It’s always bugged me that the more powerful and connected smartphones have become, the more they feel like islands in my digital life. Simple actions, like moving a URL from my phone to my computer can be a real hassle. Pushbullet is designed to be a bridge between your computer and your Android device, and, while it might not be ground breaking, it’s brilliantly simple.
That simplicity is Pushbullet’s biggest strength, along with mirroring Android notifications on your desktop. After all Google Voice and Hangouts make it easy to stay on top of calls and texts, Google Drive easily syncs files between all your devices, and Google Chrome lets you see what tabs are open on every device you’re logged in to. You could use all of these services and juggle accounts constantly, or you could use simple, focused Pushbullet.
You start by pairing Pushbullet with a Google Account, either on your phone or through the Pushbullet website. Enable as many devices as you like, but each will require the same Google Account login. For devices that were logged into different Google Accounts, I just created a new Pushbullet account and added my other account as a friend.
Create a new notification by tapping the upper right. Notifications can be text notes, links, files, checklists, or addresses. Notifications pushed to the app’s Chrome extension appear on your computer screen in a small notification window, and those pushed to Android materialize in the notification tray. You can also send notifications to other users, though they’ll have to sign up with Pushbullet to see them. Each notification can only have one destination, so it won’t replace group messaging services.
The required Chrome extension lets you easily shoot URLs or anything else directly from your desktop to your Android device. On your phone or tablet, Pushbullet will appear as an option wherever you see a sharing button. Note that files are actually stored on Pushbullet’s public Amazon Cloud, so anyone with the URL can view it—though the URL appears randomly generated so you can’t simply enter random digits and view files. The developers explain more about the service’s security on their site, which I appreciate.
Pushbullet’s capabilities might seem like mere text messaging, but it’s only half of what this service can do. The other half is Notification Mirroring, which seamlessly pushes all the notifications appearing on your Android to your computer. It’s a great way to keep track of who is calling or texting, or see who mentioned you in Tweets, or if your phone’s security suite has detected something malicious.
Unfortunately, this aspect of Pusbhbullet needs the user to do some pruning. The first time I turned on notification mirroring with my Samsung Galaxy S 4 Active, I was quickly overwhelmed with messages. There were the usual suspects—email, Twitter, IM notifications—but the worst offender was Usemon, a usage monitor I use in my testing. It was generating notifications about my RAM and CPU usage every few seconds.
Thankfully, it’s an easy problem to solve. On your Android, you can disable notifications for specific apps from a checklist in Settings. On your computer, each alert includes a handy link at the bottom to mute notifications from the app which generated the message. I highly recommend enabling as few notifications as possible, since the constant distraction can affect your productivity.
Though Pushbullet does have a setting for which device receives your mirrored notifications, you can only select the Chrome extension or Firefox extension. That’s too bad, because I see some instances where people might want to get their phone notifications on their tablet, or even another phone. The developers said they‘re considering adding more flexibility in the future.
Should You Pull The Trigger?
Pushbullet is pretty darn close to a one-stop shop, but nearly all the actions it performs can be done with other Android applications. The power of Pushbullet is that it can sit on top of everything, and mirror Android notifications. I use six different devices and at least three different Google Accounts on any given day. Rather than switching among accounts, I can just use Pushbullet instead. It’s much simpler. But it leaves iOS out in the cold, though some features can be accessed through the Pushbullet website.
If your digital life has become an unmanageable sprawl, let Pushbullet stitch it all back together. But watch out; this is exactly the kind of feature that Google could try to institute in future versions of Android to tie together the Google experience across devices. I would not be surprised if Pushbullet were purchased or simply rendered obsolete very soon.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc