Printer In Your Pocket - The Polaroid Zip Instant Photo Printer.

Disclosure - this article is about a product that was provided to me free of charge. The opinions are my own and I have not been otherwise compensated for this write-up.

In this digital age, one of the things that has gone by the wayside is the photographic print. We spend inordinate amounts of time snapping photos of our surroundings with our smart phones, but rarely if ever do they result in an actual print. Polaroid - purveyors of the instant print - is changing that with the new Polaroid Zip Zink Instant Photoprinter. This new technology produces photographic prints by exposing special paper to heat in a small (about the size of a cell phone, but a little thicker), hand held printer. Furthermore it works via bluetooth, so images are easily sent from your devices.

I've had this little device in hand for a while now, and it's proven very useful in a variety of circumstances. My first experiment was to take it to a party, where I gleefully printed images of myself and my friends on the spot, much to their delight. The novelty of being able to print your group shots to hand out to the subjects sparks conversation and makes you very popular.

My next project was to create a business card. The prints are just about that size, and I had a trade show to attend and my cards weren't back from the printer yet. For this, I explored the integrated name card templates in the Polaroid Zip app. I wasn't as impressed with the capabilities of the app. The templates are bland and can't be customized. They only allow you to embed one small image in the graphic, rather than allowing you to create a composite of several images in your phone, so I decided to get creative. I thought maybe I could just choose an image to print full size and put type over it. However, the app isn't set up to allow you to place type over an image using the edit function. The only option are graphics that are a bit juvenile. I surmounted this problem by creating a composite image with my information on it in Photoshop. The resulting print was a colorful and unique business card that made quite an impression at the trade show. One of the exhibitors specifically said that he would remember me because I printed my card for him with the Zip.

My last adventure with the Zip has been a big boon to my organization efforts. I keep hats in boxes in my closet, and I’m always forgetting which box has which hat. It’s more than frustrating when I’m trying to get out the door. Zip has provided a simple solution. I photographed the inside of each box, printed the photos out with the Zip, then I simply peeled the backing off the print - they come complete with an adhesive back - and applied the print to the outside of the box. Now I can find any hat in a snap! It’s been just heaven. This technique has also worked for a wide variety of other organizational tasks, from my shoes to the art that I’m currently not using on my walls - I applied an image of the picture to the brown-paper-wrapped painting. Now all that art can be easily identified when it comes time to reuse or sell it.

All in all, the Polaroid Zip is an extremely handy device and a great people pleaser. The prints are fun and useful (though they don't stand up to body heat that well - a notebook I decorated with prints became damaged in my pocket) and the interface is easy to use. I'd like to see a more robust app with more useful features for customizing prints and templates, but that's a minor shortcoming in an otherwise well thought-out and fun to use product.

It's a great holiday gift. You can find it here.