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10 years later, I haven’t found a better replacement for Pushbullet
As a journalist writing about some of the best Android smartphones, I usually have one or a dozen phones at any given point. Some have personal accounts logged in, others have work accounts, while yet others might be used for very specific use cases. Sounds fun? Not quite.
Making sure you don’t miss out on notifications or text messages is a problem you have to deal with daily if you’re toting multiple Android phones like me. I’ve been using Pushbullet to manage that chore. However, the notification mirroring service goes far beyond plain and simple, well, notification mirroring. I’ve got it plugged into servers, I use it for file sharing, and much more. There have been several Pushbullet alternatives and competitors over the years, but ten years later, here’s why the OG is still my go-to.
Do you still use Pushbullet?
One-stop notification hub
I don’t know about you, but I often keep my phone silent when focusing and chasing a deadline. However, this usually means missing important text messages or notifications. Being a Mac user, my options are a bit limited with ways to fire away notifications from my phone to my computer unless I use an iPhone.
Pushbullet comes in clutch for Mac users to enable deeper integration with Android phones.
With the Pushbullet extension installed on my browser, notifications from all my phones sync conveniently both within the browser and to my Mac’s notification hub. Pushbullet lets me interact with those notifications to send quick responses in supported apps like WhatsApp. So when I get a text message from a friend or family member, I can reply or ignore it right there from the comfort of my computer without breaking my flow. For my use case, I prefer to glance at notifications and respond directly via my phone, but the functionality is there if you need it.
My personal link repository
While notification sharing tends to be the most popular feature of Pushbullet, I’ve found yet another use case for the service. You never know when inspiration strikes, and all too often, for me, it happens when I’m scrolling through news apps or going through the comments section on a social media thread. Years ago, I used to email myself links for interesting apps, services, or even conversations on social media. But that was before I started using Pushbullet. I’ve since been using the service to beam over notes, files, or links between my phone and PC.
I've used Pushbullet for years to shoot over interesting links, notes, files, and more both from the internet and my computer.
Occasionally, I’ll jot down notes on my phone’s notepad and use Pushbullet to send them to my computer. Similarly, I use Pushbullet several times a week to beam over photos from my laptop, my smartphone, or the other way around. Considering Android’s terrible file management support on Macs, Pushbullet has been a godsend for transferring photos, documents, and assorted media files more quickly.
I know it’s not the ideal solution, but my Pushbullet account is a long-running, scrollable history of interesting bits of information I’ve found across the internet. Now, if only Pushbullet would come up with a built-in full-fledged note-taking feature, hint hint.
An underrated feature of Pushbullet is its fantastic API. I’ve had the service connected to various web applications and even my Home Assistant installation to beam over notifications for downloads, uploads, status changes, and more.
The notification mirroring service has use cases that extend beyond smartphones, including web servers and smart home integration.
In the case of my Home Assistant install, the home automation suite remains almost entirely disconnected from the wider internet. Still, the Pushbullet integration lets me get critical updates even when out and about. Meanwhile, for other services, Pushbullet has been a critical tool as they don’t support any means of direct notifications at all. So when my media server starts a download, completes it, or deletes something, I know exactly what it is up to, thanks to Pushbullet’s API.
One of my favorite use cases is to track bleeding edge APKs from APKMirror, thanks to its tight integration with Pushbullet. It’s just one of the dozens of web integrations that have been so critical to how I use my phone.
There’s beauty in simplicity
Yes, I know about Join. Before you flame me for using PushBullet over the darling of notification mirroring apps, hear me out. I’ve tried Join. I know it is a significantly more powerful solution. However, all that power comes with an equally complicated interface to match. While some users might find it worth the effort, Pushbullet’s clean interface and simpler, more focused user experience work better for me. Similarly, as a fan of open-source software, I’ve previously dabbled with KDE Connect. However, I found the software relatively unreliable with timely notifications.
Join is a more powerful alternative, but the convoluted interface is overkill for my use.
The beauty of Pushbullet lies in its simplicity and speed. The interface doesn’t throw a hundred different options at you. Tap the extension, type in some text or copy over from your clipboard, tap send, and that’s it. The Android app operates much the same. Moreover, Pushbullet’s API allows me to integrate it with my web server with just a few clicks. Yes, I know Join can do that. But once again, it’s all about ease of use, rock-solid reliability, and speed — things that PushBullet shines at.
It’s not perfect, but it gets the job done
For all its simplicity and seamless usability, Pushbullet isn’t quite perfect. For one, I’d like to see local LAN based syncing for devices connected to the same network. This would make the lightning-fast service even quicker. Moreover, the company pulled its iOS app a few years ago and has made no effort to bring it back. For a service that initially started as a way to unify all your devices, the lack of iOS support is disheartening, and I miss the ability to have the same notifications accessible on my iPad. Couple that with a glacial pace of feature development, and you might be led to believe that Pushbullet is abandonware, even if it is not.
Despite the glacial pace of feature development, Pushbullet is a de facto install for me on any new phone.
In almost a decade of use, there are very few services, and apps that have stayed with me and become de facto installs on any new phone. Pushbullet is one of those. Despite its limitations and misses, the utility it adds is critical for power users like me, and I don’t see myself switching to another app anytime soon.