Portable Printer

The Rise of Portable Printers: Bringing Printing Capabilities to Your Fingertips


The onset of smartphones and tablets has transformed how we create and consume content on the go. However, one area that has lagged behind is mobile printing. Carrying bulky inkjet or laser printers while travelling has never been practical. Thankfully, portable printers have emerged to solve this problem by bringing printing capabilities to our hands.

A Brief History

The concept of portable printing is not new. Early attempts include mini thermal printers built into cameras and PDAs in the 1990s. However, it was not until the late 2000s that the technology matured enough to allow true mobile printing. One of the first commercially successful portable printers was the Canon Selphy in 2010. Weighing just over 2 lbs, it brought affordable photo printing on the go. Other manufacturers like Kodak and HP soon followed with their own portable photo printers.

It was the arrival of smartphones that supercharged the portable printing industry. As mobile use surged, demand grew for printing documents, boarding passes, maps and more from these new “super computers in our pockets.” Breakthroughs in battery life, connectivity and miniaturization allowed printers to shrink further without compromising quality or features. Today portable printers come in sizes smaller than an average paperback book.

Connectivity: The Key to Mobile Printing

At the core of any portable printer’s functionality is wireless connectivity. Early models typically integrated Bluetooth for printing from compatible cameras and phones within short range. While functional, Bluetooth had limitations in speed and device support.

Modern portable printers leverage WiFi, Cloud services and smartphone apps to allow printing from anywhere. After initially configuring to a home or public network, users can print files and photos stored on any device, remotely and on the go. Advanced models also offer WiFi Direct for direct device-to-printer sharing without an intermediary network.

Cloud services expand printing possibilities even further. Photos stored in services like Google Photos, Instagram or Dropbox can be instantly printed from portable printers using the relevant mobile app. Some printers even support printing documents and emails sent to their dedicated email address for on-the-spot hard copies. Well-implemented connectivity is key to the usefulness and popularity of portable printers.

Photo Printing Remains Key, But Functionality Is Expanding

While photo printing remains a core capability, portable printer manufacturers are adding new functions to expand use cases. Many now allow printing from a variety of file formats like Microsoft Word docs, PDFs and more. Some even support printing from dedicated scanner attachments for creating hard copies of documents on the fly.

Label making is another growing feature as users print shipping labels, name tags and more. With built-in templates and size options, label printing streamlines everyday tasks. The ability to print on a variety of media like sticker sheets, iron-on sheets, and magazine sheets further diversifies applications.

Advanced models target niche demands like ID card printing. Combining printing, laminating and cutting, they create durable photo IDs and badges for events, conferences and more in minutes. Others focus on business needs, with features like NFC card readers to print boarding passes.

The Continued Evolution of Portable Printing

With new connectivity standards like 5G on the horizon, Portable Printer is poised to get more powerful and pervasive. Faster wireless speeds will improve printing speeds and support higher resolution printing from more sources. Integration of AI and augmented reality could enable new functionalities around object and gesture recognition.

Printing technologies themselves will continue miniaturizing. Some next-gen printers are exploring using e-paper like those in ebook readers for superior display quality printing. 3D printing advances may even allow creating physical objects on the go. Batteries capable of supporting longer continuous printing sessions will further boost usefulness.

1.  Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it