PushBullet gets the bullet

I’ve had an Android phone for about three months now and I’m still loving it.  It’s packed full of useful features and an app store that lets you do almost anything with it.

The app that I probably like best on my phone at the moment is Pushbullet.  It’s an amazing app that lets you sync your notifications and texts between your phone and computer and lets you have a universal copy and paste functionality between the two.  All this was handled neatly through a little Chrome extension.  It’s really useful and a great way of keeping track of everything in the one place.

For a while I’ve been meaning to write a pretty full testament of my love for the app and it’s become a part of my life and the way I interact with my phone, the internet and the people around me.

That’s all changed today, though, as Pushbullet have announced a new pricing plan that will now gouge users’ pockets for access to the same great functionality.

From December 1st, only users with pro accounts will have access to the universal copy and paste functionality and free users will be hampered by massively restrictive limits on the number of texts that can be sent.

All this comes at the price of $4.99 a month, or $39.99 a year.  For a utility app, this is a ridiculously high price to pay that is almost unheard of.  That puts it in the league of major subscription services such as Spotify, Google Play Music and Amazon Prime.  This is a gross overvaluation of what the app is worth, turning a nifty little tool into a value-for-money catastrophe.

The reaction online hasn’t been good, in fact it’s been absolutely damning.  The Reddit board that once hosted discussion about new features and support for the app, which was tended to very well by the developers, has become awash with vitriol towards the app and flagrant discussions of alternatives.  The comments on Pushbullet’s own blog post haven’t been much better.

This is a marketing disaster that almost epitomises the digital age in which we live.

App developers need to make money for their efforts, that much almost anyone will give in to, but the internet and smartphones’ relative infancy means that we are all far too accustomed to getting something for nothing.  It means that there is a fine line between making a product that can earn some money and one that will be rejected for costing too much. It’s something that a lot content and service providers online have never really got to grips with quite yet.

But that’s not to say that norms aren’t emerging in industries.  It’s pretty much standard now that you can pay for an app and that one purchase is all you need, and if you want extra services you can do so via micro-transactions as and when you need it.  That’s the model Pushbullet should adopt.

I’d be more than happy to pay for Pushbullet, and it’s that useful that I’d even sign up to a subscription for it.  But paying $40-60 a year just to be able to move things between my computer and phone, which are normally both within arms-reach of me anyway, is not something I’m prepared to do.

As it happens, there are lots of alternatives out there that will give me Pushbullet functionality without the swinging cost.   At the moment Airdroid is the one I’m most likely to go for, as it seems pretty packed with features, although apparently it’s a drain on battery life. Interestingly enough, it too comes with premium functionality – but at a much, much more palatable cost of $20 a year instead.  There’s also an entirely free options called Pushline that I might move too, whose only downside appears to be that it hasn’t been updated in a while.

I’m loyal to Pushbullet, and really want to stick with it, but with the market out there offering alternatives at a better price for my student budget, they’ll need to pull a U-turn if they hope to keep me, and thousands of other users, on board.

Pushbullet has thirteen days to save itself from a mass desertion of previously loyal users.  But if they stick with their Pro plans, it’s hard to see anything but the app getting the bullet from most users’ phones.

Update 2/12/15: Well, PushBullet have stuck to their guns and have introduced their pro functionality; universal copy and paste is now disabled for users of the free version of the app.  So I’ve stuck with my guns too and uninstalled their app.

What I’m using now seems to be working well, if a little less elegant and less refined combination than PushBullet was.  Airdroid (Play Store | Desktop App) now handles my notifications on my computer, as well as having a better texting interface, and ClipSync (Play Store | Desktop App) now handles the universal copy and paste functionality.

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