In the past, printing from a mobile phone was anything but easy. Happily, that is changing with the advent of new printers, applications, and services. These days you can print anything from a smartphone, practically anywhere.
In times past, printing from a mobile phone was difficult and irritating. Often the printed pages lined up weirdly. They rarely resembled what was viewed on the phone’s screen – that is, if you could get the documents out of the printing queue and actually onto an inked page. Today you have more options – and better ones.
Even so, each mobile printing option still has its pros and cons depending on what you print. “There are four main printer user needs: standard document printing, photo printing, magazine printing, and business printing (such as business cards and branded stationary),” explains Dr Janko Flogel, managing director of Private Planet, a UK-based personal cloud computing company.
Not every printer is suited for all of these needs. A mobile printer, for example, may not be ideally suited for the heavier stock needed for business card printing. An older office printer may lack e-mail capabilities or advanced security protections. Therefore, it is wise to consider the capabilities of a specific printer or printing service when deciding how and where to print any given item from your phone – or to enable your user community to do so.
Sometimes the smartphone itself dictates the best means of printing from it. “In newer operating systems like iOS4, you can print directly to a printer from your iPhone,” says Alex Moazed, president of Applico, a mobile application developer. “But there are apps that will help you print to stores and online services from nearly any smartphone.”
As a general rule, anything can be printed from a smartphone, practically anywhere. For most printing purposes, these three ways make printing from your mobile phone a good deal easier.
If you haven’t looked at portable printers lately, it’s time to look again. Much has changed in this hardware category, including the ability to print from USB connections or from the mobile devices’ memory cards (such as digital cameras and smartphones).
Most portable printers weigh five pounds or less and print quietly and quickly. Many are wireless (with the addition of a WiFi or Bluetooth adapter) and can be powered via a car adaptor or batteries. You need to install a driver on your smartphone to use one, however, which sometimes can be a hassle.
A portable printer is a good choice for travelers and mobile workers who print often and don’t want to bother searching for available printers on the run.
Stationary printers are literally everywhere. Perhaps you want to print from your smartphone on your personal printer at home. Maybe you want to print in the copy room of your company’s office abroad. Or maybe you want to print in the hotel’s or airport’s business center during your travels. The options are nearly endless in terms of printer availability.
The easiest option: To print on older printers, send an e-mail from your phone to a connected computer or computer operator. You or a co-worker can then easily download the attachment and print in the normal way. Of course, you can also open your own e-mail account on a guest computer and print that way. However, that process can lead to security problems, ranging from delays waiting for IT permission to print from a company machine to leaving too much information on a public computer.
Far better choices exist today. For example, ePrint is a service from HP that enables you to print direct to select HP printers. “The HP ePrint service is available free of charge with the new HP ePrint-enabled printers, Photosmart, and OfficeJet e-All-in-One range,” says Sarah Fortuna, UK and Ireland HP IWS Marketing Manager.
With ePrint, there is no need to install a driver on your phone; as long as you have e-mail access, you can use ePrint. The solution is aimed at both consumers and business users, “allowing them greater flexibility in printing important customer documents and contracts quickly and easily, whether they are in the office or travelling,” says Fortuna.
Each HP printer (of this line) has its own e-mail address. Send your document via smartphone from anywhere in the world to any given ePrint enabled printer and voila! It doesn’t print web pages, and documents are limited to 5MB, but it is super easy to use. The printer must be on and connected to the Internet for ePrint to work.
Printing apps are another popular choice and are widely available on mobile app stores. The PrinterOn app, for instance, allows smartphone users to print anywhere among thousands of public printers on the PrinterOn Network. Install the app, pick a printer, and wait for a e-mail message supplying the release code. For security purposes, you have to enter the release code on the printer before it actually prints your documents or photos. For comparison purposes, consider that Apple AirPrint enables your iPhone to print to AirPrint-capable printers but an app like PrinterOn lets you print on any printer from your iPhone.
Such apps are not limited to iPhones, either. There are apps for all smartphone brands; just check the appropriate app store.
Kiosks and Services
Kiosk printers are actually another form of printing services. In the U.S., such kiosks are easily found in major retailers ranging from CVS drug stores to general merchandise retailers such as Walmart. In the UK on High Street, you can find photo printing touch-screen kiosks in Boots drug stores and in specialized stores such as Jessops camera stores. Boots also offers an online facility through the Photobox service.
Kiosk-based services work in several ways, from e-mail printing services to online services to plug-and-print services. Typically, though, they are limited to photo printing. If that’s all you need, you’re in luck: These services are fast and easy to use. They often offer special deals, ranging from free extra prints and photo touch-up services to discounted frames and matting.
True printing services, however, handle a wide spectrum of business printing needs. These are offered from a wide-range of suppliers ranging from Kinko’s to HP, most of which work via online ordering. Simply e-mail the document to the services from your smartphone. “HP has been active on several fronts when it comes to on-line printing services with their magazine publishing service MagCloud, their photo printing service snapfish, and their e-mail-based printing service, ePrint,” says Private Planet’s Dr. Flogel. “For quick and easy business printing services, VistaPrint has been a long-standing tried and tested Web-based business printing portal.”