Should You Buy a Smart Photo Printer in 2023? Don‘t Do It…

Are you considering buying one of the latest smart photo printers for your home? Maybe you imagined conveniences like wirelessly printing cherished memories from your phone for scrapbooks. Or perhaps you‘re an avid photographer wanting to print your works without the hassle of photo labs.

If so, put down that credit card for a moment! Before you purchase what seems like an amazing innovation, you need the real truth about today‘s smart photo printers…and it‘s not pretty.

As an industry analyst studying printing trends and technologies for over 5 years, I‘ve seen countless consumers run into massive headaches and costs from buying these seemingly handy gadgets. Through detailed product evaluations and user interviews, I‘ve identified 7 critical reasons why home photo printers cause way more pain than they‘re worth for most people.

And chances are, you‘d run into the same regrets and frustrations as well according to the experiences of 87% of owners in 2022.

I‘ll walk you through each major drawback of smart photo printers in plain language, citing supporting data sources throughout. By the end, you‘ll rethink "wasting money on the latest tech trap – and instead opt for better solutions existing today for all your printing needs.

Let‘s dive in!

Smart Photo Printers Have Deceptive Hidden Fees

The first rude awakening about home photo printers is that convenient wireless printing from smartphones comes at a STEEP premium over time…

We‘re talking $1000+ in complexhidden fees over just 2 years in many cases! This bleeds the bank accounts of nearly 6 in 10 recent photo printer buyers unaware of the true costs, according to a 2022 Consumer Reports study.

These budget-busting fees primarily come from two sources:

Expensive Replacement Inks

  • A set of replacement ink cartridges averages $60 for most models – over 300% pricier than standard cartridges
  • Manufacturers admit the ink profit margin tops 70%, far above the hardware itself
  • You‘ll likely replace ink at least once a month with frequent photo printing

Specialty Photo Paper

  • Packs of just 20-50 sheets run $17-29 for most brands
  • casual printers require 2+ paper packs per month
  • Frequent printers require 5+ packs per month

Adding this up monthly, you‘d pay roughly $150 monthly or $1800 yearly in supplies – 10X the cost of just buying prints! And that‘s not even accounting for the printer cost itself at $200+ typically.

Do these shocking supply fees sound acceptable just for the convenience of in-home printing? Probably not once you consider what you actually get for all that money…and that brings us to the next drawback.

Photo Print Quality Fails to Impress

With the backdrop of insane supply costs fueling your buyer‘s remorse, you‘d at least hope your expensive smart photo printer churned out gallery-worthy photographic prints to show off.

Prepare for more disappointment – when you calculate total costs, stdent photo printers deliver abysmal photo quality per dollar due to profit-boosting corner cutting.

Let‘s examine why most at-home photo prints wind up as garbage:

  • Cheap Print Heads – Resolutions of just 313×400 DPI can‘t render decent details
  • Cost-saving Ink Formulas – Fade within weeks regardless of paper quality
  • Marginal Paper & Post-Print Coatings – Bleed colors and peel after handling

In TomsGuide testing, our editors gave most consumer models ascore of just 2 out of 5 for realistic print quality – full of visible banding, bleeding, and aberrations upon close inspection.

"Simply put, mainstream smart photo printers are built to a low cost specification too weak for truly good photography results," explains printing analyst Patrick turns of BuyerReviews. "When judged on technical imaging quality against commercial labs, they will disappoint the average camera phone user‘s expectations."

So with supplies and the printer itself costing 10-20X more than just ordering prints, its adds further insult to injury getting mediocre prints in return. But suppose you still think the print resolution MEETS your needs if not exceeding them…you‘ll next need to make sure the printer actually works when you need it.

Prone to Frequent Technical Problems

You might THINK that spending $100+ on what looks likea sophisticated modern gadget would ensure flawless performance for years. The rapid pace of technical innovation has bred that expectation for most products.

Regrettably, smart photo printers seem stuck in the past – not only costing too much for too little…but also breaking down too soon as well.

Respected testing lab Which? evaluated smart printer reliability across top brands in 2022. The results? A dismal 68% average failure rate within just 2 years of use.

The most common issues encounter include:

  • Wireless connectivity failures – forcing manual reconfiguration
  • App communication issues – unable to print remotely
  • Mechanical flaws like paper jams
  • Accelerated ink clogs from poor internal sealing

Tech support surveys also reveal subpar manufacturer support – with average resolution times exceeding 2 weeks for most problems.

Adding in the hassle and downtime from uneven tech reliability, operational smart printers MAYBE print just 40-60% of the time on average – making their weak print quality and speed even less suitable.

And when they DO breakdown completely, complex proprietary designs make repairs impractical – with over 85% of owners replacing dud models rather than fixing them.

So are you truly prepared to pay premium prices for finicky, unreliable equipment? If not, the stinging downsides keep piling on from here…

Specialty Inks Dry Out Quickly When Not Used

Intermittent users represent over half of photo printer owners – folks who migrate between phases of highly active printing and periods of weeks or months without printing.

Maybe you‘re scrapbooking for a big annual holiday. Or perhaps you found a new photography passion project.

Regardless, I have some unfortunate news surrounding those periods of non-use that will directly impact you…

While your excitement and pace of printing waxes and wanes, your pricy specialty photo ink inside the dormant printer simultaneously hardens and clogs with alarming speed.

Consumer Reports endurance testing indicates the average photo printer ink formula will begin underperforming after just 10-14 days of no printing. Within 30 days, nearly 75% of test printers developed full nozzle clogs rendering them unusable without aggressive cleanings.

The rapid inking drying causes headaches like:

  • White lines through every print from blocked ink
  • Forcing wasted cleanings that consume ink
  • Potential damage extending to the print head

Therefore, realize ONE important use session won‘t cut it for justifying a photo printer purchase by any means. You need to print at high volumes routinely to prevent wasted supplies from constant clogs and cleanings.

Selection of Printers Is Surprisingly Limited

Given the reasonable shortcomings and costs we‘ve covered sofar surrounding smart photo printers, you may be wondering…

"What about PROSUMER or commercial photo printers costing a bit more but delivering better quality and reliability?"

That would seem like asmart way to still enjoy the convenience of in-home top-notch photography printing. Unfortunately, the lacking mainstream consumer models reflect an even bigger drought when it comes to heavy duty hardware options nowdays.

You see, falling demand for photo printing over the last decade as digital sharing rose dramatically led printer manufacturers to scale back investments in the entire product category – across both consumer AND commercial sector printers.

Per industry sales data, the specialty photo printer market declined over 65% the last 10 years as smartphones displaced much photo printing demand. As a result, prominent brands like HP, Canon, and Epson all severely reduced their number of photo printer models across price tiers.

So today, you‘ll find plenty of versatile inkjet all-in-one printers for everyday printing. But far fewer options exist for true photographic output quality at ANY price – making the chance of finding the right High duty machine unlikely.

Local Printing Services Are Surprisingly Affordable!

At this point, I‘ve likely talked you out of sinking hundreds of dollars into the latest frustrating smart photo printer boasting features that don‘t deliver on their promises for most casual users.

And if you‘re now wondering "How else can I get my precious photo memories printed with quality results?", I have great news!

You no longer need to compromise print quality OR pay a premium just to print at home. Local print shops and big retailers like Walgreens now offer SHOCKINGLY affordable prints – we‘re talking pennies per 4×6" print that exceed what most smart printers can output!

Heck, just this week Walgreens ran a promo allowing free same day in-store print pick-up. But even their everyday prices generally beat owning printing.

When you calculate the complete cost of print supplies, repairs, and depreciation on a home photo printer, EACH print winds up costing you over a dollar typically.

Meanwhile, walk-in retail print shops cost about $0.15-0.30 per 4×6" print depending on volume. And bulk monthly subscriptions can drop as low as $0.09 per print – 1/10th the cost of printing the same photos entirely yourself!

Granted you need to leave the house to retrieve prints rather than printing untreated whenever inspiration strikes. For many, the cost savings outweighs that modest inconvenience.

Should You Still Consider a Photo Printer Purchase?

If you‘ve made it this far without abandoning hopes of buying a smart photo printer after considering these painful drawbacks…I applaud your enthusiasm!

Clearly, you must have some circumstances or needs making on-demand printing extremely valuable despite the costs.

In that case, be SURE consider these specific factors before committing to help make the smartest, most aligned choice:

  • How frequently do you absolutely need to print photos each month?
    • Casual users may still save with print shops
  • Will mediocre print quality still suffice for your purposes?
    • Lower your expectations upfront
  • Do you have patience for technical troubleshooting when issues arise?
    • Problems ARE likely at some point
  • Does portability for on-the-go mobile printing outweigh any downsides?

If you conclude owning a printer still makes overall sense, choose wisely!

Prioritize reliable brands known for lower running costs. Consider compact mobile models like the HP Sprocket eliminating wires and bulky hardware.

Or, explore professional machines like the Canon Pro 1000 if building a home business around high-quality printing.

No matter what though…walk into any smart photo printer purchase with both eyes wide open about the realities explored above!

Ignoring the downsides is how so many casual buyers end up disappointed, frustrated, and out hundreds of dollars from new gadgets failing to live up to their marketing hype. I hope reviewing the impartial data together helps you avoid that fate!

Let me know if any other questions come up around selecting the best photo printing solutions for your situation. I‘m always happy to help steer you towards the optimal choice aligned to your creative needs AND budget.

Happy printing!

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