www.flickr.com/photos/spence_sir/2292757408/in/photostream/If you own a smartphone, you should have a flashlight app for it.  And know where to find it on your phone and how to use it.  Period.

Even if you don’t usually bother with downloading apps for your phone, make an exception in this case.  You may work in a hospital with big backup generators and lots of emergency lighting but when the main power goes out, you’ll want a handheld light of your own.  Even when the power is on, you will occasionally need to read a label on the back of a device or plug a cord into a small socket in a dark corner.  You may be organized enough to keep a flashlight in your car glove compartment AND keep the batteries fresh.  (I never have been, or even known anyone who was, but I admit the possibility that such people exist.)  That still won’t help you on a dark rainy night, standing outside your car, when you can’t see the lock well enough to get your key into it.

The fact is that we keep our phones with us and charged.   That means, if we have a decent flashlight app on the phone, we can always have a working flashlight with us when we need it.

The only apparent problem is that, as with may types of apps, there are a huge number in the app marketplaces, all with about the same features, and it looks hard to choose.  Don’t let it be.
There are only a few things you want to keep in mind.

  1. You may already have a flashlight app on your phone and just need to find it. For example, if you have a recent phone with the HTC Sense user interface, your phone probably came preloaded with a great LED flashlight.
  2. There is only one fundamental difference between flashlight apps. Most flashlight apps use the display screen as their source of light.  So you start the app and then turn the face of the phone to illuminate what you want to see.  You can usually choose the color of the light and you can adjust the brightness, but only within a limited range.  If you want to see a two-minute demo of a few of these, check out this link on YouTube .  A very few flashlights, and, for many phones, only a flashlight that came preloaded on the phone when you bought it, use the super-bright light on the back of the phone.  That light was designed to be used as the flash for taking pictures and videos.  In the past, phone manufacturers were very strict controlling app’s access to it but that seems to be changing.  Look for more LED flashlights in the future.  If an LED app is available for your phone, you probably want it; the brightness of the beam is remarkable.  Unless, of course, having a red-light option for night vision is important to you, then you’ll want an app that uses the display.
  3. Value simplicity over features you won’t use and don’t want to trip over.  For example, most app authors feel compelled to add a strobe light feature.  But you may never want use the strobe and you sure don’t want to be able to turn it on inadvertently.  For my iThingys, I’ve chosen Flashlight by John Haney Software in large part because it I’d have to jump through hoops to enable the strobe.

Otherwise, and with apologies to my fellow software entrepreneurs, this app category has become pretty much a commodity  market.  Pick any free app with four or five rating stars and you are likely to be happy with it.

Comments?  Questions?  Have a flashlight app that you think is truly better than the others?  Please do leave us a note.

Leave a Reply