Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Flashlight apps

Despite not having the blinding power of the iPhone's LED flash, a flashlight app on the iPod effectively illuminates the back panel of a PC CPU unit when I'm crawling on the floor, provides useful spot lighting at night in a car having relatively weak interior lighting, and illuminates enough of a dark room when I don't want to turn on a room light.

I have long used John Haney SW's free Flashlight app, which is currently at version 5.1 (15) 5.2 (as of 2/1/12). When the app cold starts, there is a brief company splash screen, followed briefly by the % brightness indicator, after which you can have a pure white display at maximum brightness (at least the way I've configured mine):

I often set the iPod to sleep shortly after using this app, so until I saw some Apple App Store reviews mentioning it, I had not really noticed how my iPod's normal brightness didn't return after quitting the app. That is to say, Flashlight overrides what is set in Settings > Brightness (Version 5.2 has an option to prevent this override for iOS 5.0 or later; I personally prefer the override.). I normally keep the iPod at about the "B" level of brightness (right around the B in the Brightness heading), which, versus a higher level, lengthens battery charge life:

I often lower the Flashlight app's % brightness to a similar level before quitting the app. The app's instructions point out that you can lock and unlock the device to restore your normal brightness setting (or double-press the Home button, then single-press the Home button), which would be more precise than my manual brightness approximation technique.

I usually keep 3 screen possibilities configured, between pairs of which I can "swipe" sideways to switch:
  • white
  • red (which I believe is the color least disturbing for one's eyes in the dark)
  • black (allowing rapid darkening of the display)
You can explore the additional entertainment-oriented screen options, but the app's utility to me is as a lighting tool. I will mention, however, that a strobe effect is available, which might be useful sometime(?).

Version 5.2 also added a way to show photos, but I had no success with it in a brief period of testing, and I reverted to 5.1, which I felt after a cold start had a slightly shorter delay before the flashlight effect comes on -- I want the app for light, as fast as possible!

I recently also installed the iHandy Flashlight Mini app (currently at version 1.0.3), which has an S.O.S. option.  Unlike John Haney SW's app, this flashlight app does not commandeer the iPod's brightness setting.  If you weren't already using the highest brightness setting on the iPod, you might want to do so before starting this app.

Below is a screenshot of it running an ad for another one of their products, iHandy Flashlight Free, which I tried out months ago but deleted in favor of John Haney SW's app. A review in Apple's App Store correctly points out that the ads are not shown in the preview pictures provided by the company.

The ad at the bottom is still displayed when you are using the flashlight functionality.  That detracts from the feel of the app, even if it has very limited effect on the illumination.  John Haney SW's app runs ads, but not smack-dab in the flashlight functionality.

This app also has a strobe function which functions somewhat differently from that in John Haney SW's app.

The compass function does not seem to be available on the iPod.  That may only operate on an iPhone.

If you have more than one iHandy app (up-to-date versions, that is), e.g., the iHandy level app, the upper right corner's icon allows you to switch directly between them without launching them from the Home Screen.

I continue to prefer John Haney SW's flashlight app, but you never know when you'll need to signal S.O.S....

Interestingly, on 1/4/12, Adam C. Engst commented that "Apple is rejecting flashlight apps because there are too many in the App Store already", which seems both plausible and a good thing for consumers.


  1. I believe the iPod Touch only has a gyroscope, and no compass; iPhone has both. I think some of the star atlas apps when running in the iTouch, ask you to face north to orient the device, and then must keep track of direction via the gyroscope.

    Da Ge

  2. Ah, I see, thanks. According to Mr. Internet, the iPod Touch has no magnetometer, which provides the compass functionality. The iPad 2 apparently has one, so it does show the compass with the iHandy Flashlight Mini app.


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