In-App Print Capabilities: What it Means and Why It Matters
Friday, September 23, 2016
The realm of mobile development has come a long way, and it’s only getting better – just ask Gordon Moore.
Moore, one of the founders of Intel Corporation, came up with an eponymous rule of thumb in 1965 called Moore’s Law. App developers are all familiar with this simple rule – if not by name, then by understanding; its basic tenet has driven the computer industry for 50-plus years. Moore’s Law simply states that computer power doubles about every 18 months – growing exponentially rather than linearly.
This means, according to author Michio Kaku, that “… every Christmas, your new computer games are almost twice as powerful as those from the previous year. Furthermore, as the years pass, this incremental gain becomes monumental … Today, your cell phone has more computer power than all of NASA back in 1969, when it placed two astronauts on the moon.”
In other words, anyone who owns a smartphone carries in her pocket a computer more powerful than anything the most advanced research and scientific agencies could even dream of just a few decades ago – and the computer processing power of mobile devices is going to continue that progression. It’s entirely possible that in the very near future, we will no longer use desktop PCs at all, but will run every application for which we currently use a PC on our smartphones – and app developers need to be ready to face this new era.
What this means for app developers
A crossover from PC to mobile device will give app developers plenty to chew on, but we’ll focus on one implication in particular: a user’s ability to print from a mobile device.
According to a KPCB report, U.S. consumers now spend 51 percent of their digital media time on mobile devices – compared with desktop at 42 percent and other connected devices at 7 percent. Our smartphones and all the applications they encompass need to be able to do everything that a PC can do – including print directly from the phone.
Android users, which comprise 80.7 percent of the worldwide smartphone market, have only recently been given the option to print natively from the operating system (OS), since the introduction of KitKat, and this was only after a user downloaded a printing app. Google now has embedded print functionalities directly within its OS, but many apps still are not built with print enabled.
Android developers should understand how easy it is to add a print functionality to their apps, either as the app is being built or as an update: Simply add the print coding to the app’s back end, and add a print button to the app interface.
When a user hits the print button, the app hands the print request to the system, which handles the rest: choosing a printer, setting print options (like page size), and delivering the job using any print service installed on the mobile device.
Because it's all handled by the OS, app developers don't need to worry about writing the print code themselves; all apps need to do is supply printable content.
If it sounds easy, it’s because it is. But ease of implementation doesn’t mean a developer necessarily adds it to his or her app.
So why should app developers concern themselves with an app’s ability to print?
Why enable print
Adding print to an app yields benefits for both the consumer and the app developer. According to an InfoTrends study, 95 percent of consumers and 67 percent of business users want the ability to print from their mobile devices – all current and future customers of app developers.
An app that can print will boost user engagement; a consumer is more likely to download and use an app that lets him print directly from the app interface, especially for items like tickets and coupons. The InfoTrends study found that users are twice as likely to click an ad and share content with other sources, and three times as likely to make an in-app purchase.
Printability also creates a higher retention level for the app – a consumer is 20 percent more likely to stay longer within an app than if she has to exit it to print from a different source, and two times as likely to come back to the app if it offers print, according to InfoTrends.
Apps with printing capabilities also help differentiate them from their competitors – for example, if a business recommends that their employees download an app to help jot notes during meetings, it is more likely to recommend one that allows the employees to print their notes on the fly than one in which the notes need to be downloaded to a PC before they can be printed, which would reduce time savings gained from the note-taking app.
There also are ways app developers will be able to monetize an app’s ability to print based on existing business models. For example, for apps that employ a pay-to-play business model, a user might pay an extra dollar or two to unlock printing capabilities. Human behavior shows that we still place a higher value on printed items than on digital ones – greeting cards and wedding invitations are still largely sent and received on printed paper, not via digital delivery. Users will pay for the ability to print because of the value they see there; 75 percent of users say mobile printing has a business value equal to PC printing, and 15 percent say the value is actually greater, according to InfoTrends.
In a PC ecosystem, it’s a no-brainer these days that every application a computer uses should have printing capabilities – and this soon will be the case with mobile apps. We’re still in a relatively early phase of mobile app development, and integrating the ability to print into an app gives developers the opportunity to be ahead of the curve and take advantage of what mobile printing has to offer for businesses and consumers. If Moore’s Law continues to hold true, mobile developers have plenty of challenges to meet in the coming years – making it an exciting time to look for new ways to innovate and create.
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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