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 printer itself has a retail price of £119/$129 but is available for less from Amazon.
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 roughly £10/$10 per pack via Amazon, though you can save money per print by buying bigger packs. 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.
Instax Mini Link
Are all the features on this device necessary? Probably not. But there's definitely something fun to explore with the Instax Mini Link that other instant printers don't offer - though the lack of social media integration is something that the company should definitely rethink.
Overall this is a simple printer to use, offering great quality photos for the user with customisable options for a more creative experience. However, if these fluffy features aren't of any interest, we recommend spending that little bit more for a camera-printer hybrid.
Read our full Instax Mini Link review
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.
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.
Kodak Smile Instant Digital Printer
The Kodak Smile printer is a simple bit of kit, but it gets the job done. The design is similar to that of the HP Sprocket, and actually almost identical in size, but you get more colour options here with Blue, Red, White, Green and Black. As with the Sprocket it's a sleek device that is rectangular in shape with rounded corners.
Like the Sprocket it uses Zink prints - they aren't the highest quality, but they're a great way to get your favourite photos off your phone and into a real print or sticker. The Kodak fares well on print quality, with fairly true-to-life colours, but smaller details are lost. For scenic shots and portraits it does the job.
The Smile app (iOS and Android) has a decent array of editing options, from exposure adjustment to frames and stickers, and it lets you pull photos from your phone itself or off your social media. You can use the app to embed a video into prints, which you can scan using your phone to watch back.
You might notice that Kodak also makes a Smile Instant Camera, which doubles as a printer for the same price. That might make the camera model seem like better value, but bear in mind that it only prints photos transferred over MicroSD, rather than wirelessly, and has more limited editing options. If your focus is printing from your phone, the dedicated Smile printer is a better bet.
Read our full Kodak Smile Instant Digital Printer review
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.
Kodak Smile Instant Print Digital Camera
Kodak’s Smile Instant Print Digital Camera is half instant printer, half instant camera. It can (in theory) print photos you’ve already taken using a different camera and then transferred onto a MicroSD card, but it also has a built-in camera that means you can use it to capture photos on the device itself and print those too.
This may sound great, but the downside is that we found it does neither thing particularly well.
It’s really tricky to rate the Kodak Smile Instant Print Digital Camera. On the one hand, it’s a compact device that has almost every feature we could ask for in an instant camera/printer hybrid. A decent screen, a microSD card slot, a flash, good battery life, speedy printing, editing capabilities and an affordable price tag.
On the other hand, the editing capabilities are limited, the microSD card slot seems to have trouble finding images not taken on the Smile itself, and the prints are low quality when they arrive.
It's available to buy for £99.99/$99.99 from Amazon.
Read our full Kodak Smile Instant Print Digital Camera review
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.