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Pushbullet's CEO explains why the app is shifting towards a paid model

Florence Ion | Nov. 26, 2015
Paying for features that were once free is a bummer, but Pushbullet's Ryan Oldenburg explains why he had to start charging.

pushbullet settings

It was the shot heard around the Android world. Pushbullet, an Android fan favorite, introduced a paid subscription plan last week. The Pro service costs $5 a month, or $40 a year, and though it comes with a heaping of useful features, those features were completely free just a week ago.

You can still use Pushbullet without paying, but it’s severely limited. For instance, you used to be able to send as many text messages as you wanted, but now you’re only allowed 100 messages a month. Universal copy & paste is also no longer supported by the free version, and if you were relying on PushBullet to send files back and forth between devices, you’ll have to subscribe to move files bigger than 25MB.

Of course, running the Pushbullet service isn't free. Reliable, useful services deserve your support, but the developers of Pushbullet came out of the nowhere with this one. There was hardly any prior warning, just a blog post announcing the change. And the Reddit AMA offered up over the weekend only provided a bit of respite. So, I reached out to Ryan Oldenburg, PushBullet’s CEO, to ask about why Pushbullet adopted a subscription model, how the pricing tier was decided, and what he would have done differently were he to announce the subscription service all over again.

Greenbot: Why did Pushbullet decide to adopt a Pro model?

Oldenburg: Pushbullet has gotten quite popular. As a free app, however, it hasn’t been earning enough revenue to support itself. This was a choice we made early on in order to focus on improving the service and see how big it can grow. Having given it a couple of years now, we’ve hit the fork in the road. Unless an app is on path to be the next Instagram for example—which is extremely rare—it’s becomes necessary that it supports itself financially.

We’ve decided to work toward an independent PushBullet instead of giving in to an inevitable shutdown. We chose to implement a free and Pro model to support the service. We chose optional Pro accounts over advertisements because we felt ads would both be less effective and worse for users.

Greenbot: What will the money from the Pro subscriptions be used for?

Oldenburg: The incoming revenue will be used to cover the expenses related to running Pushbullet. The first priority is covering the costs related to keeping the service running (servers and file storage). Once those expenses are met, we’ll then cover other company expenses (accounting, etc.), and then support more PushBullet development.

Greenbot: Are you guys working to ensure that the paid tier offers enough “bang” for the user’s “buck”?


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