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Who doesn’t love Polaroids? There’s a certain satisfaction to snapping a picture and getting a print on the spot. Mobile photo printers for iPhone and Android let you do the same thing, only with today’s technology. That means you can capture precious moments and create physical photos right away.
If you love to host special events, a mobile photo printer will be an excellent addition to your hosting bag of tricks. They’re also fun to bring on group vacations, family holidays, or anywhere else you can delight people by giving them a colorful print of their memories. Here are the best photo printers for iPhone.
What is a mobile photo printer?
These devices have a few names. You can call them mobile photo printers, iPhone photo printers, photo printers for iPhone, or portable photo printers. No matter what you call them, they are compact printers that only print photos. They can’t print documents or anything else—just photos.
With a few exceptions, most mobile photo printers only produce photos of one size. That’s part of the secret sauce to keeping these printers so tiny. They don’t need to be too much bigger than the photo paper they hold. Most weigh less than half a pound (or 226 grams) and have an internal lithium-ion battery that you recharge with an ordinary USB cable.
How do they print?
Photo printers for iPhones access your photos off your phone and turn them physical prints. The printers use a wireless connection, whether that’s Bluetooth, NFC, or Wi-Fi. Keep in mind that Wi-Fi printers won’t work if you’re out somewhere that doesn’t have a network. Bluetooth and NFC don’t require any data service.
Each portable printer listed in this article has a free companion app. You use the app to set up the printer for the first time, and if you like, to edit your photos. Once you’ve established a connection between your phone and the printer, you can often print directly from other apps, such as Instagram, VSCO, Facebook, or your favorite selfie app.
Unlike big ink-jet printers, portable printers need to use a printing method that’s compact and not at all messy. Many of them use a method called ZINK, which stands for Zero Ink technology. These printers use special thermal photo paper. When processed by a printer, the correct colors appear on the surface. It’s a successor to Polaroid’s original film processing technology. In fact, ZINK started at Polaroid before it spun out as its own company. The resulting photos on ZINK paper are smudge-free, water-resistant, and designed to last many years.
How much do they cost?
The going rate for a good photo printer for iPhone is around $100. Some of those featured here are a few years old and now sell for a slightly lower price.
Be wary of any compact printers that cost significantly less than the prices you see here. You get what you pay for.
6 great iPhone photo printers
Canon Ivy Mini Photo Printer ($129.99)
The Ivy Mini Photo Printer by Canon connects to your phone via Bluetooth and spits out darling little 2-by-3-inch photos. It uses ZINK technology so you never have to buy ink cartridges. It also has a rechargeable battery. You get to choose which accent color you like best for this compact printer: black, rose gold, or mint green.
This little gem has a list price of $129.99, but you might be able to find it on sale for $99. Included in the package are the printer, a starter pack of 10 pieces of photo paper, and a charging cable. Additional printing paper come in packs of 20 and 50 sheets for $9.99 and $24.99 respectively, putting the price at about $0.50 per photo.
Another compact printer from Canon, the Selphy, is a larger model that gives you more options. The standout feature of this printer is that you can print photos in practically any size you want. It has postcard size (4-by-6 inches), card size (2.1-by-3.4 inches), square labels (2.1-by-2.1 inches), and more. It even has a 2-by-6-inch photo booth strips option. It uses cartridges to print. A replacement set of 108 sheets with three ink cartridges costs $37.99.
The Selphy has an LCD panel to make it easier to operate. While you can plug in this printer to use, you can also buy a battery pack ($89.99) to make it truly portable. The Canon Selphy lists for $129.99, but as of writing, it’s discounted to $99.99. The device comes in black and white. Not only is it a great iPhone photo printer, but it also works with Android, Windows, macOS, and Amazon Fire, making it a great choice for multi-platform homes.
Fujifilm Instax Share SP-3 ($149.99)
The Instax line of printers and cameras from Fujifilm all aim to satisfy your Polaroid nostalgia. They churn out little photos with the traditional white borders and develop them before your eyes. The SP-3 is different from other devices in the Instax line because it only creates square prints (2.4-by-2.4 inches). It has a rechargeable battery and is known for quick printing speeds, though bear in mind that like a classic Polaroid, the images need a few additional seconds to develop after they emerge from the printer.
The Instax Share SP-3 works exclusively with smartphones and tablets, both iOS and Android. It has its own app with plenty of filters and editing tools. The Instax Share app also helps you print from Instagram, Facebook, and other apps. Note that this printer uses Wi-Fi rather than Bluetooth or NFC for connectivity. The list price is $149.99, but you can find this tiny image maker for around $87 online in either black or white. This printer uses Instax mini film instead of ink, so you don’t have to buy ink cartridges. The photo paper is expensive, however: A 40-pack costs about $49, so you’re looking at more than $1 per print.
HP Sprocket Plus ($149.99)
From a distance, you could mistake the HP Sprocket Plus mobile printer for a smartphone. It’s that compact. This Bluetooth-enabled device creates photos that are 2.3-by-3.4 inches. Just like the Canon Ivy, it uses ZINK printing. The resulting images are tear-proof and water-resistant. They also have a sticky back if you peel off the outer layer.
When you buy a Sprocket Plus printer, you get the printer, a USB charging cable, and a starter pack of 10 sticky-backed pieces of photo papers. A 20-count refill costs about $10, putting the per-image cost at roughly $0.50.
You could mistake the Kodak Mini 2 HD Instant Photo Printer for a portable battery pack or maybe an external hard drive. Of course, it’s really a printer for iPhones, iPads, and Android phones and tablets. It’s most unique feature? It has both Bluetooth and NFC, the same wireless technology used for most contactless payments, making it easy to connect your device to the printer. (Our next entry, the Polaroid Zip, has NFC, too.) The printer, available in gloss black, white, pink, purple, and blue has a rechargeable battery, too.
The Kodak mini 2 HD creates credit card-sized photos (3.4-by-2.1 inches). The prints are resistant to water and fingerprints, designed to keep the vibrancy of color for years and years. When you run out photo paper (a new purchase only includes an eight-pack to get you started), you’ll buy replacement cartridges that contain the ink and paper all in one. They sell in packs of 20, 30, and 50 pages, and end up costing around $0.70 per photo.
Polaroid ZIP Mobile Printer ($129.99)
Send photos from your phone to the Polaroid ZIP and get your prints 60 seconds later. This printer uses Bluetooth or NFC to connect to your phone lickety-split and help you create 2-by-3 inches photos using ZINK printing. As with other ZINK printers, the resulting photos come out smudge-proof, water-resistant, and tear-proof. They also have a sticky rear side if you peel off the backing.
This Android and iPhone photo printer comes in white, black, blue, and red. It only handles about 25 photos before you have to recharge the battery, however. You’ll need the free Polaroid mobile app for iPhone or Android to set it up and get printing. The $129.99 list price is a bit higher than the $99 price tag you can expect to see from most retailers.
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Jill Duffy is a writer covering technology and personal productivity. She writes most often about software, fitness gadgets, and smart home devices. Her work has appeared in PCMag, FastCompany, Vogue India, The Ritz-Carlton Magazine, Prevention Magazine, and other publications. She has lived in the U.S., U.K., and India, and currently resides in Romania.