Mobile-Centric Printers: A New Crop of Peripherals

Christine Dunne
Aug 27, 2013

About a year and a half ago, we wrote a blog post about an adorable miniature printer from a London-based design firm called the “Little Printer.” The printer, which is now available for purchase, connects to the “cloud” and can print personalized mini “newspapers” at the press of a button or on a schedule.

The Little Printer

The post focused on the novelty of the product, as well as some questions we had related to pricing, the environment, and the types of feeds the printer can subscribe to. Now, after some internal discussions a year and a half later, we are starting to look at the product in a slightly new light (although those initial concerns haven’t necessarily been resolved). A number of recent product launches have prompted us to consider that the Little Printer might have been the first printer product in a new category of “mobile device-centric printers.”

In the first post we did not emphasize that the Little Printer requires a smartphone to function (it is controlled by the web browser/a special web app on an iPhone, Android smartphone, or Windows phone). However, with DoMark International, Lenovo, and ZINK Imaging recently introducing products positioned as accessories/peripherals to mobile computing devices such as smartphones and tablets, it now seems that the Little Printer is more significant than first suggested.

The new product from ZINK Imaging is being billed as a “companion” to smartphones and tablets. The device can wirelessly receive print jobs from print-enabled ZINK and third-party mobile apps, including apps for creating stickers and photos, mass producing mailing labels, and producing poster-sized prints. There are two versions of the printer: the hAppy and the hAppy+; while the hAppy+ features the Google Android operating system, a full-color touchscreen, and built-in ZINK apps, the hAppy is more basic in functionality.

ZINK Imaging’s New hAppy and hAppy+ Printers

In a similar vein, DoMark International’s new Imagic Cartridge Printer is being touted as a smartphone/tablet accessory (DoMark offers a range of mobile device accessory products, including a smartphone charger powered by light, a dock that converts smartphones to tablets, and a game controller linking smartphones to high-definition TVs), while Lenovo’s new Le-Printer is being pushed for its compatibility with Android mobile devices–which allows users to easily print files, pictures, Wechat/e-talk histories, Weibo posts, text messages, and other content from their Android device.

We believe that these recent launches raise the prospect of a new printer category developing, where printers are designed specifically as peripherals to mobile computing devices. Traditional printers have always been a computing (PC) peripheral so the concept is not new. While traditional printer vendors have all been addressing the continued growth in mobile device adoption by enabling the connection of mobile devices to their printers, they have not–as yet–placed the mobile computing device at the center of any printer product development. As the customer’s main computing device changes from PCs and laptops to tablets and smartphones it is not unreasonable to assume that the form and function of the associated peripherals may also be set to evolve.

With at least two printer industry vendors heavily involved in the mobile computing space, there is certainly a theoretical possibility of mobile-centric devices coming from more traditional brands. This could be an unidentified opportunity to exploit, though we can’t help thinking that the price point is going to be critical. Some of the new devices coming out are priced at around $200-$300, which is significantly more expensive than a traditional printer that offers mobile print support in addition to a wide range of other features. These devices may also prove more expensive than many mobile devices to which they are peripheral (especially where network subsidies are at play). The traditional computer and peripheral relationship has evolved to the point where peripheral devices are generally significantly less expensive than the main computing device. This is not the case with this new breed of mobile-computer peripherals.

That said, InfoTrends is excited about these particular innovations and believes some of the new vendors and devices are pushing some promising ideas. For more insight into this news item, consider downloading InfoTrends’ recent analysis piece, Mobile Device-Centric Printers: A New Crop of Digital Peripherals.

 

Zac Butcher

Director, Digital Peripherals Solutions

zac.butcher@infotrends.com

 

Christine Dunne

Research Analyst, Digital Peripherals Solutions

christine.dunne@infotrends.com


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