With more people relying on phones and tablets than laptops and PCs as their everyday computers, printers are becoming less common in the average family home. You've probably uploaded your favourite digital photos to Facebook and Instagram, but physical photo albums and frames still have their place. We look at a few instant photo printers that let you print directly from your phone.
If you want something a little more retro, you can also buy a camera that prints photos as you shoot them, just like an old-fashioned Polaroid. Take a look at our round-up of the best instant cameras to see if any take your fancy.
HP Sprocket 200
HP has updated its original instant printer with this Sprocket 200, tested here in a speckled-grey Lunar Pearl. It's the cheapest model in our round-up, but packs all the same features as the competition in a compact bundle just 80x117.5x25mm.
The cheapest way to buy the Sprocket right now is actually as part of a bundle, which comes with a carry case and light string with clips for hanging your snaps, and is available from Currys for £84.97. If you want just the printer itself it has a retail price of £109 but is available for £107.90 at Amazon. It's a no-brainer, really: buy the bundle while it's still available.
For prints the Sprocket uses ZINK (Zero Ink) paper, 2x3in in size and sticky-backed for easier application wherever your heart desires. A pack of 10 is provided in the box, and thereafter it costs £9.58 per pack, or you can buy 50 sheets for £20.11, both via Amazon. We also found some good prices on eBay. The Sprocket's paper tray will accept only 10 sheets at a time.
The Sprocket couldn't be easier to set up and use, pairing with your smartphone (Android 4.4+ or iOS 8.0+) over Bluetooth 5.0. This is the only way to send prints to the Sprocket, with no support for removable memory, Windows or Mac. Up to three users can share photos with a single Sprocket at once.
There's a free mobile app that hooks up to Instagram, Facebook, Google Photos and your smartphone gallery, though you can also send snaps stored elsewhere to the app using the Share menu. We found the Sprocket app would leave out some random photos stored in our social media and Google Photos libraries, so sharing photos with the app was a simpler way to quickly find and print any photo on our phone.
With an image open in the Sprocket app, you can use pinch and pull gestures to rotate or zoom in closer on particular parts of the image. You can also tap the pencil icon at the top right of the screen to access editing options such as brightness and contrast adjustments, filters, borders, stickers and freeform text or doodles. Adults might find these features gimmicky, but for teenagers they could add appeal.
The Sprocket takes around 40 seconds to print each snap. There are some printer settings within the app but they are mostly concerned with after how long the Sprocket goes to sleep or enters standby. There's no way to change the print quality, for example, which is set to 313x400dpi.
In our tests the prints look good for an instant printer, but colours are not entirely accurate, and not as vibrant or saturated as you might hope. The loss of detail when compared to that shown on your phone screen is also very noticeable, but for small 2x3in 'fun' prints the quality is good enough.
The Settings menu within the app can also show you how much battery remains. The Sprocket has a small 550mAh battery that allows it to be portable. When the battery runs low the LED at the front of the device blinks red, and charging is possible over Micro-USB.
There's an AI element called Reveal, which launches the camera to let you capture a photo and immediately ready it for printing within the app. When you press the print button HP says the Sprocket embeds some extra nuggets of information into the image, such as videos, maps and animations, and can show you photos taken on the same day from Google Street View, Wikipedia and more. You later view these extra features by launching Reveal and scanning the print.
Sadly we couldn't get Reveal to work with any of our prints. But we still think the Sprocket remains one of the best instant printers around, and a cool gift idea for teenagers and young adults.
Fujifilm instax Share Smartphone Printer SP-2
Fujifilm's Instax Share Smartphone Printer SP-2 is one of the better-known instant printers that let you bypass a PC and print Polaroid-style images directly from your smartphone.
The Instax Share is available from Amazon, or you can buy it in a bundle with 10 shots. When the photo paper runs out, current Amazon pricing is under £1/$1 per print. You can choose from a variety of templates, from standard White to Candy Pop, Comic, Rainbow, Shiny Star, Stained Glass and Airmail.
As with the original Polaroid cameras on which the idea is based, this means each photo is reasonably expensive. Though at least with instant printers you get to choose only your favourite pictures, rather than snapping away and hoping the results are decent.
As we'll discover, there are cheaper instant printers. However, what we particularly like about the Instax Share is the various templates that let you add captions with a seasonal message (such as happy birthday) or the time and date, weather or even an Instagram or Facebook status.
Printing from your smartphone with the Instax Share printer is easy - you simply download the free app from Google Play or the Apple App Store, choose an image from your photo gallery or social media, add a template and edit as required, then hit print!
The Instax Share is easily portable at 89.5x40x131.8mm and 249g. It comes with a rechargeable battery that should be good for around 100 shots when fully charged, and you can top it up with the included USB cable. LEDs at the front let you see at a glance when you're running low on power or paper.
If you prefer the classic square format, the Instax Share SP-3 offers similar functionality, but prints in the newer Instax Square format, rather than Instax Mini.
Polaroid Mint Pocket Printer
What better company to revolutionise the Polaroid camera concept than Polaroid itself? Polaroid's Mint Pocket Printer is a similar setup to the Instax Share from Polaroid, connecting to your phone via Bluetooth to print your favourite photos on demand.
The Zip printer itself is cheaper than the Instax Share, at £119.99/$129.99, and currently less from Amazon (in black, blue, white, yellow, or red), and photo paper is slightly cheaper too. You can get a pack of 50 2x3in sheets from Amazon for £24.99/$22, which means each shot works out cheaper than with the Instax.
This photo paper is known as ZINK, which is short for zero ink. Polaroid says its photo paper produces photo-quality, full-colour output that won't smudge. Plus, it has a sticky back so you won't need sellotape to pin your favourite selfies to your mirror.
Much like the Instax Share, the Mint also has a variety of customisation options. You can edit images - cropping, zooming, saturation, contrast, and more - before applying filters, borders, text, and stickers.
The Mint is smaller and more easily portable than the Instax Share at 25x76x130mm and 204g, although both are pretty mini as printers go.
If you'd rather have the prints without the printer, Polaroid also offers a remote printing service, Super Snaps - you just upload your photos and the company will ship retro-style Polaroid prints directly to you.
HP Sprocket Photo Printer
The original Sprocket is still available at £109.99, but we now prefer the Sprocket 200 listed higher up in this round-up. The first Sprocket instant printer launched in September 2016.
The Sprocket printer is among the cheapest on this list at £109.99/$119.99, with 10 sheets of 2x3in sticky-backed photo paper costing £10/$10 a pack.
The device is simple, you plug it in via micro USB to charge and it connects via Bluetooth 3.0 to Android and iOS devices via the Sprocket app. You can link the app to social media accounts to grab well-filtered Instagram pictures or from cloud storage like Google Photos.
You load the ZINK zero-ink sticky-backed printer paper into the back of the device and it takes around 40 seconds to print a picture so it is not the fastest.
The printouts are quite small at 2x3in, but the quality is akin to a polaroid, perfect for pinning up around the house or at the office. The Sprocket itself is very small and portable at 23x75x116mm and weighs only 172g.
The Prynt Pocket is a slightly different approach to the instant smartphone printer, and acts as a case into which you slot your smartphone to produce a photo in under 30 seconds. This does mean, however, that it's not available for all phones - right now it's just for iPhone, though an Android version is on the way through crowdfunding.
As it is, the Prynt uses a Lightning port, so is compatible with any iPhone from the 5 up, with a slider to adjust to fit any model. The phone slots in and serves as the display of the camera, but the Prynt has its own shutter button and scroll wheel to add to the feel of using a real standalone camera.
Like the Instax Share, the Prynt has a companion app that lets you add frames, filters, stickers and text, to perfect your photo before you print it. You can apply these effects to (and print) either photos taken within the Prynt app, or any that you already have on your phone.
If you use the official app, you also have the option to record a short video and link it to each photo. Then you can scan the printed image, and the app will play the video on your phone.
Like the Polaroid Zip it uses Zink (zero ink) technology to produce high-quality, smudge-resistant photo prints. Printing takes about 30 seconds from start to finish, and the prints double as stickers. Replacement paper comes in affordable packs of 40 for £23/$19 at the time of writing..
If you have a compatible iPhone the Prynt Case is probably the most portable solution here, and it has an internal battery that handily charges over Micro-USB, and will last for about 20 printouts.
Canon Selphy CP1200
The Canon Selphy CP1200 is a proper compact photo printer rather than something designed simply for printing from your phone, and as such it can print photos directly from an SD card, USB memory stick or camera via Pictbridge, a PC or laptop via USB, and it can wirelessly connect to your phone over the Canon Easy-PhotoPrint app (also supports AirPrint for Apple phones).
It's cheaper than the dedicated smartphone printers, with larger prints (available in around 27 seconds) that should last 100 years and lower running costs, but it's also bulkier at 181x136x63mm and 862g - you're unlikely to sling this one in a handbag. A battery pack, which lasts around 54 prints, is optional, but an AC power supply is included.
The Canon Selphy is currently just over £100/$100 at Amazon. An ink and paper set with 108 sheets of 6x4in photo paper costs around £25/$30 (also from Amazon), which means photos work out at about 22p each. You can also buy photo paper for credit card- and passport photo-sized prints.
Unlike the other compact photo printers here a 2.7in colour LCD screen is built-in, making it easier to browse to and select your images to print. The Canon uses a dye sublimation thermal transfer printing system, and produces prints at 300dpi.
Lifeprint Harry Potter Photo and Video Printer
The Harry Potter Photo and Video Printer from Lifeprint lets you print your videos. Let’s break that down. It’s a compact Bluetooth printer that uses ZINK zero ink paper and works with the Lifeprint app (Android and iOS), which also doubles as a social media sharing hub and community.
In fact, the app is where most of the magic happens.
You simply choose a video that you want to print, connect to Bluetooth and send it off to print. Your photo should appear within ten to fifteen seconds. Once it’s printed, simply scan the photo on the Hyperphoto Viewer on the app and watch your video come to life on the screen. In theory.
The Harry Potter Lifeprint printer is fantastic – when it works. We wanted to love it.
In our experience, the app was slow and crashed a couple times (though it could have been the phone we used, which was an HTC 10 on Android). When we printed our videos, the scanner didn't always recognize the images, so we were not able to see it come to life as effortlessly as the tutorials showed.
The prints themselves were not incredibly high quality either, and had a bluish tinge. This is common to ZINK paper though, so it would not be fair to fault the printer here.
The printer in itself looks great, though, especially with the Harry Potter branding. You can even add a metallic Hogwarts House crest (provided) to truly show off your dedication to the Harry Potter stories.
The Harry Potter Printer feels lightweight and charges fairly quickly too. We could effortlessly pair the printer via Bluetooth and had no issues actually sending our photos to print.