I can’t count the number of times I’ve searched up addresses and phone numbers for restaurants on my computer, then had to retype it into my phone before leaving the house. Or the number of times I’ve put my phone on silent at work and missed important calls or notifications as a result.

But lately, that’s changed. I’ve been using an app called Pushbullet. It has apps for iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, and most major browsers.

Here are the three main ways that Pushbullet has streamlined my workflow.

1. Don’t miss important calls or SMSes

My phone is always set to silent when I’m at work. Office etiquette. But this usually means that I end up missing phone calls or SMSes that come through because I’m so focused on the work at hand. My caller and I then get to play phone tag with each other for the rest of the day, which is never any fun. Also, there are some phone calls (such as being informed a family member is in the hospital) that I really don’t want to miss.

With Pushbullet installed on both my phone and my computer, a notification pops up each time a phone call comes through. I can also choose to have applications send notifications to my computer – though the default is for all applications, I can select only certain applications so I don’t get bombarded (and so I don’t get anything inappropriate coming up on my work computer!

2. Reply to messages from desktop

I used to check my phone occasionally throughout the day for messages from friends, especially if we were meeting that night and still didn’t have anything planned. (I know I can’t be the only one who does this!)

Now I’m notified on my desktop, I can simply keep working until a notification pops up, then reply then and there. It doesn’t seem like much, but the time I no longer have to spend jumping onto my phone adds up after a while. Pushbullet lets you reply to Whatsapp, Line, Facebook Messenger and general SMSes (and other applications besides) right in the notification box.

While it’s true I could just open most of these apps in my browser, it’s far more convenient to simply reply as a message comes up. Not to mention, the SMS reply-from-desktop functionality alone automatically makes this a winner in my books.

And if you’ve got an meeting where you’re sharing your screen? You can temporarily turn off notifications from your phone. If you have the browser extension, clicking on options will let you snooze notifications for an hour.

3. Send files between devices

Usually, getting files from my phone to my computer – or vice versa – involves the use of email, Dropbox, or the good old standby of a USB cable. With Pushbullet, I can now drop a file onto my desktop client or share a file from my mobile, and it will send to all selected devices. Getting files from home to work, my work mobile to my home computer, or my personal phone to my work phone is fast and simple.

I’ve even sent files to some friends who also use Pushbullet, and it’s also a great way to flick a full-sized photo through from a mobile.

 

Although Pushbullet only streamlines my workflow in simple ways, these small time savings (and attention savings!) really start to add up. It’s allowed me to centre my workflow on my desktop, as well as coordinate the flow of information between my devices. Give it a try, and see how you can streamline your workflow as well!


This is the final article in our January tech series, “Things to ask your…” . Check out the other articles in the series, Three things to ask your… Software developer, Four things to ask your… Website developer and Four things to ask your… Social media manager!

You may be in the position where you’ve found that simply having a website isn’t enough. Perhaps it’s not responsive, and can’t be viewed nicely on all screen sizes (and would cost a lot to create from scratch!). Perhaps your business requires a lot of interaction with clients and customers that would be better handled by a specific app which streamlines the process and makes it quick and simple for them to go through the process, and provides a higher chance of making that sale. Or maybe you simply have a stunning idea which you know would do incredibly well as an app.

Whatever the reason, you’ve decided to create an app. You have all the functionality documented and ready to go. Now you need to hire someone to actually build the app for you. Here are three things you should be asking potential candidates!

What is your background in design?

An app lives or dies by its design and user experienceAn app lives or dies by its design and user experience. Unless you have someone on your end who’s highly experienced in design and UX, the bulk of this responsibility will fall on the app developer. App design isn’t simply about making things look good – when you have the limited real estate of a phone screen, the design also needs to cater for how easily a user can move from one step to the next, and how buttons and other interactive elements are designed and placed to cater to big, clumsy fingers.

A good app developer will have an innate understanding of these design considerations, and more besides. Colour and contrast for a device used in both a dark bedroom and in bright sunlight. Simplicity that masks complex processes underneath. There are many things a good app designer must keep in mind while designing a mobile app, so ensure that your developer is well-grounded in design and user experience.

What is your understanding of my business?

This is closely related to the question above. In order to ensure the design is best suited for your needs and customer interactions, the app developer should have at least a basic understanding of what you do. That’s not to say they need to be able to rattle out your processes in detail, but they should at least understand the purpose of your business, and the purpose of your app within your business.

For example, while two businesses may both want an eCommerce app, a specialty store that stocks a very small variety of premium goods will need a completely different design and user experience to a general store that has thousands of different products. A good app developer will be able to explain the differences in design choices between the two, and why.

How easy (or hard) will it be to port my app to other platforms?

Much as Apple or Google would like us to believe that developing exclusively for iOS or Android is all you need, that will never be the case. The mobile market is fragmented across different operating systems (OS), including the much-overlooked Windows Phone OS. Although you may only be developing on one platform right now due to budget (and time) constraints, it’s possible that you’ll want to make your app available on other platforms in the future.

It’s important to ensure that your app can be ported to other platforms without needing to rebuild everything from scratch. But keep in mind that even if an app can be deployed to multiple platforms, the differences in operating systems can also lead to performance differences across platforms. How well is the code optimised for each OS? Or if you do decide to go down two separate paths for your app, how will you ensure both are kept updated, and the features are the same across all OSes?

These are questions worth asking your app developer, and a good one will help you with that long-term plan – and build a relationship where they can help you carry it out!
Featured image: IntelFreePress

Do you have any other questions we should be asking our app developers? Share them in the comments!


We recently had a chat with Amelia Chen, founder of LoveByte. LoveByte is a mobile app that “provides a private space for two to communicate, share things and remember precious moments”. We talked to her about her journey as an independent start-up, and asked what advice she has for other budding entrepreneurs out there.

What made you decide to go down the path of an independent start-up?

I had no idea what I was getting into, but I was really passionate and excited to begin working on an idea in my head and turning it into a product that would be used by many.
It was a rather spontaneous decision, to be honest. The idea was something I was very attached to, and believed it would make a positive impact in improving communication between couples. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I was really passionate and excited to begin working on an idea in my head and turning it into a product that would be used by many.

How did you manage to gather all the people with the necessary skills?
It’s important to have team mates who are passionate about the same things as you are. In the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, he advises getting the right people on the right seat on the bus… so attitude is a really the most important factor I look out for, as I believe skills can be learned.

How did you go about securing funding for your start-up – any tips?
As a first time entrepreneur, it was not easy gaining trust from investors. We created the minimum viable product and released it into the market to see the response. When they saw the traction, they were more convinced and displayed interest.

What methods have you used to promote LoveByte, and which were the most effective?
Initially, we got some help by having friends spread the word. At the same time, we reached out to the media to get some coverage. For the LoveByte app, nothing beats getting featured on the App Store…

What’s been the hardest part about running a start-up? The best part?
If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.
Hardest part: You have to be resilient and resourceful. It’s like a rollercoaster ride and you have to maintain a balance so you don’t feel burnt out. There will be challenges and setbacks, you try your best to find solutions. When you solve them and you get cheers from your users, you’re elated.
The best part is that you’re constantly learning and challenged. As the saying goes, “If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.”

If you could go back and do things again, what would you do differently? What would you do the same?
There were many lessons learnt – things that should have been done, shouldn’t have, and could’ve been done better. Then again, there’s no definite way to do things and we learn along the way. If I could turn back time, I’d have started more projects earlier (e.g. while schooling), then I’d have more experience under my belt.
I would encourage people to be more inquisitive and not fear failure that much. It’s important to understand that failing is also part of learning. Don’t hesitate to take action – you’ll never feel ready.

Thanks for talking with us – I’m sure our readers will find your advice very useful. Anything else you want to add?

 It’s good to have a idea, make sure you’re solving a problem that needs to be solved. It’s important to fall in love with what you do. It’s good to have a idea, make sure you’re solving a problem that needs to be solved. Ask yourself ‘how’ you will do it, but it’s more crucial to focus on the ‘why’ – that will be an incredibly useful motivation/reminder during the journey.


Thanks so much to Amelia Chen for making time to talk with us. You can find the LoveByte app on both the Apple and Android app stores.


With so many apps available at your fingertips, it can be difficult to find ones that can help you use your time efficiently and effectively. Trying to maintain a work-life balance can be tough, let alone keeping up with the never ending list of reading and things to learn and do. Luckily, there are some useful smartphone apps that might just make this juggling act slightly easier.

Here are three apps that I find very useful and highly recommended you to install and give them a whirl – you won’t be disappointed!

Pocket

The Internet contains a wealth of knowledge just waiting for you to read and absorb it. Unfortunately, when you come across an article, chances are you don’t have the time to read it at that moment, if only you could save it somewhere to read later when you have a bit of idle time. This is exactly what Pocket allows you to do. Install an extension or bookmarklet to your browser, and when you see something that you want to read later just add it to Pocket.

The app will automatically sync with your Pocket account and download the article when connected via WiFi. Pocket formats the article nicely so it is easier to read on a small screen. The best thing is because the article is already downloaded, you can read the articles even if you don’t have Internet access. It is a great way to organise your ‘to read’ list and also to actually get them read!

Download for iOS / for Android

TED – Technology, Education, Design 

TED is a conference that aims at bringing together some of the world’s greatest minds to share their passion and ideas. So, if you’re not the reading type, or maybe want a short break from reading, then take a look into TED talks. The talks and performances from TED touch on a huge variety of topics – there is bound to be something for everyone.

The TED app allows you to download the talks onto your phone so you can watch the talks without using any of your mobile data. The talks are approximately 20 minutes or less – perfect to fit into the daily commute to/from work. So instead of watching youtube videos and eat up your mobile bandwidth, use your commute to be inspired and learn something new.

Here are a few amazing TED talks to get you started:

Download for iOS / for Android

Snapseed

If you own a smartphone, chances are it will have a camera, or maybe even two! There are a multitude of apps out there that can modify your photo – add funky filters, effects and borders. Snapseed is similar but different at the same time. It has funky filters, effects and borders, but it has a lot more too.

Snapseed can automatically adjust colour and exposure or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can also fine tune your photo by tweaking the brightness, contrast, hue, saturation (just to name a few). Not only that, Snapseed also allows you to select certain areas of your photo and only modify that area. The interface for Snapseed is very touch screen friendly which makes enhancing photos on your phone an easy and quick process.

You might’ve snapped the perfect photo for your next blog post, or maybe for your upcoming presentation, or just to share with friends, but the ability to have more control on editing your photo can be what makes your photo stand out from the rest and be noticed.

Download for iOS / for Android

It goes without saying that smartphones are very powerful ,we are able to do a lot more than just make and receive calls or messages. Remember that being choosy with your apps is not a bad thing, as it will make it easier for you to organise your phone and keep you from being distracted from the unnecessary.  With the plethora of apps out there, I’m sure app management and selection is something that has crossed your mind recently when you’ve stared at your smartphone.  We hope that this shortlist will be useful in enabling you to be more efficient and get more done more easily.

Feature image credit