Does Hewlett Packard’s Phone2Print represent little more than a novelty, the ability to print from the Nokia 3650 mobile phone, or is it part of a broader strategy to support printing from Symbian OS phones? This week Richard takes a look at the Nokia 3650, Hewlett Packard Deskjet 450cbi combination and tries to find out whether this is the start of more general printing support for Symbian OS from Hewlett Packard.
While printing from a Nokia 3650 may not be at the top of every owners agenda the lack of printing ability on the latest Symbian OS phones has been lamented by a number of users and commercial developers. Printing has been one of the only aspects of Symbian OS that has not improved, rather it has slowly degraded with each new release. Those of you who are familiar with the Psion 5mx will recall or indeed may still use, its capability to print through the PC link or print directly using cable or infrared. The Nokia 9200 Communicator series provides direct printing via cable or infrared while Series 60 and UIQ phones have no native printing capability. The demand for print from Series 60 and UIQ phones may not be high, after all they currently provide limited capabilities for editing text or other documents, Hewlett Packard clearly believe there is a demand and have released Phone2Print. This application, for the Nokia 3650, enables the printing of images to the Bluetooth enabled Hewlett Packard Deskjet 450 series of mobile printers.
“HP joined the Symbian developers program last December and since then, we have been working to understand what capabilities are needed to make printing from phones such as the Nokia 3650 robust and easy. HP Phone2Print is an excellent example of the capabilities that can be achieved,” said Ms Sheridan Lee, Business Development Manager, Shared Printing & Imaging, HP Imaging & Printing Group, Asia Pacific/Japan.
Deskjet 450cbi & the Nokia 3650
Phone2Print is available as a free download from Hewlett Packard. The current URL is http://www.hp.com which initially proved strangely difficult to find, I had to rely on my local HP office to point me in the right direction. This is because the initial roll out is to Asia Pacific where, as HP puts it, mobility has a higher take-up rate. This roll out is also currently coupled with promotional pricing on the Deskjet 450cbi for Nokia 3650 owner in Hong Kong, Indonesia and Singapore. I understand from HP that within the next few weeks Phone2Print will be accessible from the main HP domain www.hp.com with the possibility of promotional offers in other countries.
A Little More Information About Hewlett Packard’s Phone2Print
The application is delivered as a standard SIS file so it is a simple exercise to either load it directly from a PC or after transfer to the phone by Bluetooth or Infrared. Once installed Phone2Print gets its own application icon on the 3650’s menu. Opening the application gives you access to the image folder in the phone memory and all the folders on the memory card, even if they are not image folders. You then simply navigate to and select the image you want to print.
Before printing you can use options to select paper size, paper orientation, image size, number of images to print and print quality. The available print sizes include a fit to page, 6 x 4 photographic paper size, passport (54 x 40 mm) and mini (27 x 20 mm).
The application also includes the ability to apply one of six borders to the picture printed. It is worth noting that the borders are stored in a standard Symbian .mbm file which suggest that they could be replaced with your own designs.
Given the limitations of the camera on the Nokia 3650 the print quality is very good. While the quality of the image printed from the phone is not quite as good as that produced from a PC the differences for most normal applications are hardly likely to be noticeable. Personally I also preferred the color rendition and saturation of the image printed from the phone, without adjustment the prints from a PC seemed too dark.
An original 3650 picture
The Deskjet 450cbi uses a Bluetooth SD card, so it is also capable of printing directly from SD cards.
Deskjet 450cbi and Bluetooth SD card
Perhaps the biggest issue with this combination, as a mobile printing solution, is the size of the printer. The emphasis with mobile printing is clearly more on the printing than the mobile, as the Deskjet 450cbi is capable of printing at up to 1200 dpi – 4800 x 1200 optimized dpi when using the photo print cartridge and HP colorfast photo paper.
While the functionality of Phone2Print will be welcomed by many what is most tantalizing about Phone2Print is the possibilities that it could form the basis of a more general purpose printing solution for Series 60 and indeed UIQ. Hewlett Packard have provided a Mobile Printing Software Developer Kit (SDK) for its Microsoft powered PDAs for some time. However Hewlett Packard is giving very little away regarding whether it is planning to provide similar support for Symbian OS phones.
Benefits of Phone2Print
“People want the ability to print on-the-go today. A Lyra Research survey revealed that 75% of mobile professionals are either ‘very interested’ or ‘somewhat interested’ in the ability to print on-the-go,” said Sheridan. “HP is allowing wireless printing to mirror the process of printing from a desktop device. We believe many users will easily adapt to printing with mobile devices, as they become more common in business environments. HP will continue to understand the customer usage models for the phones using the Symbian OS and the need to print their content.” In terms of future developments Sheridan added “We plan to continue our work in the developers program and with our partner, Nokia, on imaging and printing from mobile phones. We are working with Nokia currently to refine the capabilities of HP Phone2Print software for the next phase.” At present Phone2Print seems quite oddly positioned, providing what is clearly personal printing, just look at the supplied borders, from a phone with a youthful demographic coupled to a high end mobile business printing solution. None of that however distracts from the fact that this is a convenient, high quality printing solution for Nokia 3650 owners.
It will certainly be interesting to see how Phone2Print develops. One would imagine that the “next phase” alluded to by Sheridan Lee will at a minimum be support for the Nokia 6600. Will the next phase bring a more general printing solution and one that allows 3rd party developers to add printing to their applications? We can only hope so.