One of the few drawbacks of the iPhone and iPad is their inability to print documents, web pages, files, or photos without first sending what you want printed to a computer, via iTunes syncing or MobileMe, for example.
In November 2010, with the release of the iOS 4.2 operating system upgrade for iPhone and iPad, among the major new features being added is the ability to connect your Apple mobile device to any printer wirelessly.
Thus, while surfing the Web, word processing, viewing photos, accessing email, or doing just about anything else, you will soon be able to print, assuming a Wi-Fi connection and ePrint-enabled printer is available.
Hewlett Packard will be among the first printer companies to support the AirPrint feature being added to the iPhone and iPad. When a compatible printer is available, you'll be able to print directly from your device without loading any printer drivers or connecting cables.
Even after you upgrade your iPhone or iPad to the iOS 4.2 operating system, you'll only be able to print using AirPrint if you have a Wi-Fi Internet connection where you're using the device and also have a compatible laser or inkjet printer. Unless your printer is very new, you'll probably need to buy a new one that boasts the ePrint feature.
If the functionality of the AirPrint feature built into the iOS 4.2 upgrade doesn't meet your needs, visit Apple's App Store and do a search for iPhone or iPad apps using the keyword "Printing."
You'll discover a handful of third-party apps that are currently available, and that allow for the wireless printing of certain types of files and documents directly from an iPhone or iPad.
Third-Party Printing Apps for iPhone and iPad
Although there are at least a dozen third-party apps that allow you to print from your iPhone or iPad, many only allow for specific types of files or documents to be printed. For example, there are apps that only allow Photos, Contacts, Web Pages, or Documents to be printed, so it's important to choose a printing app that'll address your needs.
Available from the App Store, the following is information about two third-party iPhone and iPad apps that offer wireless printing, but function differently to address specific printing needs.
Developer: EuroSmartz, Ltd.
Separate versions of PrintCentral are available for the iPhone and iPad. Both versions allow you to directly or indirectly print emails, email attachments, contacts, web pages, copied "clips," photos, text messages, documents, and files created using a handful of different apps.
Using this app, you can print directly to most wireless printers or to all Bluetooth, USB, Wi-Fi or Network printers via your Mac or PC (if you're running the free WePrint relay software).
With WePrint installed on your Mac or PC, you can print from your iPhone or iPad to your home or office printer from anywhere via the device's 3G wireless Internet connection (as opposed to Wi-Fi). You document(s) are relayed wirelessly to your computer and then automatically printed.
Unfortunately, this PrintCentral app, like most others, has drawbacks due to the iPhone and iPad's operating system limitations, or limitations in the iWork apps for iPad, for example, which currently prevent direct printing from within certain specific apps (like Pages, KeyNote, or Numbers).
The PrintCentral app does offer work-arounds, but they typically involve first transferring a document to your computer, or attaching it to an email before being able to print it. While the PrintCentral app offers a very user-friendly interface, the initial set-up and getting the iPhone or iPad to work with your printer can be a little confusing.
As you'll discover from the App Store, EuroSmartz, Ltd. offers a handful of separate apps for specific printing and file transfer purposes.
Developer: Wellala, Inc.
For the iPhone or iPad, Print Magic allows users to print files and documents (including PDF files) using any Wi-Fi printer, without needing any special printer drivers. This app allows you to print images, text, and web pages, for example. Anything that you can use the iPhone or iPad's existing Cut and Paste feature with can ultimately be printed using this app.
Simply cut and copy whatever you want to print, from any app (including Safari or Mail). Next, launch the Print Magic app and choose to print items you copied and pasted into the Clipboard, Documents, or Photos. Select the appropriate content, and tap the app's Print icon.
Printer-Specific Third-Party Apps
If you have access to an HP printer, the HP iPhoto 3.0 app (free) will allow you to print photos, PFD files, and a few other types of documents directly from your iPhone or iPad to a compatible HP inkjet printer. You'll need a Wi-Fi network to use this app.
The Epson iPrint app, also free for iPhone and iPad, allows you to print photos and certain other types of documents using any of approximately 50 different Epson printer models, via a Wi-Fi network. A similar app, called Brother iPrint & Scan (free), works with a handful of compatible Brother printersit, too, can be used for printing photos from your iPhone or iPad.
Other Printing Options From Your iPhone or iPad
Currently, one simple way to print documents created or modified on your iPhone or iPad is to transfer them to your computer (via iTunes) and then print them from your PC or Mac.
An alternative is to transfer your documents or files to an online file sharing or cloud service, like Apple's MobileMe iDisk, iWork.com (if you're using the iWork apps on your iPad and/or Mac), or WebDAV; then use your computer (with a printer connected) to access those documents or files in order to print them.
MobileMe is a fee-based online file-sharing/cloud service ($99.00 per year) operated by Apple for Macs and Apple mobile devices. You can download the free iDisk app for your iPhone or iPad from the App Store, once you become a MobileMe member.
iWork.com is currently a free, secure, online-based file sharing service for users of the iWork applications. iPad and Mac iWork apps, like Pages, Keynote and Numbers, have a built-in "Share via iWork.com" command, which makes transferring files between your device, your computer, and the iWork.com service quick and easy.
WebDAV (which stands for Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning) allows people to collaborate on files and documents remotely via the Web. It works with PCs and Macs, as well as popular software applications such as Microsoft Office.
You could also attach certain types of documents to an email from your iPhone or iPad, and send those attachments to yourself. Later, you can open the email attachment on a computer and print it. From the Photos app, you can send any image via Email or MobileMe. From the Contacts, Notes, or Voice Memos app, for example, you can send documents via email or MMS to a device with a printer connected.