Mobile printing made easy

Mobile printing made easy

Take an Android mobile phone and try to print a webpage or a photo from it. It is quite likely that you will struggle to find the print feature.

Unlike the AirPrint feature found in Apple's iOS devices, there is no integrated print functionality for the Android operating system.

Of course, you can still print from an Android device. You just have to install the right print app, which is preloaded by some manufacturers.

For printer manufacturers, the rapid growth of mobile devices poses a quandary. Their products have often been seen as part of the PC ecosystem, but the PC industry is heading for a second consecutive year of contraction this year.

Meanwhile, mobile devices are picking up the slack. Tablet shipments are expected to grow by 42.7per cent this year, according to market research firm Gartner.

Although there are reports that the mobile phone market has peaked, it is still on course to grow by 3.7 per cent.

More importantly, Gartner estimates that 1.8billion handsets will be sold this year.

This trend is likely a catalyst for the formation of the Mopria Alliance, an industry grouping formed by printer stalwarts Canon, HP, Samsung and Xerox. The alliance aims to make printing from mobile devices easy.

"Customers want to print from their mobile devices," said Mr Edwin Teoh, an assistant director at Canon Singapore. But this is frequently too complicated for the user, he added.

An IDC report earlier this year said: "Consumers still prefer to read documents in print, despite the growth in mobility."

"Mobile printing has not really picked up strongly," said Ms Lam Lai Ling, a senior research analyst at Gartner. She thinks it is because of a "low awareness of mobile printing" exacerbated by a lack of printer support and limited print options on mobile devices.

This is where the non-profit Mopria Alliance can make a difference. It aims to create a standard for native mobile printing that does not require downloading apps, drivers or fiddling with settings.

Think Apple's AirPrint.

But unlike that technology, which is not open to other mobile phone vendors, a new native standard would work across multiple mobile platforms.

A Mopria logo on these printers will tell consumers that they are compatible with mobile devices. They are likely to come with wireless connectivity, a feature already present on many of the latest printers. For instance, more than 90 per cent of HP printers now have some form of wireless printing capability.

While no Mopria-certified printers have been launched yet, it was previously announced that the technology should be ready some time this year.

Android, which owns a larger than 80 per cent share of the smartphone market, will also get native support for mobile printing with the new Android 4.4 KitKat.

Google said users will be able to print photos, documents and webpages to printers that are connected via Google Cloud Print. It is also compatible with HP's ePrint-capable printers and printers whose apps appear in the Google Play Store.

But before these new initiatives come to market, you can still get into mobile printing via the apps offered by your printer manufacturer.

Most are available on both Android and iOS. Although they may differ in terms of features, they will get the job done - mostly.

Check out what Digital Life thinks of five available printing apps. We will also give you a crash course on how to set up Google Cloud Print, which is compatible with most brands.

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