You phone and computer are both powerful machines, but they can get even more powerful when you connect them. I'm not talking about plugging in a USB cable; instead there are apps out there that help your desktop and Android talk to each other, helping you transfer files, view your notifications, and even send text messages without touching your smartphone.
I'm rounding up three apps that bridge the gap between phone and computer in a few different ways. These apps are mostly for Android, but iPhone users can look forward to Handoff, a new feature in iOS 8 that helps connect your iPhone, iPad, and Mac. With it, you can take calls from your Mac, start an email on your phone and finish it on the iPad, and more.
Free, Android and iOS
Pushbullet has grown a lot in the last year. What started out as a way to send links, notes, and files between your devices wirelessly has morphed into a powerful tool for both transferring information, and displaying your Android's notifications on your desktop, using the app and a browser extension for Chrome or Firefox.
This free app works well for sharing notes, links, checklists, files, and map locations from your computer to your phone or vice versa. You can also send those items to your friends who also use Pushbullet.
However, the main reason I use the app is to view my phone's notifications on my desktop. This feature is awesome for seeing who's calling, checking out what a text message says, or simply deciphering what's going on when my phone buzzes, all without taking my eyes off my computer screen. You can pick and choose which apps trigger a desktop notification, or turn the feature off altogether if you need a break from the pop-ups. Just a note that the iPhone app does not include this feature.
What's great: The app requires minimal setup, and it's dead simple to send items.
What's not: The Pushbullet app's design can be confusing at first.
Free, Android and iOS
Like Pushbullet, Moaxis connects to your phone to show your notifications on your desktop. However, the app's main purpose is to let you send text messages from the Moaxis Windows, Mac, and Chrome apps on your computer.
You download Moaxis for your phone and set it up by adding a new computer to sync with. Once you finish the setup process, you won't really need to open the app again. Instead, you'll use the desktop app to send text messages and view your phone's address book. Your existing SMS conversations appear in the app and you can pick up where you left off. The only downside is that while you can view your address book, you can't make any changes to it.
What's great: You can easily start new text conversations, or just continue existing ones.
What's not: The setup process can be a bit daunting, and you cannot edit your address book with the app.
Free, Android only
Airdroid has been around for several years and it's still a popular way to sync your phone with your computer. The app combines many features into one, including sending files wirelessly, viewing notifications on your desktop, and sending text messages from your desktop.
Airdroid focuses on helping you manage your device, from viewing call logs and your clipboard, to helping you install new apps and take a screenshot remotely. While you can send messages to your contacts, I've had mixed results with this feature. However, the rest of the tools work well and it's a great way to get a deeper look into your phone and apps.
What's great: You can access Airdroid's desktop dashboard from your browser, so you can use it on any machine.
What's not: You need to connect your phone with Airdroid every time you want to use it.