Mobile Printers: Ball of Confusion

Written by Erik Vlietinck

Why is the mobile printer market such a mess? Our Erik Vlietnick reports. Check out the Ball of Confusion video inside, too. It’s weekend.

Some ideas look better on paper than they do in the real world.
That’s a truism — but mobile printing tech takes that idea to the limit. The market’s a mess. But why? I set out to find out just why mobile printers have yet to take off in earnest.

Christine Dunne, a research analyst for InfoTrends, looked at more than 75 solutions for mobile printing and found none of them having great appeal to the market.

While mobile printing might seem like the ideal solution for today’s mobile worker, the idea sounds better on paper than it does in practice. According to Dunne, the landscape is just plain confusing for buyers. And it’s easy to see why.

In the InfoTrends survey, as you see, below, folks all over the world reveal that either they they do not print from their mobile devices because they don’t understand how to do so.

Or they believe that their mobile device is not able to support printing.

The graphic above displays the survey results. The question those surveyed answered above was: Please indicate why you do not print from your smartphone, wireless computer or other mobile device.

There are different solutions for different mobile operating systems, printers and file formats. Some solutions require a computer, some necessitate cloud storage, and there are some that require specific apps.

The result: Most mobile knowledge workers do not print from their mobile devices.

But why? Dunne says she looked at more than 75 solutions on the market to find out. The results of her survey are worth a deep look.

“There are also many more solutions we did not discuss,” she adds. “The sheer number contributes to all the confusion that exists within the mobile printing market.”

You’d think this would be easy. But it is maddening to buyers.  For starters, they have to wade through a wide variety of solutions and various categories and file formats just to find the right one. Some solutions require memory-hogging apps to work.

Still others force you to email the document you want to print to a cloud-based service first. And then there is the option to use built-in printer support via a mobile operating system like Apple iOS. But you need to check for compatibility.

Security issues and problems with settings just make the situation worse.

“Printing from a mobile device is a simple concept … (but) with all these different types of solutions customers have much to consider when researching the best solution for their needs,” she says.

Dunne believes a set of industry standards would dissolve a lot of the confusion around mobile printers. Collaboration with such organizations as the IEEE Industry Standards and Technology Organization as well as the Printer Working Group would ease this effort.

Rather than create so many bizarre and incompatible mobile printers, the industry here needs to urge mobile tech printer tech makers to create comprehensive offerings, adds Dunne.

Do you have a mobile printing solution on any platform that works for you? We want to know about it. There has to be one decent solution out there, right? One hopes.

Share it with either in the comments below, where we share it at the Facebook and pages or on Google+. Otherwise, just email me at

For, I’m +Eric Vlietinck.


  • Ever since I’ve gotten this tablet and hacked it, people have asked me if I print from it. I honestly see no reason to do so in my use case. Interesting thoughts though.

    -RAP, II

  • Was hoping that there’d be a discussion of the other side of the mobile printer equation: portable printers. Since the demise of the Canon BJC-55 we’ve needed something light and briefcase-sized that a mobile professional can take with her/him. HP makes the 300 series, but I’ve found these a bit fragile (I have two of them in a drawer – both non-working). Also the BJC-55 had a scanner module that made it the perfect paper-handling companion. There’s supposed to be an HP 150 that does printing and scanning on the way, but hasn’t condensed from the vapor yet.