Native Wi-Fi, Near Field Communication Promising Areas for Mobile Printing

Christine Dunne
Jun 24, 2013

Over the last year there have been countless announcements related to new mobile phones, tablets, and apps for personal and business use alike.

While the majority of these announcements have nothing to do with printing, there have still been a fair number of developments in the mobile printing realm (mobile printing is defined as sending or initiating a print job using a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet).

Those paying attention (myself included) will have noticed that new features have been added to mobile printing apps, including support for more printer models, file types, and print settings, and that more mobile operating systems are now compatible with these apps.

Both the Android and iOS versions of Epson’s iPrint app, for instance, now support the printing of Microsoft Office documents.

Epson iPrint App Interface

These are certainly positive developments in terms of making mobile printing accessible to more users, as well as more practical.

That being said, the need for a dedicated print app to print from a mobile device is not ideal. When you are at home or in the office, using your PC, you do not need to open a special piece of printing software to print a file. Instead, you just click File → Print or Ctrl + P from whatever program you are in. This is a simple solution that’s become second nature to most users.

Why can’t printing from a mobile device be the same? Why can’t print capability be built in to all mobile devices?

Fortunately, some headway is being made in this area—even if the pace is slower than some would like. Apple AirPrint now works with 16 printer/MFP brands (including Brother, Canon, Dell, Epson, Fuji Xerox, HP, Lexmark, Oki Data, Ricoh, and Samsung), a number of new Android devices provide native printing support, and the Windows Runtime (RT) mobile operating system give users the ability to directly print from the device’s applications.

There has also been a greater focus on Near Field Communication (NFC) printing, which has certain advantages over Wi-Fi printing including no requirement for the user to be on the same Wi-Fi network as the print device.

Fujifilm UK, LG, and Samsung are all experimenting with NFC-enabled printers, and more and more mobile devices provide NFC support (including models from Acer, Asus, BlackBerry, Google, HP, HTC, LG, Lenovo, and Nokia).

NFC Option on an HTC Smartphone

Another potentially positive development is the Printer Working Group’s introduction of a standard that enables printing from mobile devices without downloading apps or vendor-specific device drivers. Given that the Printer Working Group is a program of the well respected IEEE Industry Standards and Technology Organization, one would expect printer and mobile device manufacturers to take this protocol seriously.

If the industry can focus more on built-in/native print support for mobile devices as opposed to dedicated printing apps it is possible that mobile printing will become easier and more intuitive for the end user. Only by simplifying mobile printing can vendors truly begin to capitalize on the large number of users who are interested in putting it into practice.

For more information on the mobile printing market, see InfoTrends’ recently published analysis piece Developments in Mobile Printing: June 2013 – An Update to InfoTrends’ 2012 Mobile Printing Analysis.

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