The iPhone and iPod touch are great pocket PCs, but they’re also annoying. They don’t play well with others—it’s not easier to attach a keyboard or print directly to Bluetooth or USB-connected printers, for instance.
There are many different ways to print from your iPhone without syncing it, though. Several iPhone printing apps only print photos, but that’s OK, because it’s uncomplicated to take screen shots on an iPhone or iPod touch. Just press the power and home buttons fast jointly and zap; your camera roll gets a photograph of whatever you want to. You can play that trick to print notes, emails, or parts of Web pages—anything that can fit on a screen.
There’s no truly powerful iPhone printing app. All the ones I tried are kludgey and have serious restrictions. They can only print to one brand of printer, they’re buggy, you can’t print photographs on the iPhone itself with them, or they need extra software. But you might be able to discover something really practical in the bunch.
On the whole, iPhone printing apps fall into one of the following categories.
The only app that can print to inkjet printers from an iPhone without any computer involved is HP’s iPrint Photo. This is a simple, clear app that prints one 4×6 photograph at a time to an HP inkjet printer on the similar Wi-Fi network as your iPhone. The printer could have its own Wi-Fi, or be connected to a Mac with Printer Sharing turned on. When tested with an iPhone running OS 3.0.1, it worked well. That means, it’s no help for the person whose is printer is not HP.
The next greatest option is those programs that allow you print to shared printers. Anything connected to a Mac with Printer Sharing on is a reasonable game, providing the Mac and the iPhone/iPod are connected to the same Wi-Fi network.
iPrintApp, from Celstream Technologies ($1.99), is great and reasonably priced too but I found it to be little bit buggy. It says it prints straight to PostScript printers connected to Wi-Fi networks, but I couldn’t get it to print to my office Tektronix Phaser printers. I was lucky to make it printing to Canon and Epson printers that were shared by nearby Macs, while it didn’t work with a Brother laser printer.
Too many unanticipated things happened with iPrintApp. Sometimes, I’d given up the app, return, and discover that all my choices were doubled—it actually selected to print each photo twice. Used with a Canon inkjet printer, iPrintApp would always print a blank page before its set of photos. At last when I asked it to print eight photos on one page, it simply stopped working; then, when I asked it to print two photos in its place; it printed the previous eight.
Avatron’s Air Sharing Pro ($9.99) is excellently bug-free and worked with two different Canon printers (still not the Brother printer.) It located a shared printer with no trouble and printed a single photo in a huge format on a page. Air Sharing is generally a file browsing program, made to let your iPhone work as a wireless flash drive and read files on iDisk and other cloud-based storage systems. As a postscript, it also lets you print those files. It prints PDFs, text, and photos stored on your iDisk. But it can’t print anything from the iPhone’s inner databases—nothing from your camera roll, Notes, email, or Safari, for example.
The least attractive options, for me, are apps that want you to install and run another helper app on a Mac or PC. Then you can print to printers on that Mac or PC—but only to printers connected to that particular computer, and only while the helper app is running. That’s extremely kludgy.
For example, EuroSmartz sells four different printing apps that all do comparable things: Print & Share, DocPrinter, Print, and NotePrinter. They print a broad variety of document types counting Web pages and e-mail attachments, but I think it’s just too restricting to require that you install particular software on a proxy computer to get your printouts. They might be useful if you only plan to print at home, on one specific computer.