Around the turn of the millennium, the growth of digital photography seemed to foretell doom for traditional printing services.
Why would people make prints when they could pull out digital photo wallets (and later, smartphones) and pass them around like a stack of prints?
Fifteen years later, consumers are showing a renewed appreciation of printed memories. They may be pictures on paper, bound in books or integrated into innovative photo gifts.
This resurgence in printing is due in part to an expanding market of smartphone users. “We’re past the stage where smartphone photos are mostly taken by teenagers and young adults,” says Hans Hartman of Suite 48 Analytics. “Traditional photo product buyers, such as parents, are now using smartphones to capture ‘print-worthy’ moments that would have been missed without smartphones.”
The recent Suite 48 Photo Output App Market study indicates that photo printing apps are increasing print vendors’ revenues. Furthermore, they’re attracting new customers. “Over 20% of Snapfish’s mobile app customers are new to Snapfish,” says Hartman, and “more than 50% of major European photo product vendor CeWe’s first-time mobile purchasers are new customers.
“This new trend upends the conventional wisdom that smartphone photographers are only interested in sharing digital photos through social network or messaging platforms.”
Printing Apps Change the Dynamic
Kodak Alaris estimates that 70% of the 150 billion images captured by consumers in 2015 were taken on mobile devices. That number is expected to rise to nearly 90% by 2020. And while the majority of consumers once ordered digital prints through websites like Shutterfly and Snapfish, almost half of users age 18–55 in the U.S. now print using smartphone photo apps.
“We expect the use of smartphones to increase photo print orders,” says Nicki Zongrone, president, Kodak Alaris Imaging – Consumer. “Consumers demand greater simplicity, convenience and speed. These are the factors that would encourage more photo printing from mobile.”
Kodak Alaris is responding to consumers’ demands by consolidating all of its photo-editing, sharing and printing features into one application for both Android and iOS. The new Kodak Moments app allows users to place orders from their mobile devices and have them shipped home or held for same day pickup at one of their partner retailers. Users can also wirelessly connect to a Kodak Picture Kiosk or post photos to social media without having to switch apps.
Fujifilm North America Corp.
“Mobile printing apps are absolutely driving interest in bringing digital images to life—pictures that were otherwise lost on our smartphones,” says Ashley Reeder, director of Marketing, Fujifilm North America Corporation. “We know this because the Fujifilm Kiosk Photo Transfer app has been downloaded more than 1.4 million times on Android and more than 1.1 million times on iOS.
This tell us that our customers are embracing the idea of printing images from their smartphone or tablet.”
Fujifilm’s Kiosk Photo Transfer application provides wireless download to Wi-Fi enabled Fujifilm kiosks.
In addition, a new pre-tagging feature permits users to select the photos they want to transfer before connecting to the kiosk. They can also download photos from Facebook or Instagram for pre-tagging.
From Photo to Printer
Fujifilm is also one of several companies offering portable instant printers capable of outputting images directly from mobile devices. “The Fujifilm Instax Share printer is a fantastic device. It allows you to bring all the pictures on your phone or tablet to life in an instant,” says Matthew Schmidt, senior manager, Corporate Communications, Fujifilm Holdings America Corporation. “We are seeing more and more customers interested in the Share printer because they have these wonderful pictures and moments on their phones, but no way to share them in person. Now, you can print that memorable moment and give it to your family and friends on the spot.”
The Instax Share SP-1 printer uses Fujifilm Instax Mini instant color film to produce 2.4×1.8-inch images. The Instax Share app (available for iOS and Android) offers features like image enlargement and reduction, color filters and print border templates to add personality to the process. Templates include information like image date/time, location and weather conditions; unique serial numbers; and information from social networking sites, such as the user’s profile photo, SNS logo and number of likes.
Canon USA also offers a compact wireless photo printer, the Selphy CP910. The most recent Selphy dye-sublimation printer, the CP910 prints directly from smartphones/tablets using the Canon Easy-PhotoPrint app. It can also print from compatible Canon cameras like the PowerShot N. A little larger than other personal compact printers, it includes a tilting LCD monitor. It outputs 4×6-inch prints as well as 2.13×2.13-inch stickers. The printer also accommodates SD cards, USB memory and USB cords to access images.
Polaroid’s Zip instant photo printer is the most recent and smallest personal printer to output images from iOS/Android mobile devices. About the size of a smartphone, it prints color photos with a 2×3-inch image area in less than a minute. It does this using ZINK Zero Ink Printing technology. The patented ZINK paper is embedded with cyan, yellow and magenta dye crystals. I is covered with a protective polymer coating and adhesive backing.
The Polaroid Zip mobile printer app lets users capture, select and edit images from their gallery. They can also apply a wide range of creative filters, effects and controls. Features include collage mode, paint mode with stickers and emojis and a business card creator. Furthermore, there is the option to make edits private and only viewable using the app’s secret view mode.
Software Development Kits Spur Print Capabilities
Simplified mobile-to-print capabilities are also expanding beyond dedicated printers and apps. Among the winners of the first annual 2015 Mobile Photo Connect Awards, sponsored by Digital Imaging Reporter among others, was the HP Mobile Print SDK. The software development kit adds universal printing capabilities to mobile applications.
By incorporating the Mobile Print SDK into photo apps, they can connect to any wireless printer. As as result, they can provide enhanced features beyond standard iOS AirPrint or Android printing applications. These include WYSWYP (what you see is what you print) graphical print preview and a print queue to save jobs for printing later.
James Joaquin, Mobile Photo Connect judge and cofounder, and managing director of Obvious Adventures, explained the importance of HP’s contribution. “The use case they address is a fundamental customer experience that needs improvement. And for a printer manufacturer to do it in a way that solves the problem not only for their own printers but also for those of others—while supporting multiple operating systems—is a powerful thing. If mobile photo printing becomes effortless, it could make many photo apps more compelling.”
In a future issue, we’ll examine one of the new mobile printing apps that employs HP Mobile Print SDK. We will also look at other innovative photo apps drawing customers to print.