Phone Photo Printer

Top three instant printers, compared

So you want to print photos from your smartphone. Right. Now. For that, you'll need an instant printer.

Since the Polaroid became more of a novelty than a household staple, a number of familiar brands have come in with replacements for the old standard, letting you print any photos on your smartphone with a few taps. The one you choose will entirely depend on how much you're willing to spend, how fast you want your photos to appear and how important photo quality is to you.

Sharon Profis/CNET

Fastest: Fujifilm Instax

All three printers will produce a photo within minutes, but only the Instax could spit out a print within seconds. The speed we're talking about here refers to the time it takes for the photo to print from the moment the "print" button was tapped on the phone. (Meaning that it doesn't include the time it takes to select and edit a photo.)

Surprisingly, the Zip felt excruciatingly long, despite its newness. The Canon Selphy also took more than a minute due to its involved printing process - the printer prints one color at a time for a total of four colors.

So the Instax wins. But there is a catch. Unlike the Selphy and the Zip, the photo isn't ready for viewing once it's delivered. You'll have to wait a few minutes for the image to appear, old-school-style.

Best quality: Canon Selphy

It's not easy to build a printer that fits in your hand and produces high-quality photos. That's probably why Canon refused to sacrifice its printing quality for form factor. Although it won't fit in your purse, the Selphy delivers prints close to what you'd get from your local drug store.

The biggest disappointment in the quality department goes to Instax. The prints that come out of it are washed out, blown out and often blurry. In some cases, the nostalgic look might be what you're looking for. But for most people, the image quality just isn't worth the expensive paper (see the next section).

Polaroid's Zip sits somewhere in the middle, producing bright, inviting prints that when examined closely appear noisy or grainy. It's exactly what you'd expect from a pocket-size instant printer.

Cheapest overall: Canon Selphy

Before you make a decision based on the price of the printer, factor in the paper. Depending on how often you plan to print, on-demand printing can get expensive fast.

Of the three printers, the Canon Selphy factors out to be the cheapest. At 33 cents per print, it's cheaper than the Zip's Zink paper, and more than half the cost of the Instax's Polaroid-style photos. Compare that to the price of printing at your local drug store or supermarket - about 15 to 17 cents per print - and it's costly, but if instant gratification is what you're going for, it might be worthwhile.

Polaroid Polaroid ZIP Mobile Printer w/ZINK Zero Ink Printing Technology - Compatible w/iOS & Android Devices - Blue
Photography (Polaroid)
  • Prints Directly from Your Mobile Phone or Tablet via Bluetooth or NFC Technology
  • Works With PREMIUN Zink zero papers - ZINK Paper Means No Ink. No Hassles
  • 2x3 Photos Are Full-Color & Smudge-Proof, and Feature Peel-Back, Sticky Paper
  • Your Purchase Includes a FREE Download of Polaroid ZIP App for iOS & Android
  • Measures a Compact 2.9 Inches x 4.7 Inches x 0.9 Inches; Weighs Just 6.6 Ounces
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Fujifilm Fujifilm Instax Share Smartphone Printer SP-1
Photography (Fujifilm)
  • Easy and quick Wi-Fi printing from smartphones and tablets
  • INSTAX Share App works with iOS and Android. This item requires the customer to download the Instax Share App from the Apple app store.  It requires iOS 5.0 or later.
  • Enjoy a variety of templates: Real Time, Limited Edition, SNS (Facebook and Instagram), Square(Add Text) and Standard
  • Uses Instax Mini Instant Film
  • Uses two CR2 lithium batteries (approximately 100 prints per set)
New Age Electronics VuPoint Solutions Photo Cube with Lightning Connectors (IP-P28-VP)
CE (New Age Electronics)
  • No saving or transferring files, print directly from your Android smartphone, tablet, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch
  • Compatible with Android smartphones and tablets OS 2.0 and above
  • Prints photos directly from digitl cameras using built-in PictBridge feature
  • Includes: User manual, AC adapter, Power cord, Trial Ink/photo cartridge
  • Works with (iOS 5.0 & up) iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 4GS, iPad (3rd & 4th generation), iPad 2, iPad, iPad mini, iPad mini...
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