Your New App is Missing a Basic Function - Printing
Monday, October 05, 2015
So you’ve made an app. It lets users collaborate on documents easier, book flights, buy concert tickets, or edit photos without having to boot up the laptop. It’s even got a few thousand positive reviews in the app store.
We’ve come to rely on apps to provide value faster than ever before. So much so, that they are transforming industries. Developers understand this intimate connection we have with our apps, and because of this, design them to integrate as seamlessly as possible into our lives. This can mean a broad spectrum of things – creating a simple and easy-to-follow interface, a fast load time, or a secure environment that we trust.
However one major feature that has not carried over from the desktop to mobile is one that is central to our lives at work and at play: print.
There is a perception that print is no longer necessary in our mobile-driven world, but you can tell by the papers around your desk and the photos in our frames that this is not the case.
TechNavio found that the most requested feature in mobile devices is the ability to print [Technavio.com, The Mobile Printing Opportunity, November 2013]. IDC found that print is still preferred for documentation like receipts, tickets and boarding passes. So why aren’t developers implementing mobile printing functionality into their apps?
Complexity Stymies Mobile Print
Historically, incorporating print into apps has been challenging, requiring a lot of time and resources. The difficulties with implementing mobile printing arise from the driver-based approach inherited from the PC.
Printer OEMs need to work directly with each device OEM and then together maintain a plethora of print files and connection methods. Mobile software application developers face a similar burden to support printing in their applications.
In the past when major device and printer OEMs have invested in enabling mobile printing, compatibility has been limited, difficult for consumers to set up, and a burden for all to maintain. Even if print files were available for all printers and devices, they would unreasonably consume mobile device memory.
As all developers know, time to market and agility are important. Thinking of all different types of printers is prohibitive - this is addressed by the Mopria Alliance, an organization working to standardize mobile printing and eliminate the need for brand-specific printer drivers.
How to Make Print Easy with Android APIs
Using Mopria’s Print Service, implementation of the Android API into an app can be completed in a few simple steps:
- The Mopria Print Service can be downloaded from Google Play and enhances the new print functionality on any Android phone or tablet (Android version 4.4 or later).
- Android 4.4 includes native platform support for printing, along with APIs for managing printing and adding new types of printer support.
- The platform’s print manager function provides shared services and a system UI for printing, giving users consistent control over printing from any app, and also ensures the security of content as it's passed across processes, from an app through the operating system to a print service.
Android apps can now print any type of content over Wi-Fi or cloud-hosted services such as Google Cloud Print. In print-enabled apps, users can discover available printers, change paper sizes, choose specific pages to print, and print many kinds of documents, photos, or files.
Advantages of Android APIs
Adding print to your app based on the standardized Android APIs has major advantages:
- Seamless and standard implementation: The feature is integrated into the Android operating system, making the execution easy and straightforward.
- Hassle-free maintenance: The architecture drives the update burden to Android and downstream print service plug-ins like Mopria
- Broad compatibility with multi-vendor print devices: With the Mopria Print Service plugin to complete the print process
WPS Office, a free mobile office suite with over 430 million registered users worldwide, began including mobile print capability recently and it has been incredibly well received by users. Being able to print from a mobile device simply makes sense and enhances the user experience.
Many native Android apps support printing, including Chrome, Gmail, Gallery, and Drive. Box, a file sharing and storage app, and DipTic, a photography and collage app with over three million users, also have mobile printing enabled.
Adding seamless mobile printing capability to an app may be the extra value it needs to make it even more functional and bridge it from the digital world to the physical. No matter how mobile our world becomes, everyone secretly loves tangibility.
This content is made possible by a guest author, or sponsor; it is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of App Developer Magazine's editorial staff.
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