Nobody prints out photos anymore.
We used to keep rolls of film in the junk drawer in the kitchen, right by the fridge, and wait until we had the money to go to a two-hour print station and hand them in.
Then we got envelopes of photos back, and kept them forever in a shoe box on the top shelf in the closet.
Did that get too real for you?
The good news is that those days aren’t all in the past.
Big photography brands have noticed that we’re all letting our camera rolls build up thousands of pictures that we never revisit, and everyone yearns to have a tangible piece of a memory to hang on the wall and look upon fondly.
Brands like Kodak, Fujifilm and HP have created these powerful mini printers that give you a photograph right from your smartphone, and these are the best of the best.
Best Picture Printer
Kodak Portable Printer Dock for iOS and Android
It’s no surprise that Kodak is one of the best camera and photography brands out there.
We’ve been using them forever, and they’ve kept up with the times.
Now that we’re all realizing how much better it is to have our mobile phone photos actually printed out, they went over the top with creating the most energy efficient, all-around greatest mobile phone printer on the market.
With a simple one touch operation, you’re able to print out 4” x 6” photos on the fly.
If you’re at the beach and make some new friends, give them a memento before you leave for the day.
At the hospital after the birth of your little one? Don’t let those photos get lost on your phone in the background—print one out now.
While those all seem like marketable sentiments, Kodak delivers on them, because this printer is entirely portable.
It uses a lithium-ion battery, which gives you about two hours of charge (more than you’re ever going to need for a mobile printer), so you never have to be left without a way to print out your meaningful moments.
One of the biggest factors to consider with portable printers is that you need to have the right photo paper handy, and since they’re built to be compact, you’re not going to encounter high paper quantities.
The ink that they give you is good to print out ten photos at a time, so be choosy. While the ink isn’t terribly expensive, it’s unique, so you’re not going to find third-party adapters.
On top of that, the paper isn’t going to be cheap. You do get a pack of it with your purchase, but since it’s very specific, purchasing more is going to be a bit of a pain.
That’s something that you’ll encounter with any portable printers though; it’s not an issue that’s exclusive to Kodak.
With 16.7 million colors available, this printer is designed to create a beautiful photograph from just about any photo you have on your phone.
It’s up to date with all of the specifications of most smartphone cameras, so you’re not going to have a photo that’s too high-end for the printer to accurately print out for you.
Polaroid ZIP Wireless Mobile Photo Printer
Now there’s a name most of us haven’t heard in a long time.
Polaroid is back, and they’re in the digital game with a slightly less pricey smartphone printer, that comes with a ton of potential for long-term use.
You’re going to create smaller prints than what Kodak was offering, but this just means they’re going to mimic old-fashioned polaroid sizes. 2” x 3” gives you a landscape-style photo to stick in the fold-down mirror in your car, or slap it on the fridge at home.
Because the photograph sizes are smaller than Kodak, you use less paper.
On top of that, Polaroid isn’t restricting you to only buy their brand of paper.
You can use just about any 2 x 3” photo paper, eliminating any restrictions you might encounter with other brands.
With an easy and intuitive design, you just use the Polaroid Zip App to initiate printing no matter where you are.
Because this printer is entirely portable, you get to recharge the lithium-ion battery and just take it with you on the go.
The battery life has an average of 90-100 minutes, which is definitely more than you’re going to need.
The recharge time is pretty quick, and you can watch the indicator light change on the front of the unit.
That, and you can plug it into an HDMI port and print photos directly from your computer if you’d like.
All the necessary drivers are included in the hardware, so you just plug it in, and let Polaroid do the rest.
Print times can be a bit wonky. It’s just 2” x 3” per photo, but it’s going to take about sixty seconds to actually produce that photograph.
In the grand scheme of things, that’s not that bad, but if you wanted to print out five copies of the same picture to hand out to people, then you’re going to run into some long queue times.
Snap a photo right from your phone and physically hold onto it within a minute.
The concept is a long way away from the 2-hour printing life we were living less than twenty years ago.
Fujifilm Instax Share Smartphone Printer
Every photography brand you can think of has hopped on the bandwagon, which means we all get to benefit from it.
Fujifilm created this impressive little printer that’s priced alongside Kodak, and imitates many of the same features.
While we usually look at battery length in terms of how long it can run before it gives out, Fujifilm lists that battery life as being able to make 100 prints before it runs out, so a little less than two hours of life.
The good thing is that you can use the included lithium-ion batteries, but the bad news is that the AC adapter method of using this requires a separate purchase.
They don’t give you the cord with this order, which is a bit of a bummer.
While being compatible with iOS and Android devices, it seems that iOS receives app updates days in advance of Android, so you can see where their priority is centered on.
The photo quality is pretty good with a 254 DPI setting, and you’re able to print out ten photos before the ink cartridge is going to run out.
You can use preset templates to make different designs on the photos you print out, mimicking an old polaroid photo or having captions like an Instagram/Facebook image.
This also allows you to print photos out from those sites and services with ease.
So if it’s just like Kodak, why is it number three on this list?
Fujifilm doesn’t mention bluetooth anywhere in their product description, and that’s because there isn’t any.
Instead, it uses Wi-Fi printing, which means that you can’t be connected to the internet on your phone (unless you’re using data) and print at the same time.
But the plus side is that this will work with any laptop that’s capable of running Wi-Fi, so you can print directly from your PC/laptop if you wish.
HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer
HP makes some excellent PC gear, and they’re known for having ridiculously inexpensive printers, so they came together to appeal to the smartphone crowd of today (and we’re glad that they did).
As one of the least expensive options on this list, they bring a good amount of quality, with a few drawbacks to consider at the same time.
To start, the battery life is pretty low-grade. You can print out 35 pictures before you have to recharge the battery, but that’s comparable to about 80-100 for the other printers on this list.
The charge time is about four hours or so, which means you could average about a hundred photos in a 12-hour day.
Now, they’ve stuck with the idea of being ultralight as well as compact, just like all these other portable printers.
You can actually slip this into the back pocket of your laptop bag without issue, and just be on your way.
One excellent energy-saving feature here is that the advanced bluetooth 5.0 means that you’re only using battery when you initiate a print through the app, so you don’t have to worry about killing the battery just by it existing. The sleep mode wakes on its own.
HP is usually a good brand for mid-tier to high-end computer gear, but since this is a portable, miniature unit, they stuck with a very basic warranty.
It only covers hardware, so if you receive one of these with a software malfunction (unlikely, but possible), it’s on your own to find out how to fix it.
One benefit here is that it has a higher DPI rating than most other printers, so you can expect high-quality photos, even if they take a little while to print out.
Canon IVY Mobile Mini Photo Printer
You didn’t think we could talk about printers without bringing on one of the greats, did you?
Canon will always be one of those top-shelf photography brands, whether it’s their lenses or high-end printers, but they surprisingly came through for us with a median budget.
Their IVY printer comes with an intuitive app that’s lightyears better than previous apps that we’ve seen Canon put out for at-home Wi-Fi printers.
However, the price point only comes with the printer and zero pieces of paper. If you want any paper, it’s an upcharge through a bundle deal.
I will give credit where credit is due—these print out pretty quickly, so you don’t have to wait too long to get a crisp, ready-to-handle print that you can hang on the fridge right away.
In terms of portability, it’s only 5.6 ounces, meaning that you’re barely going to know it’s there whether you put it in a suitcase or a backpack.
The battery life is decent, somewhere in between HP and Kodak from the printers we’ve seen.
Canon always focuses on quality first, which is why they made this printer with an excellent 314 x 400 DPI rating, so your photographs will come out crisp and clear.
Some would say that it’s overkill for a 2” x 3” print, but it ensures that the photo will be flawless.
Last but not least, Canon is known to have pretty good warranties and customer support, which is why it struck me as odd that they only relay that warranty information in the packet you get upon delivery or over the phone.
It’s a sheer lack of transparency during the purchase process.
Smartphone Picture Printer Buying Guide & FAQ
Features to Look for in Smartphone Printers
DPI stands for dots per inch, which directly translates to the quality of your photographs.
If you have a low DPI, then you’re not going to see much definition in your photos.
Since we’re dealing with small printers here, anything around a 300 DPI is going to create some high quality photos.
These printers are more than equipped to print out photos from all the current leading smartphones and their high-powered cameras.
The app is your gateway to actually using your printer, so it’s got to be intuitive and easy to use.
Since we’re dealing with brands like Kodak and Canon here, they put the money into making high-quality apps with linear paths to printing out your photographs.
Smaller brand smartphone printers also offer decently designed apps, but these elite brands just take the cake.
Your app should be able to boot up quickly, and take you from the welcome screen to “Sending Prints” in a matter of ten seconds or so.
Some printing apps will allow you to use filters or add effects to your photo, while others will just cut right to the chase or allow you to disable that option.
You’ll see an average of 2” x 3”, which is a good size. These are the same as old CVS printouts when you would take disposable camera film into them.
On top of that, this means that you can usually get away with third-party smartphone printer paper as long as it meets the same dimensions.
Battery life isn’t the biggest issue here, since it’s unlikely that you’re going to print out 30 photos at a time.
Most battery lives of smartphone printers can run for about 90 minutes, and since the average printout time is 60 seconds per photo, it’s safe to assume that minutes translate to prints before the battery dies.
Most smartphone printers come with a bluetooth sleep function, meaning that once the print is done, the printer goes into sleep mode and is only awoken when you actively use your bluetooth to connect and print out another photo.
Is There a Printer for Smartphones?
Yes, these are specifically designed to be used with smartphones, and allow some Wi-Fi connection to your laptop or PC as a secondary option.
Before, it would be a hassle to try and print wirelessly, and even then the apps were a bit bland and unappealing.
Then it changed, because people realized just how many of us take photos with our phone, and not a camera.
Printing from your phone used to mean sending the images to yourself in an email, then downloading them to your PC, then printing them out that way, but only after making sure you had photo paper in there.
Then the problem was that the photos came out too big.
These printers mostly create 2” x 3” prints, just like you would get from the film developers, except now all the power is in your hands.
How do I Connect my Phone to a Wireless Printer?
Wireless printers run off of two primary connection methods: bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Every smartphone comes with both of these options, so you’re in luck.
Each printer may have a different sequence for how this is done, but the basic method of setting up your phone to a wireless printer go like this:
- Turn on bluetooth or the Wi-Fi method of your smartphone. If you don’t have unlimited data, you probably already have Wi-Fi enabled at home.
- Press the receiver button on your printer. This will usually be a button with the bluetooth logo on it, or something that just says connect.
- On your phone, a window should pop up asking you what you want to connect to. If you didn’t rename your printer, you will see something like “HP-03867679,” which is the model number and brand of your printer (usually). Tap on that to connect.
- For Wi-Fi connections, you may have an internet browser page pop up telling you that you need to connect. Follow the outlined steps here to finish connecting.
- Press print. Depending on your connection and printer, you may need to give it a minute to connect and begin printing. If this doesn’t work, use the troubleshooting section on the brand-specific webpage of your printer manufacturer.
How Can I Print From my Phone to my Printer?
Yes, you absolutely can.
With these printers, you are instructed to download specific apps from the manufacturers that allow you to control prints right from your phone.
Some of these apps are more advanced than others, but for the most part, you choose a filter or effect on your photo, cropping if the photo exceeds the printer paper resolution, and then you print.
Without these apps, smartphone printers don’t work. While this can be an inconvenience, it’s actually a good thing.
It means that your printer can only be accessed through your username and password that you design for your app login, leaving it less susceptible to hackers.
How to Print Photos from an iPhone: Detailed Guide
iPhones always go with a different UI than most Android manufacturers, but it’s still simple to print out your photos once you get the hang of it. You have to:
- Go to your camera roll to view your photos.
- Tap on the three dots in the corner of your photo.
- Tap on the arrow-in-a-box icon.
- Check the option that you would like. This lets you choose from AirDrop, messages, mail or print. Printing will send this to your printer.
Syncing your iPhone with these apps means that once you tap on the print option while viewing a photo, your phone will send the photos to the app and then through printing.
Print Out Those Keepsakes
It’s time to turn some memories into something tangible.
Whether it’s just keepsakes, or you’re setting up the beginning of a photography business, portable smartphone printers can come in handy.
As a quick little business model, I’ve seen a few people with small sidewalk setups—tripods, backdrops, and iPhones—that will take your picture and print it out right there for you to keep for about $5.00.
It’s a great idea if you’re doling out business cards and you live in a major city with a lot of tourists who may want a memento.