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Mobile Printing via NFC: A novelty with little real value

Al Sacco | Dec. 9, 2013
NFC has real potential but it isn't truly compelling as it doesn't offer a unique benefit over other technologies.

Here's how you might imagine an NFC printer would work: You pick up your phone or tablet; open a document, image, whatever; tap your device against the printer and, voila, NFC-enabled printing.

Here's how the Samsung Xpress C460FW printer actually works: You download the Samsung Mobile Print app; tap your device against the NFC panel on the top of the printer to launch the app (or launch the app yourself); navigate to the file you want to print using a set of options within the app; tap the device on the printer again; wait for the app to initiate a connection to the printer using Wi-Fi Direct and, finally, either tap the phone again on the NFC spot or just hit the Print option in the app. (I usually had to actually hit the Print option in the app, because tapping the printer just reestablished the connection to my mobile device and didn't start the actual printing.)

Not too different than what you might have envisioned, right?

Here's the problem -- or, problems.

First, you need to download Samsung's Mobile Print App to utilize the NFC printing feature. The app is only available for iOS and select Android devices. Windows Phone users are out of luck. In other words, you can't use just any NFC-enabled phone, and that decreases the overall value of the feature. If you only use Samsung devices, this might not be an issue. (iOS devices don't have NFC. You can use the Mobile Print app, but it connects via Wi-Fi. No Wi-Fi, no mobile print via iOS.)

Second, every time I try to use my Samsung Galaxy S4 to print via NFC, the printer recognizes the device when I tap the NFC panel but initiates Wi-Fi Direct - a different wireless technology - to actually print the page. I don't really care which wireless tech is used as long as I can easily print my content. But all the NFC does is open up the Samsung app on my mobile device and then let me tap the printer again to print instead of just tapping your device display. More often than not, tapping the second time doesn't work; it just reestablishes the connection to my mobile device. I still had to actually hit the Print option in the app.

In Samsung's promotional video (above), you see smartphone users tapping their phones to random printers in hotels or libraries and then quickly moving along. My experience was quite different, and it usually ended up with me manually hitting the print button to print my document. All NFC did for me was open an app.

In other words, the NFC functionality in the Xpress C460FW is a novelty, and it doesn't really add true value to what's already a full-featured printer. You also have to unlock your device if you use a password or code, so you're fiddling with it anyway. Why not just open the app manually and print that way?

 

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