The Best Printer Apps For Android

What you need to know to print from your phone or tablet

It may seem antithetical to print documents and pictures from your Android smartphone or tablet, but sometimes it's necessary. For instance, a business traveler might need a hard copy of a vital presentation just before going into a meeting, or someone might need to print out a boarding pass or event ticket when away from a laptop. In any event, it's always good to be prepared "just in case." Luckily, it's relatively easy to print from Android devices; here's how.

Person doing paperwork in home office.
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Google Cloud Print: For Printing From Google Apps

There are plenty of free Android apps for printing, and one great option is Google's Cloud Print tool. Rather than using a direct Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection to a printer, Cloud Print lets users connect to any printer that's compatible with the Google Cloud. Depending on your device, Cloud Print is either built into your operating system or available as an app download. Cloud Print comes with most stock Android devices.

Google Cloud Print will no longer work starting January 1, 2021. For more info, visit Google Cloud Print's support page.

Wireless printing is automatically available on newer printers — Google provides a list of compatible models — and users can manually add older "classic" printers. There are limitations, though, as you can only print from Google apps, including Chrome, Docs, and Gmail.

To test out the Cloud Print feature, we used a Brother all-in-one printer that was on Google's list of compatible printers. For some reason, it did not connect to Google Cloud automatically, though, so we ended up adding it manually.

On our Google Pixel XL, the print option is listed in the sharing menu when printing a Google doc or Chrome web page. As usual with Android, this may be different on your device; in many cases, the printing option is in the main menu on the app you're using. Once you find it, Cloud Print offers standard printing options, including paper size, double-sided printing, print only select pages, and more. Users can share their printer with trusted friends and family too. 

Free Print Apps for Android: For Printing From Any App

For printing from non-Google apps, Starprint is a good alternative, which prints from Word, Excel, and most mobile apps. Users can print over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and USB, and the app is compatible with thousands of printer models. Printing via USB requires a special USB on-the-go (OTG) cable, which allows your smartphone or tablet to act as host so that it can attach to the printer. USB OTG cables are available online for as little as a few dollars. There's an ad-supported free version of Starprint as well as a paid version that gets rid of the ads.

Each of the big printer brands, including Canon, Epson, HP, and Samsung also have mobile apps, which can be useful if you're at a hotel, shared office space, or typically use the same wireless printer. HP's ePrint app is compatible with thousands of HP Public Print Locations at FedEx Kinkos, UPS stores, airport kiosks, and VIP lounges. It can print over Wi-Fi or NFC. Samsung's Mobile Print app can also scan and fax documents.

Another alternative is PrinterOn, which connects you to compatible printers in public locations in your area, such as airports, hotels, and pharmacies. PrinterOn-enabled printers have unique email addresses, so in a pinch, you can just forward an email directly to the printer. You can use location services or keyword searches to find compatible printers near you; the company warns that some printers that show up in the results may not be publicly available, though. For example, a hotel printer may only be available to guests.

How to Print from an Android Phone

After you download your preferred printing app, you have to pair it with the printer.

  • In most cases, the app will discover compatible printers that are on the same Wi-Fi network, but, as we experienced with Cloud Print, you may have to add it manually.
  • To add a printer manually, you have to go into Chrome's advanced settings > select Google Cloud Print, and click manage Cloud Print devices. You'll see a list of any printers that are on the same Wi-Fi network. (Be sure that your printer is turned on and online.)
  • Next, navigate to the document, web page, or photo that you want to print, and there will be an option either in the app menu or the sharing options.
  • Most apps have a preview function as well as paper size options.

The printing apps we looked at also have printing queues so you can see what's printing or if there are any issues such as lack of paper or low toner alert.

Many of these apps require a Wi-Fi connection. If you're offline, you can print to a PDF to save a web page or document for later; look for "print to PDF" in the printer options. Saving to PDF is also handy for making cloud-based documents available offline.