Flashlight apps were once a clever tool inspired by everyone having a display in their pocket. Those days are long gone, though. You shouldn’t be using flashlight apps anymore. We’ll explain why and what you should use instead.
It might be hard to believe, but camera flashes haven’t always been included on smartphones. Apple didn’t add an LED flash until the iPhone 4 in 2010. Even after it became more common for phones to include flash, iOS and Android didn’t have built-in “flashlights” for a while.
Enter flashlight apps.
What Is a Flashlight App?
There are two distinct types of flashlight apps. The first type existed primarily before phones included a flash next to the camera. These apps would simply crank up the display brightness and show a blank white screen. It was a surprisingly effective way to get some light in a dark space.
The second type of flashlight app actually uses the flash on the back of the phone. They simply turn the flash on or off. This is an even better way to illuminate a dark space. While both types of flashlight apps technically perform the function they’re advertising, there are some major concerns you may not know about.
The Problem With Flashlight Apps
A flashlight app is designed to do one thing—provide light. Some have extra features like strobe lights and different colors to choose from, but at the core, these are very simple apps. That is precisely what makes them easy to not think twice about.
The reality is many of these flashlight apps have been found to abuse unnecessary permissions. It’s been a bigger problem on Android, but there have been some malicious iPhone flashlight apps too.
Back in 2019, Avast looked at around 1,000 flashlight apps found on the Google Play Store. Over a quarter of those apps were requesting between 50 to 77 permissions. These were things like recording audio and reading contacts, which are certainly not needed by a flashlight.
The scary thing is several of these apps had over one million downloads. Who would suspect such behavior from an app that is supposed to be so simple? Thankfully, both the iPhone and Android have gotten much better permissions controls.
RELATED: How to Manage App Permissions on Android
What to Use Instead
Thankfully, it’s no longer necessary to use any type of flashlight app. Android devices and iPhones now have built-in toggles to turn on the flash. There’s nothing to install or worry about permissions being abused.
On the iPhone, you’ll find the flashlight toggle on the lock screen and Control Center for quick access. You can even adjust the brightness. With the Shortcuts feature, you can even launch the flashlight by tapping the back of the iPhone.
Over on Android, the flashlight can be found in the Quick Settings panel. You can re-organize the panel to put the flashlight in a more prominent position if you’d like. It’s also possible to launch the flashlight by tapping the back of the device with the help of a third-party app.
Smartphones have improved a lot over the years. Many problems that were solved by third-party apps don’t exist anymore. Flashlight apps are a relic from days gone by. Let’s leave them there.
Oh, and if your phone’s flash doesn’t cut it, real flashlights still exist.
A Real Flashlight