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Stop Using Your Phone as a Flashlight


A person using their phone as a flashlight outside.
Avery Del Miller/

Smartphones come with a fairly powerful built-in flashlight that is so convenient and easy to use. But you should stop relying on it (and putting your phone in peril) right now.

Why Stop Using Your Phone as a Flashlight?

In the past we’ve strongly recommended you stop using flashlight apps on your phone. I’ll take that a step further and recommend you stop, in most instances, using the flashlight altogether.

I won’t pretend that I never use my phone flashlight. Most people have their phones on them 24/7, and the little LED flash on most smartphones, in flashlight mode, can throw about 40-50 lumens of illumination. You can adjust the flashlight brightness on your phone, but that doesn’t help enough. Your Apple Watch has a flashlight mode, but it also doesn’t work as well as it needs to.

For those impromptu moments where you need to find something you dropped under the bed or you’re looking for something in your purse in a dark car, an ultra-compact flashlight built into a device you’re already carrying is amazing.

But smartphones are expensive and, relatively speaking, quite fragile. If somebody gave you a regular flashlight that cost $1000 and was made of delicate glass, you’d certainly handle it with care and consider getting a more durable flashlight you wouldn’t be worried about breaking, no?

Yet millions of us use our phones like regular flashlights every day in situations where we would benefit from a dedicated flashlight and not a smartphone with a flashlight function.

After all, I’d be unhappy if I accidentally dropped one of my favorite pen lights into the weird pseudo-crawl space under my front porch while working on my house, but I’d only be out about $15. And I certainly wouldn’t have to spend a Saturday afternoon pulling up floorboards or digging to get my iPhone back (hopefully) safe and sound.

The same goes for using my phone as a flashlight versus a dedicated flashlight out in the garage, looking under a car hood, in a dark parking lot, or finishing up a hike after dusk. In all those situations, dropping my phone could easily lead to a cracked screen or even worse damage, even with a case.

But dropping an impact-resistant metal-body flashlight is going to, at worse, just scuff the body of the flashlight. And even if the flashlight somehow gets lost or crunched under a car tire, I’m out a small sum of money again.

So sure, for those quick moments where you really need a flashlight, who can say no to popping the flashlight on their phone on? But for anything more serious or long-lasting than a peek under the bed, you really should use a dedicated flashlight.

Use These Flashlights Instead of Your Phone

A compact but bright keychain light.

There are so many flashlights to choose from, but which kind of flashlight you pick to replace your phone’s built-in flashlight will depend on what you use your phone flashlight for most frequently.

You might find you want more than one type. I keep multiple flashlights of different kinds around my home, car, and even on my keychain to ensure I always have the right light for the right job—and can minimize banging up my poor iPhone in the process. Below are some rock-solid suggestions for everything from your keychain to your toolbox.


OLIGHT l1R 2 Pro Keychain Flashlight

Forget those wimpy little coin cell keychain flashlights. This tiny light is smaller than a keyfob, rechargeable, IPX8 water resistant, throws 180 lumens in high-mode and 5 lumen in low-mode.


Anker P2 Rechargeable Pen Light

From car repairs to inspecting your furnace, this bright little penlight is so handy to have around. The high mode is 120 lumens and the low mode is 40 lumens. Features an IPX4 water resistance rating and a rechargeable battery.


Coquimbo Magnetic Work Lights

These compact rechargable work lights feature a bright LED bar that has two brightness levels as well as a red warning/night vision mode and a red strobe mode. The arm rotates completely around and the base is magnetic, making them perfect for home repairs, tucking in your glove box, or even using out by the grill.


Anker Bolder LC90 Rechargeable Flashlight

Want a tradition heft-in-the-hand flashlight with plenty of power, perfect for a hike or things that go bump in the night? The Anker LC90 has a high, medium, low, strobe, and SOS mode, with a peak brightness of 900 lumens. You’ll be able to illuminate the path in front of you and, if you wish, people hundreds of feet away.


Just imagine it. Months from now, you’re using a cheap and bright LED flashlight, you drop it outside your car right into a storm drain, and you don’t stress about it because it’s just a cheap little flashlight and not your $1000 smartphone.

Or not: Maybe skip the cheap flashlight and live fast and free with your new phone. Maybe even use your phone without a case and live on the edge. (Or maybe at least get the flashlight before ditching the case!)


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