Friday, June 15, 2007

Will I Be Able To Print From The iPhone? Yes ... Maybe!

Will I Be Able To Print From The iPhone?

Since taking a job with AT&T (specifically focusing on iPhone support) the most repeated question I have received other than, "Can I get on a reserve list?" is; "Can I print from the iPhone?"

I have to be honest and say ... I don't know.

But ...

The iPhone does have Bluetooth. I personally own two Bluetooth printers. The first is made by Kodak; a nice Bluetooth photo printer called the EasyShare 500. The second is made by HP; a wireless printer called the 450BT (the current model is the 460wBT). (see pictures below)

* The Kodak EasyShare 500 Bluetooth printer

* The HP 450 Bluetooth printer / Bluetooth is optional

* The HP 460 Bluetooth printer / Bluetooth is built in

I say there is a good possibility that the iPhone will be able to print via Bluetooth. If Apple advertises this as "this isn't the watered down version of the internet" - I say the internet is printable. If they advertise "a phone like no other" - I say the average smartphone is VERY difficult to learn how to print from - if you can print from it at all.

This is one thing I loved about the Newton. If you bought an Apple Stylewriter inkjet printer - boom - you were printing with little to no effort.

If I understand Bluetooth correctly - it is a standard in and of itself - for any type of protocol that it is assigned. Meaning - if a "certain something" has the ability to be paired and/or discovered via bluetooth - then it should work.

I know that with both the Kodak and HP bluetooth printers that I have - I did not have to load any drivers and I do not think the drivers were in my basic OS install for these printers.

I would love to hear reader thoughts on this.

digg story

[ANSWER] NO ... at least not yet.

[UPDATE] One can now print from the iPhone via HP e series wireless printers. These are the ONLY printers officially supported at this time and can be found at most office and electronics stores online and at retail for $75 and up to $399.99.

ALL HACKS that enable this feature on "other printers" require a very complicated setup and require a nearby computer to be turned on and used as a server.

[UPDATE] The latest iPhone OS 5 allows printing.


Anonymous said...

"If I understand Bluetooth correctly - it is a standard in and of itself - for any type of protocol that it is assigned. Meaning - if a "certain something" has the ability to be paired and/or discovered via bluetooth - then it should work."

Not exactly, I bought one of the first bluetooth portable printers years back. It was an HP. My Mac could see it but couldn't print to it. When I contacted HP they said that Apple hadn't finished their development of the bluetooth libraries to print from. AKA, Apple hadn't supported it yet. It's like all of those people who own bluetooth cell phones, but can't use iSync with them via bluetooth even though the Mac can see them.

Since it's Apple's first phone, expect a lot of things to be not working yet and there will probably be a big software update right before the Xmas buying season.

FYT said...

I do see your point - I hadn't considered the iSync phone compatibility ... but again ... from my understanding the Sony Ericcson phones that don't work are just a matter of SE's ways of handling the bluetooth "stack" protocol. I know this is true for Nokia phones as they handle BT data in a very very odd approach.

I think printing is a different matter though. Bluetooth 1.1 and 2.0 based printers do not have to have pairing codes (as phones and headsets do).

You are right that the first HP bluetooth printers were not implemented well.

Unknown said...

Nope. This will NOT HAPPEN anytime soon. Why? Just navigate to /Library/Printers. OS X has more than 1.5 GB of printer drivers installed by default. To print on iPhone, this would require placing all 1.5 GB of these drivers on the iPhone flash drive. This is more than 35% of the 4GB iPhone hard drive just to be able to print, a single feature that has never been demo'ed.

Alternatively, AAPL could allow the iPhone to pair with a nearby Mac/PC that holds the printer drivers and has printer sharing turned on and then printing directly from iPhone would be nearly seamless.

But direct print from iPhone with no computer middleman will not happen for a good while yet.

FYT said...

Actually it would only need about 20MB of CUPS drivers. And for the record, there are NO drivers in my system folder for the HP 450 BT printer - I even opened the deskjet driver in BBedit.

Besides, there's absolutely NO need to support ANY printer without Wifi or bluetooth. I know for a fact that all HP printers that use bluetooth to print use the same protocol.

I see a limited number of printers that could be supported with very little impact on the storage.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Treo 700p user who upgraded from a Newton. Primarily because I was able to Print using PalmPrint from Stevens Creek Software.
I print to a Canon i70 and an HP 350 via IrDa. Works just fine although the Newton applications were better and printed WYSIWYG better than the Treo.

FYT said...

Thank you for your input

Anonymous said...

As a former Bluetooth product developer, I hope I can provide some more accurate insight.

Bluetooth is an open standard controlled by a non-profit consortium of member companies - including Apple, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, etc. - most companies which make Bluetooth-enabled products are some kind of member. Why is this important? Because Bluetooth was developed so that products from different companies can interoperate. That's the theory. In the beginning, the standards were relatively basic and open to interpretation. So at first, each company's engineers wrote their software according to how they interpreted the standards. It's much better now since the standards have gone through much refinement and clarification, and most companies get to test their products compatibility with other products.

But the Bluetooth specifications are actually a collection of various functions - called "profiles" - which define how two different devices are suppose to work together - for example - printing, file transfer, handsfee, headset, etc. Not all devices which have Bluetooth support all profiles. A Bluetooth headset, for example, wouldn't support file transfer or printing. So it is up to each manufacturer to support the profiles they think are necessary.

What does this mean for iPhone printing? Apple has to support the Bluetooth printing profile. That's it. The profile defines how files are formated for printing - so no print drivers are necessary. The printer receives the file to be printed and does what it needs to to print it. This also means that certain non-standard or advance options are not available via Bluetooth, but the iPhone doesn't need to worry about what kind of printer it is.

easttnguy said...

I would like to see the PictBridge feature added to the iPhone so people could print photos placed or taken on the iPhone to a PictBridge enabled printer.

Anonymous said...

Randy ...

Did you see my article about the Ricoh printer that one can email and it will print what ever text or photos one emails it?

Hidden Gem @ MacWorld - An iPhone Printer From Ricoh

Anonymous said...

Contrary to what I have read on this blog printing from the iPhone would not require 1.5gig of printer drivers and you certainly do not need to program BlueTooth printing capability. Using the iPhone's wifi capability gives you potential access to any printer available on your wifi network segment. As far as printer drivers Safari already uses Postcript and it would be relatively easy to add support for PCL printing. To be honest I cannot fathom why Apple did not include at least the basic capability to print PCL via wifi from the get go! It's about as stupid a decision as not including "Cut & Paste" capability and cursor key control to the virtual keyboard.

Don't get me wrong I love the iPhone and I own several already. Quite honestly I will never understand why Apple over the years has always hobbled some of it's most greatest products with absolutely dumb decisions like this. My guess is that Steve Jobs just honestly felt like "who would want to do that" with an iPhone. I have found out thru the years that many of the really dumb interface and hardware limitations were due mainly to Steve's bone headed decisions. There is no reason whatsoever why the iPhone should not have these basic capabilities. Hoepfully now that the iPhone SDK is available some enterprising small developer will fill in these deficienies before long...

FYT said...

To be truthful ... this is a functionality that HP and lexmark could easily build into every wifi printer they offer. All they would have to have is a proxy email address ie printthis@hpprinter.local

You would essentially email the printer on your wireless network - what ever you emailed it - it would print the body of the email.

Anonymous said...

I created an e-mail rule that executes a applescript script that prints anything that arrives via e-mail that has the word print in the subject.

So, I put the word 'print' in the subject of an incoming email and forward it to myself. If the subject contains print

The rule moves the message to a print folder, executes a script that does a unix cmd to print it
and then removes it.

It works pretty good!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I forgot... It prints on my iMac which has a printer attached.. and the mail program running..
i just tried it and I notice I now leave the message in the print folder..

FYT said...

that's pretty cool ... can you please share the entire process to set this up ( explaining your os version ) and be as detailed as possible?

FYT said...

Fir the life of me ... I can't understand why HP won't integrate this feature into their wifi printers where if sent something via the network with a print command in the subject it would just print. Right now I can see my HP 470 on my iphone.

Anonymous said...

There is a new Polaroid printer called PoGo - it is about the size of the iphone and has a rechargeable Lithium battery. It is wifi and prints little 2x3" pictures. It works with a bunch of cell phones as well as digital cameras. Right now there is NO iphone support. If this gets worked out it is the perfect little portable photo printer for this phone.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I saw the polaroid bluetooth photo printer-pretty slick, was going to buy but it doesn't support iPhone.

I e-mailed polaroid and a mktg vp wrote back right away and said they'd love to but ball is in apple's court. I hope apple provides printing support soon that would be a nice feature to add.

FYT said...

actually ... it would be quite easy for a manufacturer to make a wireless driverless printer that one could just email to print

Tiger said...

the ability to print to a Bluetooth or wifi-enabled printer alone is not a satisfactory solution; the only solution i'm interested in will let me print to a network printer on any network with a wifi access point regardless of:

a) the means by which the printer is connected to the network and

b) whether the printer itself has any kind of built-in wireless capability.

i have a relatively new HP Color LaserJet 2605dn connected to my network via a Netgear wireless print server; a printer driver for iPhone that relied on my printer being Bluetooth- or wifi-capable in and of itself would provide functionality only for a subset of iPhone/network/printer users that doesn't include me (nor a lot of others with similar setups). what we need is connection-type-independent drivers for the iPhone, just like those for the Mac.


FYT said...

Actually a single driver using PCL or HP IP printing on the iPhone would work or if HP built a way such as I have detailed into their printers it would also work.

IE - email the printer with a subject "print"

It would print whatever is in the body of the email.

An HP "email solution" would be easiest.

Anonymous said...

There is now an app in the app store that enables you to print, click the link to check it out - it is great and works really well! Costs just $2.99

FYT said...

That is interesting but not really a printing app and technically won't work without a computer - so it's not really what I'm talking about.

The ricoh printer I mentioned above is STILL the only printer I know of on the market that will work with the iPhone.

Anonymous said...

Just happened to see this post.. is there a solution for direct printing from iPhone as yet? Would printing over WiFi a viable solution? There are 100 million iPhones out there.How many would be interested in direct printing thro WiFi?

FYT said...

Yes ... I use the hp iprint app every week.

Very easy to use.

There is another app too ... buy I haven't had the need for it.