Life can be remarkably circular at times. Back in the day, people used Polaroid instant cameras to take a photo and then get an instant print. These days, we all have a camera in our pocket that allows us to instantly view our photos on a bright, hi-res screen – but people do sometimes still want instant prints, leading to the creation of Polaroid-style instant printers.

Polaroid make their mobile printer, the ZIP, at around $130. This is a thermal printer, meaning there’s no ink to worry about, printing instead onto special Zink paper. The Prynt uses the same technology and paper, but with an added twist: when using the app, people can view your prints as Live Photos …

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No, there’s no Harry Potter magic going on here: the prints are just prints. But embedded within them is effectively a hidden QR code within the pixels that allows the app to replay the Live Photo when viewed on any phone with the Prynt app installed. Given that the photo looks totally normal, aside from a key icon in the corner to indicate content to be unlocked, it’s an impressive trick!

Look & feel

Prynt describes the printer as an iPhone case, which is rather a stretch! While your iPhone does dock in the printer, it measures 6.3 x 4.5 x 2.4 inches, so nobody is going to leave it fitted as a phone case.

But by printer standards, it is extremely small. It will slip easily into almost any bag, as well as roomier pockets.

The aesthetics are nothing to write home about, being ABS plastic. It’s available in a choice of black or white. It’s shaped like a compact camera with a textured grip (which is white in both models), and there’s a shutter release button on top which presses the volume button, the idea being that you can leave your iPhone docked while you take the photos.

Some may like this, but I have to say it struck me as a gimmick: far easier to use the iPhone on its own to take the photos, only docking it once you’re ready to print.

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Compatibility

There are three different models, for each of:

  • iPhone 6/6s/7
  • iPhone 6/6s/7 Plus
  • iPhone 5S/SE

Be careful when ordering to ensure you get the right model for your phone, though this seems to mostly be about alignment of the shutter release with the volume button. I used the iPhone 6/6s/7 model as a printer perfectly happily with my iPhone SE.

Print quality

The prints measure 3 x 2 inches, so this is very much a fun printer rather than one you’ll use for anything serious. The special paper is in fact a sticker, so you can peel off the backing to affix into a scrapbook or similar if desired.

The print quality doesn’t compare with a decent inkjet or dyesub photo printer, but is impressive for the size. I’m fussy about print quality, and even I would say that this is good enough for the job of creating fun memories. The quality is way better than a Polaroid camera of old.

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Ease of use

There’s a button on the end of the camera that opens a spring-loaded clamp for the phone. Press and hold this, slide your phone into the slot then gently release the button. Open the app, select Library and you can then select any of the photos in your Camera Roll.

Touch the photo you want, touch Next and it previews your Live Photo (if applicable). Touch the Add button and then press the Print button. As it prints, it shows a cute animation on the screen of the print feeding through the printer. It then ejects the print, which is dry to the touch and can be immediately passed around.

For Live Photos, the printer overprints a key symbol top left.

To view a Live Photo, touch the Play icon in the app and hold the iPhone over the print. The app then uses augmented reality to make it look as if the print itself is animated – it’s a very cute use of the technology.

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Running costs

The beauty of a thermal printer is that there’s very little to go wrong. You don’t have to insert ink cartridges or mess around with ribbons, and they can sit unused for months at a time without drying out.

The downside, however, is that you are forced to buy specific paper. This isn’t exorbitantly priced, however: you get 10 sheets with the printer, one of which is used for a demo print during setup, and you can buy a 40-pack for $20 or a 50-pack for $25, giving a cost of 50 cents per print.

The printer itself has a rechargeable battery charged by a microUSB lead, so near-zero electricity costs.

Pricing & conclusions

The printer costs $150, which is $20 more than the Polaroid equivalent without the augmented reality functionality. Prints then cost 50 cents each, for the special paper.

If you find the idea of sticker prints fun, and worth the initial outlay, then I’d normally say it’s a no-brainer to spend the extra twenty bucks on the Prynt version. I can see this being used mostly by families with kids, and the augmented reality feature definitely has the ‘wow’ factor for them.

However, the Polaroid ZIP does appear to be on an Amazon secret offer at the time of writing. You need to add the printer to your basket to see the price, but if you’re able to pick it up for substantially less, you might decide to forgo the Harry Potter touch to save some money.

As a paperless person, it’s not something I’d use myself once the novelty has worn off, but it’s perfect for my partner who keeps scrapbooks of memories, mostly of trips she’s taken. The fact that the prints are stickers makes them ideal for this kind of application. For this type of use, it seems well worth the price.

The Prynt costs $149.99 and is available from Amazon or for $134.99 from Mobile Fun. Be careful to select the correct version for your iPhone. You can also buy it with a 50-pack of paper for $174.90. Paper is available in packs of 40 and 50, which cost $19.99 and $25 respectively. The Polaroid Zip is an alternative without the augmented reality.

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