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BestReviews tech expert shares the best instant printers to gift this holiday season

Nowadays, people are more likely to take pictures on their phones than on a traditional camera. Unfortunately, printing smartphone photos can be tricky. Luckily, instant printers are better and cheaper than they were a few years ago. To learn more about instant printers and which ones make the best gifts, we interviewed Jaime Vazquez, BestReviews tech expert.

In this article: Kodak Smile Instant Digital Printer Bundle, Canon SELPHY CP1500 Compact Photo Printer and HP Sprocket Studio Plus Wi-Fi Printer.

What is an instant printer?

Instant printers are compact and designed to work with smartphones. Unlike other printers, these devices aren't made to print documents. Instead, they focus on printing quality photos you've taken on your phone.

These printers are often small enough to fit in your purse or pocket. Some instant printers work with sticky paper that can be used for scrapbooking.

What to consider when gifting an instant printer

It's essential to think about how your loved one will use the printer. “If they are building a scrapbook and want high-quality photographs, they’ll need a photo printer from a brand you recognize," Vazquez said. “In this case, you should expect to spend around $100. On the other hand, if they'll use it for novelty or nostalgia, there are affordable options that make a few compromises on size, image clarity and speed."

The price typically dictates the printer's quality. Cheaper models are great for situations where you'll pass the photos out as gifts. Those that cost $100 or more are generally ideal for those who plan to keep the photos for a long time.

Photo paper is another essential consideration. “Models that work with a proprietary film type will cost a lot of money in the long run," Vazquez said. “Most come with a starter kit, but I would plan on buying extra film and sticker kits."

Android vs. iOS

You'll want to know what type of phone your loved one uses before buying them an instant printer. Many instant printers support iOS and Android, but the app's quality will play a massive role in the user experience.

“You may find that one version of the app is way better," Vazquez said. “Check the reviews on the product and your app store to ensure people are having a positive experience. You should also check for sample photos, as that's the best way to get an idea of a printer's actual performance."

Instant Printer FAQ

Q. Are instant printers only used for photos?

A. Yes, most instant printers are only designed to work with photo formats, and the photo paper is usually too small for documents. Still, some can be used to print to-do lists, memos and stickers.

Q. Do you need a smartphone to use an instant printer?

A. Some instant printers feature USB connectivity, meaning you'll be able to use them with your computer. Still, most are designed with smartphones in mind.

Q. How do you connect your phone to an instant printer?

A. Most instant printers connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. You'll likely need to download an app to use the printer. The companion smartphone apps often have filters, borders, stickers and other fun ways to edit photos.

Q. Can you take photos with instant printers?

A. Typically, no you cannot. However, instant-print cameras let you print photos as soon as you take them. Oftentimes, these cameras have companion smartphone apps similar to those used with instant printers.

Instant printers our tech expert recommends

Kodak Smile Instant Digital Printer Bundle

The top folds down, making it easy to take on the go. This bundle comes with a printer, 20 sheets of photo paper, a soft case, a photo album, 100 photo border stickers, a few picture frames and 12 double-sided markers.

Sold by Amazon

Canon SELPHY CP1500 Compact Photo Printer

This versatile printer connects to your devices via Wi-Fi, USB or memory card. The built-in display lets you edit your photos before printing them. It can print photos with glossy, semi-gloss or satin finishes.

Sold by Amazon

HP Sprocket Studio Plus Wi-Fi Printer

The HP Sprocket app lets you edit your photos, add effects or make collages before printing. It's easy to set up and use. It uses a dye-sublimation printing method that's less likely to fade over time. Many were impressed with the photo quality.

Sold by Amazon and HP

T02 Mini Printer Sticker Maker

This fun printer makes an excellent gift for children. It's compact and easy to use. The app has numerous templates for making memos, stickers, to-do lists and more.

Sold by Amazon

Polaroid Hi-Print Photo Printer

This affordable printer features a fun, colorful design. The app lets you add stickers, filters and designs to your photos. Most were impressed with the high-quality photo prints.

Sold by Amazon and Kohl's

Kodak Mini 3 Retro Portable Photo Printer

The smartphone app has numerous augmented-reality filters. It prints photos with or without borders. You can buy it with as few as eight photo sheets or as many as 68.

Sold by Amazon

ST-Care Mini Pocket Printer

Kids can use this to print fun stickers. It comes with two sticker rolls and doesn't require ink. It has a cat-themed design and comes in four colors.

Sold by Amazon

Kodak Mini Shot 3 Retro Instant Camera

This feels like using an old-school Polaroid camera. The Kodak app lets you edit your photos before printing them. It's an excellent choice for parties and get-togethers.

Sold by Amazon

Fujifilm Instax Mini Link Smartphone Printer

This printer is incredibly compact. It is easy to use and prints quickly. The app is intuitive and gives you many ways to edit photos. It comes in numerous colors.

Sold by Amazon

Kodak Step Wireless Mobile Photo Mini Printer

This printer is affordable and doesn't require ink. You can print photos in about a minute. You can use sticky-backed photo paper to turn your favorite pictures into stickers. It's available in black, white, blue and pink.

Sold by Amazon

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Cody Stewart writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.