Review: Pushbullet App for Android

A look at this multi-faceted app that bridges your devices together

Smart Phone with Icons
Jeffrey Coolidge / Getty Images

Pushbullet is popular with tech experts and users alike, and there's no surprise why. It's a simple app that bridges your smartphone, tablet, and desktop—once you start using it, you won't understand how you managed without it. Pushbullet is one of the best apps for your Android tablet or smartphone. 

Pushbullet's primary purpose is to manage your notifications, which, if you're anything like us, tend to go ignored when we're busy with our laptops. For instance, there are probably days when you're clearing out your inbox or otherwise occupied on your computer, and when you retrieve your smartphone, you realize that you've missed a handful of reminders, event notifications, text messages, and more.

Pushbullet solves this problem by sending all of your mobile notifications to your computer. 

Setting Up an Account

Getting started with Pushbullet is easy. Start by downloading the Android app to your smartphone or tablet. Then you can install a browser plug-in for Chrome, Firefox, or Opera as well as a desktop client. It's your choice whether you install both the plug-in and the desktop app or just one; Pushbullet works fine either way. To sign up for Pushbullet, you need to connect it with your Facebook or Google profile; there's no option to create a unique login. Once you're signed in, the app walks you through its features including sending text messages from your desktop, managing notifications, and sharing links and files between devices.

On the desktop app or browser plug-in, you can see a list of all of your connected devices. You can change the name of the devices to your preference, such as "Lifewire's Phone" instead of "Galaxy S9."

Notifications and File Transfers

Notifications pop up on the bottom right of your screen. If you have a browser plug-in, you can see a count of the notifications awaiting your response next to the Pushbullet icon on the top right. When you dismiss a notification on your desktop, you're also dismissing it on your mobile device. 

When you get a text, you'll see that notification on your smartphone, tablet, and desktop. You can reply to messages using the stock Android app, WhatsApp, and other messaging apps. It's not just for responding to messages either; you can also send new messages to your Facebook or Google contacts.

One oddity: if you want to be able to reply to Google Hangout messages from Pushbullet you have to install the Android Wear app on your mobile device, which must be running Android 4.4 or higher.

It's possible that you'll get too many notifications through Pushbullet. Luckily, you can mute desktop notifications on an app-by-app basis by going into settings. For example, you might mute Google Hangout notifications if you already get those on your desktop. Whenever you get a notification, there's always an option to mute all notifications from that app in addition to dismissing it.  

Another great feature is the ability to transfer files and links. If you often start reading articles on one device and then switch to another, you can't stop emailing yourself links. With Pushbullet, you can right-click on a web page; choose Pushbullet from the menu, and then the device you want to send it to or even all devices. On mobile, tap the menu button next to the URL box. That's it. 

To share files from your desktop, you can drag and drop files into the app. From your mobile device, select the file you'd like to share and choose Pushbullet from the menu. All of this worked seamlessly in our tests. If you enable it, you can also access all of the files on your mobile device from the desktop app.

We found Pushbullet particularly convenient when signing into websites for which we had set up two-factor authentication. (That's when you need to input a code sent to your smartphone via text message for an added layer of security over your username and password.) Being able to view the text message on our desktop saved time and patience.

All of these features are great, but you may (and should) be concerned about security. Pushbullet offers optional end-to-end encryption, which means that it can't read the information you're sharing between devices. All the data you share is encrypted from the time it leaves one device and arrives on another. This feature has to be enabled in settings and requires you to set up a separate password.

Pushbullet Channels

Pushbullet also offers something called Channels, which are like RSS feeds. Companies, including Pushbullet, use this to share news about their company; you can also create your own and push updates to followers. The most popular channels, such as Android and Apple, have thousands of followers, but most companies don't seem to post regularly, so it's not a must-have feature.

Premium Features

Pushbullet is a free service, but you can upgrade to the Pro plan and access a few extras. You can opt to pay $39.99 per year/$3.33 per month, or you can go month-to-month for $4.99. There's no free trial, but the app does offer a 72-hour refund period. You can pay by credit card or Paypal.

One of the coolest features of Pro is mirrored notification action support. When you get a notification on your Android device, many times, it has what's called rich notifications, where you get more options than opening the alert or dismissing it. For examples, Gtasks (and other task managers) offers the opportunity to snooze a notification. With a Pro account, you can hit snooze from the Pushbullet notification. Note that if you have a free account, you'll see these rich notification options; choosing one prompts you to upgrade, which is a bit annoying. Still, it's a great feature and helps reduce distractions. 

Possibly cooler is what Pushbullet calls universal copy and paste. With it, you can copy a link or text on your computer, then pick up your phone and paste it into an app. You need to enable this feature on all of your devices first, and it requires downloading the desktop application. 

Other upgrades include unlimited messages (vs. 100 per month with the free plan), 100 GB storage space (vs. 2 GB), and the ability to send files up to 1 GB (vs. 25 MB). You also get priority support, which presumably means your emails will get answered faster than free members.

Support

Speaking of support, the help section at Pushbullet is not very comprehensive. It's made up of just a handful of FAQs, each of which has an active comments section with responses from Pushbullet employees. You can contact the company directly by filling out a web form or sending an email.