iPhone owners with a Mac, especially those running OS X Yosemite, can appreciate the seamless syncing of data such as text messages, documents and browser tabs between their devices via iCloud. This sharing, however, doesn’t apply if you work in a mixed environment that includes older OS X versions, Android devices, and Windows PCs. To bring a subset of these sharing options to your heterogenous setup, you should check out Pushbullet, a cross-platform syncing solution that allows you to send links, photos and more to your connected devices.
Pushbullet allows you to share snippets of information between supported devices that are running the Pushbullet client. The client app is available as an iOS app, an Android app, a Windows app, an OS X app and a web browser extension. Once you install the apps, you need to login using a Google or Facebook account before you can use Pushbullet to send information across devices.
Pushbullet for iOS
When you first install Pushbullet for iOS, you need to supply a login that you will use to manage and connect all your devices. The only choices are Facebook or Google logins, so you will have to pick one of those credentials to manage your account. Once you have logged in, just accept the prompt to turn on push notifications and you are then ready to use your iPhone as a sending or receiving device.
Pushbullet on the iPhone includes four tabs at the bottom and a “new message” icon at the top right. The first tab is a bullet and allows you to view a stream of the content that is being shared to and from your devices. You can easily remove items from this list with a simple swipe, which is helpful as this section can get cluttered very quickly. The next tab is your profile, which lists all your connected devices.
The third tab is a TV set that provides the option to subscribe to Channels, which are RSS feeds. With a visual-driven UI, the list of feeds is easy to browse. When you subscribe to a channel, you will receive a push notification when new content is published on the channel. Compared to rival RSS reader apps such as Flipboard or Digg, Pushbullet lacks in the channel department, with a list of curated feeds that pull mostly from technology and gaming sites.
Last but not least are the settings, which allow you to select your preferred app for opening links, choose your preferred mapping app and configure other settings within Pushbullet .
Pushbullet for OS X
Similar to the iOS version, the Mac version requires you to login using Facebook or Google. Once you have enabled your login, the OS X app will be added to your list of supported devices. If you have already configured your iPhone, the app also will detect that you have a mobile device connected and will allow you to enable iOS to Mac notifications. This feature also needs to be enabled on the iOS version in order for it to work properly, so you may have to re-open the Pushbullet settings on your iPhone or iPad before this feature will work.
Pushbullet on the Mac has a similar set of features as the iOS version, but it has a very different, desktop-compatible UI. The app allows you to view your stream of shared content, with the ability to view the entire stream or just the stream from each device. You also can view subscriptions, a list of friends and more. These latter features, such as subscriptions and contacts, can be configured using the web interface.
Using Pushbullet with an iPhone and Mac
Pushbullet is a sharing app with a simple UI that makes it easy to use. On the desktop, you only need to open the app, select the recipient device and send along your content. The link, message or photo will arrive in a matter of seconds. The Mac app conveniently sits in the menu bar, making it easy to find and quick to open. On the iPhone, the process is similar — select the “new message” icon, select the recipient device, add the content and send it along. If I find an interesting link or a photo I want to keep, I can send it to another device in less than a minute.
Besides its manual sharing, Pushbullet also automatically pushes content from your iPhone to your Mac using the app’s ability to send your iOS notifications to your Mac. Once enabled, you can select which apps you want to share and then wait for the notifications to come rolling in. They will appear in the OS X Notifications Center or the Pushbullet app under the notifications tab. As someone who gets notifications from a variety of sources, this feature is very handy. I can send my TestFlight notifications to my Mac and not have to worry about checking my phone.
Pushbullet may not replace the automatic syncing of data provided by iCloud, Dropbox or Google, but it is a handy utility for single-file transfers. It’s perfect when you see a link in a tweet that you want to view on your Mac or a photo that you want to send to your iPad for viewing. It’s also convenient for non-Yosemite users who want to share notifications across devices.
There are some limitations to the service that are not deal breakers, but are worth mentioning. Pushbullet on the iPhone needs to be open in the background for notifications to work, and the push to your Mac is not always reliable. When it doesn’t work, troubleshooting the service is not easy for the beginner. Also, I’d like to see a larger repository of Channels in the iOS app, possibly ones that include lifestyle topics, world/national news and more.
Despite these drawbacks, Pushbullet is still recommended for users who want to sync content across cross-platform devices quickly and easily. Pushbullet for iOS and for the Mac both are available for free, so thankfully price is not a hindrance for usage.
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