Work doesn’t just happen at a desk any more. Ever since mobile gadgets became super-powerful, and cloud storage made it convenient to work on one file across multiple devices, it’s become easy to check the markets on the morning commute, catch up on paperwork back at home, and work on spreadsheets in the airport business lounge.
Pushbullet was launched by a California developer, Ryan Oldenburg, in 2013, to make all of this a little easier, especially for Android users who don’t necessarily use the same operating systems on all their devices. At that point, he said in a blog post, if he wanted to send a file from his phone to his desktop or laptop, he had to either share it via Dropbox, hook the two devices together, or send the file as an email attachment.
With Pushbullet, sending the same file is almost instantaneous, and if you’re pushing a file from laptop to phone, it goes straight into the phone’s notifications. Then, when clicked on, it takes you straight to the app you need to open it. This means, for example, that if you look up the address of a restaurant on your computer, you can then push it to your phone and open it up in Google Maps with just a swipe and a click.
There’s even a clipboard sync function that allows you to copy text on one device and instantly paste it to another, and while some users have worried about the security of sending password or credit card information over the internet in this way, end-to-end encryption can now be installed to reduce the risk of identity theft.
It’s available for iOS products too now, but because of the quirks of Apple’s proprietary software, Pushbullet works best with Android devices, and can fulfil a greater range of functions. When at work, for example, Android users can keep their phones in their bag and receive all their texts, calls and other types of phone notification on their desktop using Pushbullet - even replying to texts using their computer keyboard.
The only real drawback comes with the fact that you can share files in this way with anyone whose email address you have: there’s not yet protection in place to stop spamming or unwanted files being pushed to your device.
How do I install it?
You can access it via a mobile app (Android and iOS) browser extension (Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari and Windows), Windows desktop app and the Pushbullet website.
Is there any point to the iOS version?
It’s definitely much less useful as syncing is already smooth between Apple devices, but it might be handy for Apple users that regularly transfer lots of files.
Any other handy features?
“Pushbullet channels” are like custom RSS feeds that go straight to your phone notifications, although there isn’t a huge range of good content to subscribe to yet. You can also link Pushbullet to the If This Then That (IFTTT) app to get all sorts of up-to-the-second information, such as weather changes, stock shifts, or updates on the status of a package you’re tracking. Again, this will be sent to the notifications screen of your phone.
Is there a file size limit?
Yes, it’s 25MB for the free version or 1GB for the Pro upgrade. However, the makers of Pushbullet have built a new app, Portal, that transfers files of all sizes via Wi-Fi.
Is it worth upgrading to become a Pro user?
On top of the increased file size, when you pay $4.99 monthly or $39.99 annually for Pushbullet Pro storage space is increased from 2MB to 200MB and you get unlimited SMS messages, rather than 100 per month. There is also the ability to respond to phone notifications from your desktop screen (archive an email, for example, without ever opening your inbox) and the ability to copy text on one device and then paste it using another.