize the underlying picture until you're happy with how it looks. From that point you have the same options as with stock images.

Some niceties include a history list that tells you if your eCard has been received, or your postcard sent, using a green or red light and a favorites list for quick retrieval.

I really enjoyed playing with PixyMe. The image rendering is flawless, the variety of stock images wide and the amount of customization is remarkable. I'll be using it frequently and recommend it to you highly.

Check out the video tutorial and a gallery of screenshots below.