Pushbullet - Pushing the limits

Pushbullet, is an app that allows sharing URLs, text and files between these connected devices. It enables a strong bonding between the smartphones and the computers.

Google’s own Chrome to Phone was a popular application for Android users. This allowed sending of URLs and certain other information from Chrome to the phones (of course only Android). After its popularity there were similar sounding apps/extensions for Chrome.

Pushbullet started from the point where Chrome to Phone was left unattended. It has been growing since then across platforms and in active users. It currently offers the basic+ more features like sharing URLs, notes and files; additionally it allows for Notification Forwarding from your Android phones.

Pushbullet Channels is another feather in the crown. Its notification feed which is delivered to your devices based on your subscription. Pushbullet has quite a few categories which the user can subscribe for alerts. These categories include Tech, Business, Games, Indie Games, Sports, Finance and Comics etc. Each of these categories allows following updates from various popular websites, pushed directly to you.These alerts are accessible only once from any of the devices and then goes away. These channels can be browsed from the installed app or via the web interface at Pushbullet Channels.

How to use

Pushbullet is currently available for most platforms, except servers (no pun intended!). To download for your specific device, visit the official site Pushbullet.

After installation, setup requires authentication using Google or Facebook accounts only. The usual email/password is not accepted. This has its own advantage - not another set of credentials to memorise; and of course leveraging it to a third party has its own risks too. Perform the setup on at least two devices to reap the benefits of sharing (my 2 cents). For examples, my setup is between a chrome browser (via extension) on MacBook and Nexus 5 (via app) running Android 5.0.

Once the setup is complete, its really simple to share the website being accessed. Simply click on the Pushbullet chrome extension button near the address bar which would pop out a dialogue box, select the device - Nexus 5, and click ‘Push it!’.

The URL of the website is instantly pushed to Nexus 5 and can be directly accessed via the Notifications.

The Share menu on the Nexus 5’s Chrome browser has the option for ‘A New Push’. Select this and a slim version of the similar Pushbullet pop out, choose the device - Chrome and click on the Send icon in form of a paper plane. This would instantly send the URL to all the Chrome browser running on any laptop/computer connected to the Pushbullet account. and immediately load the website in a new tab.

Also to share note, link, photo and file from phone to Chrome, you’d need to open the Pushbullet app and then click the ‘+’ button. Choose the share type and follow screen messages.

Notification Forwarding, is another great trick up Pushbullet’s sleeve. It allows for forwarding all the notifications from the phone to all or selected devices. This is helpful particularly when your phone is away from the sight and chrome is accessible on computers. For e.g. when you are in a meeting and cannot take out your phone with every beep from the notifications. You may discreetly look at your laptop screen to know if its an message which needs attention or can be dealt later.

Pushbullet recently released an update allowing users to take actions for the notification received. For e.g. you can reply to messaging apps like - WhatsApp, Telegram, Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, and Line; along with standard SMS applications via the notification pop-up thats pushed from your phone to chrome.


Advantages

Pushbullet, in a short span has added few really great features and continues to do so. To re-iterate, these include :

  • Phone Notifications - Phone calls, SMS, etc. almost all apps (works only for apps that use the native notification services from Android)
  • Share files from computers directly to phones and vice-a-versa
  • Share and access links directly from notifications (on phone/tablets) or directly on browsers (on computers)
  • Replying to messengers like WhatsApp, Hangouts, FB Messenger and BBM etc on most all platforms.
  • Save the battery power on the phones. As quoted by a colleague, “Before Pushbullet, I had to turn on the phone at every notification be it to check the message or social media update. This was certainly using the battery actively every time the display turned on. After installing Pushbullet and I set it up for notification sync. Now most of my notifications are displayed directly on the laptop. It allows me to even respond to most of them or dismiss the ones which are not important for that moment. This has led to more battery remaining at the end of the work day, since the display in hardly turned on.”

Competition & Limitation

Pushbullet, is full of features compared to the primary competition Chrome to Phone on Android. Pushbullet covers what Chrome to Phone could have achieved but lost focus and hence is forgotten already.

As Pushbullet allows to transfer files wirelessly (over WiFi & mobile data), another close competition is Airdroid. Airdroid, has a USP for transferring files over WiFi and has limitations like the devices to be connected over the same WiFi network for optimum use. Airdroid also does not work with Corporate networks (due to firewall security, as mentioned by a friend on Google Plus who faced similar problem). Both these bases are well covered by Pushbullet without blinking an eye.

Contrary to the advantage of Pushbullet to function over corporate networks, this could even be a threat for the IT security teams. Pushbullet, also does not provide Do Not Disturb on the Mac/Windows version.

Pushbullet, has a limitation of 25MB when transferring files. Currently, pushbullet has problems with few actions for Notification Forwarding, like the Answer, Reject or Dismiss feature does not work for Phone calls coming over Android Lollipop 5.x.x. This however, may get sorted out in an update or two later from the most active developers.

Future scope

One feature I really wish Pushbullet should try implement, is connectivity between devices over bluetooth/WiFi Direct (in case of missing internet/data connection). This would allow the users to share the files over bluetooth or WiFi directly from offline laptop to their smartphones.

The developers should also certainly convert the shortcomings as future features:

  • Limited file size - 25mb
  • Secured for corporate firewall, while accessing corporate networks
  • Do not disturb feature, for the moments when you are in a presentation mode on your laptop

Pushbullet is a fantastic app in the current state and we can very well expect more features to be incorporated. Since its is free, why not give it a shot and enjoy it.

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