Mobile phones and tablets have come a long way over the last few years. In some cases, people are replacing their conventional home PCs and laptops with tablets, thanks to their increased flexibility, portability and ease of use.
For many day-to-day tasks, they perform admirably – easily allowing us to take pictures and create documents. However, in the past we've still had to go back to the desktop or laptop if we wanted to print.
But times have changed, and these days many phones can print both local and cloud-based files and images to your existing printer. Sometimes this feature is integrated directly into the phone, while some devices need a little help from the right app – but in either case, read on to find out how to print from your phone or tablet.
Apple’s iOS kit – like the iPhone and iPad – have a feature called 'AirPrint', which lets you print directly to any AirPrint-compatible printer on the same network.
You won't need to install anything extra or set anything up – but your printer does need to support the feature. Apple has a list of AirPrint-friendly printers here.
If your current printer isn't AirPrint compatible, it is possible to mimic an AirPrint compatible printer using specialist software – such as Oprint for Windows, handyPrint for Mac or PrinterShare on both platforms. These tools allow you to print to your existing printer using AirPrint – but as you need the computer to be on and running for them to work, it seems like a long way round for a shortcut.
Google has put some real work into printing from portable devices – and has come up with an app called Cloud Print. Once you add the printer to your Google account, you can print to it from a wide range of devices using the Google Cloud Print app.
Cloud print works from just about any device, and can be used from Google's Chrome browser or from Gmail apps. With official or supported Cloud Print apps also available for Windows, Mac and iOS, it’s probably the most widely available cloud printing method right now.
Better yet, although you can use any printer with this service, some ‘cloud ready’ devices don’t even require a PC for the initial setup – perfect if you're looking to replace your conventional computer with a portable alternative.
At present, Windows Phones don't natively support printing, but thanks to Google’s Cloud Print app mentioned above, it’s certainly possible.
Third-party apps such as PrintHand (£3.49) let your Windows Phone connect to local Wi-Fi printers and print across Google’s Cloud service – so as long as you link the printer using your Google account, you’re good to go.
Some manufacturers are more helpful than others, and a handful of them have made their own apps to help their users get the most from their hardware – including printing from mobiles and tablets.
The services offered by different manufacturers do vary across the different mobile operating systems – so if you’re looking for a new printer, it’s worth seeing hat they have to offer to support your tablet or smartphone.
In addition, Samsung provide their own Mobile Print app for some of their wireless printers, which will only work with selected gadgets. Check your printer's documentation to see if your device is supported.
Printing from your mobile device is becoming simpler – and with the ever-increasing demand, it will continue to do so.
If you plan on regularly printing from a mobile phone or tablet, we’d recommend investing in a shiny new wireless printer with AirPrint or Google Cloud Print compatibility. These features sound flashy, but are in fact becoming commonplace even on inexpensive home printers – and they both simplify the initial setup and add some welcome convenience when you’re ready to print.