There are a few categories of apps — especially on iPhone — that the App Store developer community has completely saturated. Off the top of my head, I can think of a few: to-do list apps, weather apps and text editors. The thing these categories have in common, though, is they’re extremely subjective. What I mean here is that one person might absolutely love OmniFocus, whereas someone else might hate it. It’s a matter of taste and preference. There are some categories of apps, though, where this subjective preference isn’t quite so apparent.
Most people pretty much agree what makes a good flashlight. So surely most people will agree what makes a good flashlight app? But what does make one of these apps good or bad? I have a few ideas. Let’s start with how we’d rate a good flashlight:
- Battery life,
- Ease of use.
As you can probably tell, one flashlight app is likely to have about the same battery draw from an iPhone as any other. Same goes for brightness — all the apps will be limited by the strength of the iPhone’s flash.
But ease of use is where things start to get interesting. iPhone torches should provide a few basic functions:
- Provide a steady-on beam of light from the iPhone camera flash,
- Provide a SOS function using the camera flash,
- Provide a “screen lock” function, where fingers running all over the touchscreen won’t disrupt the torch.
On top of these basic functions, I have a few other luxury feature requests:
- Have a gorgeous icon,
- Have a great name,
- Have a beautiful, but not over-designed interface,
- Not be free (I like to support developers making great apps).
As you can probably tell by the length of this article, I have strong opinions when it comes to flashlight apps. Unfortunately (for me), these strong opinions came about because I’ve been burned by poorly thought out apps in the past. I used most of the high ranking App Store flashlight suggestions before making my final choice. And I’m pretty sure I’ve picked out the best of the bunch.
Let me introduce you to Light, by JZ * LABS. The first thing that’ll probably strike you is how beautiful the icon is. It looks even better when it’s sitting proudly on your homescreen, believe me. Let’s have a look at Light’s features.
I bought Light pretty much the day I got my iPhone 5 (with my own cash) and have been overjoyed with it ever since. Just like a good flashlight, a good flashlight app is incredibly useful. Whether it’s giving you a helping hand navigating your home in the dark, helping you re-arrange cables under a desk or even walking through a forest at night with no other means of light, a great flashlight app can really save your bacon.
How I use Light
It’s incredibly simple. Launch the app, and the light will be on by default. There’s a great big (beautiful) button in the centre of your iPhone’s screen to turn the light on and off, along with a mode selector switch. Double-tapping an empty area of the screen will enter “locked” mode, where Light ignores all touch inputs on the display except for another double-tap. The display is also dimmed.
If I’m out walking at night and want to use Light, I take out my iPhone, launch the app, double-tap the display and don’t even think about it. Light comes in handy around the house, too: I’ve recently been rearranging cables in my office under the desk and could never have tidied up so fast using a traditional flashlight… I’d have had to find it for a start.
It’s certainly arguable that the case I’m arguing is for flashlight apps, rather than Light itself. If you use a different flashlight app and love it, then stick with it! When I used some other apps, though, I found them markedly worse. Some of the other apps had ugly UI, always showed ads, had strange names which would show up on my homescreen and didn’t have a great way to lock the screen. Light nails all my requirements — and I’m pretty sure my requirements are fairly universal.
Another great feature of using an iPhone app as a flashlight rather than, you know, an actual flashlight is the battery. I carry my iPhone everywhere I go and always have an indication of the battery life. Flashlights tend to be used very infrequently — with such a large gap between uses that the batteries inside are always dead.
If your iPhone has power, you have a torch.
There are a good amount of options in Light if you’d like your setup a little different than the stock. In my case, for example, I’ve removed the strobe and SOS options from the main display, so I don’t accidentally turn on strobe when I’m after a torch.
Now, if you really need a powerful torch, an app should never be your solution. Go look elsewhere. But for almost everyone, I hope you enjoy Light.
Maybe one day, Siri will understand me whispering “Lumos!”. Until that day arrives, I’ll politely ask “Light” to be launched, or tap the icon on my homescreen. Light is free on the iTunes App Store, with an in-app purchase to remove ads.
Is there a flashlight app you like better? (There can’t be… surely?!) Let me know! You can say hi over at my twitter account or comment below. I’m interested to see if anyone majorly disagrees with me — or thinks of a feature that’s even more impressive than what I listed here.