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Tech Matters: Are printer subscriptions the way of the future?

By Leslie Meredith - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Mar 13, 2024

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Leslie Meredith

If HP Inc. had its way, all printer services would be by subscription. The company recently released its All-In Plan that provides users with a printer, an allocated number of pages to print each month, along with ink refills delivered just in time — all for a monthly fee based on the printer and the quantity of prints.

HP says its plan was designed to make printing as hassle-free as possible. “With the HP All-In Plan, you don’t have to worry about finding the right printer, running out of ink, or troubleshooting printer issues,” the company said on its website. “The HP All-In Plan is an all-inclusive service that ensures you have the printer, ink, and support you need to keep things working, and if they don’t, we’ll send you a new printer the next business day.”

Certainly, many of us have experienced the frustration of running out of ink or having a nonresponsive printer when we absolutely have to print a document to meet a deadline. So, at first glance the All-In Plan may sound like a good solution — but is it?

The answer depends on how regularly you use your printer and how comfortable you are with its connection to the internet that is monitored by HP. Let’s take a look at the aspects of the plan that might cause concern.

Like with a phone plan, the printer plan locks you into monthly payments for 24 months, but at the end of the term you do not own the hardware. You are paying a rental fee for the printer as part of the monthly fee. If you cancel after the 30-day free trial and before the end of the first year, you’ll be charged a cancellation fee that’s about the cost of the printer itself. At the end of the 24 months, you can choose to upgrade your printer at whatever the going rate is at that time.

You are limited to a choice between three printers. At the low end is the HP Envy printer starting at $6.99 a month for printing 20 pages. (Note: There is no discount for printing black only, so you might as well print everything in color.) The mid-level tier includes the HP Envy Inspire printer for $8.99 and up that prints faster than the Envy, and at the top is the OfficeJet Pro, a faster printer-fax combination, that starts at $12.99 a month.

Printing extra pages can add up quickly. For the Envy, your monthly fee will increase to $8.99 for 50 pages and $10.99 for 100 pages. If you plan to print more than 100 pages per month, you’ll have to opt for the Envy Inspire plan that will run $18.99 for 300 pages. With the OfficeJet Pro, you’ll pay $22.99 for 300 pages and $35.99 for 700 pages. If you go over your monthly allotment, HP will charge $1 for every set of pages up to 10 or 15.

HP’s plan also requires your printer to be always connected to the internet so that it can monitor ink cartridge levels, the number of prints and “to prevent unauthorized use of your account,” the company said. It will also monitor the type of documents you print, the devices and software used to initiate the print job, and any other “metrics” it decides to add. This may be fine, but HP’s monitoring seems to extend beyond what’s necessary for the subscription. Further, its privacy policy says it may “transfer information about you to advertising partners” to perform targeted advertising. In a time when we prefer to minimize data sharing, HP is heading in the opposite direction.

At first glance, the replacement policy seems like a big plus. HP promises a free next-business-day replacement if your printer experiences an issue that it can’t fix over the phone. But this promise is limited to warranty issues, not accidental damage. If you damage the printer, you’ll have to pay for a replacement — and likely for the shipping as well.

If you print infrequently, hold onto your printer if you have one and keep a backup set of ink cartridges. There are so many places to print an occasional page or two — the library, a copy center or most drug stores — that with some planning you’ll find you can forego a printer altogether. If you have a printer you no longer use, dispose of it responsibly. Most office stores including Staples, OfficeMax and Office Depot along with Best Buy offer recycling programs for electronics.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.


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