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Why Smartphone Lights Cannot Replace Real Flashlights

Updated on June 23, 2019
Mamerto profile image

Mamerto Adan is an engineer by profession, but a writer by night. He loves toys and knives, and has a martial arts background.

Thank goodness for smartphones! Once I carried different gadgets in my bag, but now a single smartphone is all I need. Between iOS and Android, I prefer Android for being flexible and readily available (the apps are free). There are also a lot of Android apps to choose from, which could transform your smartphone into a gaming console, measuring instrument, art tools, and even a video editor. And being a fiction writer, I often use my phone to proofread my works. But then Android apps could only go so far, and there are things that it can’t replace.

A flashlight is one of them.

Yes, every smartphone had an already installed flashlight. No more messing around with app stores. Plus, you could download additional apps for other features, like strobe perhaps. Yet I still carry a flashlight with me (a key-chain light actually) as a part of my EDC. In fact, flashlights are crucial part of my EDC, as I use it to peer around dark corners of machines. A friend once asked why I even bother with flashlights, and not just rely on my phone lights. Simply, smartphones are not a flashlight to begin with. There are things you can do with flashlights that you can’t with smartphones. And you can read them below.

1. Torch Features are slow to deploy

You have to go through with this first.
You have to go through with this first.

When they first made smartphones, they are never meant to be tossed around in the shop or field. It’s a phone after all, and anything else are just bonus. Being a flashlight is one of them. And since it’s an app, it functions as an app. In short, the thing is slow to deploy. You pull out your phone, unlock it, scan the apps, turn it on, and you got yourself a flashlight. Overall, it takes a few seconds. Compare that to a real flashlight, whereas deployment is quicker.

Now, if you are working in a shop, a few seconds of delay may not mean much. But if you are in emergency, quick deployment matters. In my case before I got into EDC, I never used the flashlight feature of my smartphone, thanks mostly to the awkward deployment.

2. Torch App Drains the Battery

Suddenly, low battery!
Suddenly, low battery!

I use my smartphone a lot of times, I need it at work and the last thing I want is a dead battery. Even though I have a power bank, I try to save the battery for a more meaningful task.

And using my phone as a flashlight eats a lot of energy.

I need a form of illumination when inspecting machine parts. But I also need to save myself some charging time, and any extra usage will put strain to the smartphone battery. This is where a true flashlight comes into play. Why waste your smartphone battery if you can get yourself a flashlight? In fact, owning a flashlight will prolong your phone’s life.

3. Smartphones Cannot Be Abused


And now that we speak of prolonging the life of your smartphone, I have a friend who damaged his phone’s screen after turning it into a shop flashlight. Again, a smartphone is a phone, a gadget that is not meant to be abused as a tool. And if you treat it as a tool, then it is an expensive one. Even budget smartphone cost a bit, and any cheaper will give you a substandard gadget. With that said, a flashlight cost less. And modern-day steel flashlights are made to be dropped, scratched and beaten. Some are even waterproof. You could throw one in a shop and has no worries if you drop or elbow it.

And that’s exactly how my friend damaged his phone.

While using its flashlight feature, he dropped the thing and the screen cracked.

4. Phone Torch is Less Brighter

Even this is not enough.
Even this is not enough.

I did a research on how bright a normal smartphone flashlight is. A Samsung S3 only has 44 lumens, and a Sony X compact is only 7. And iPhone X is at 50 lumens. Nevertheless, you could get an average of 50 to 80 lumens in smartphones.

Now, the Olight keychain light I owned is already at 90 lumens, and that’s with a triple A battery. Other models could go even higher. A flashlight with above 100 lumens is a common thing nowadays, and some high-end flashlights could blast a beam of 1000 lumens.

I’m not sure why smartphone lights could not go high. Maybe because it never needed to. The LED light of smartphones are meant for flashes and camera illumination, and something above 50 lumens are too much. Then there is safety. When you take a picture of someone with the flash on, imagine what a high lumen beam could do to their eyes.

5. Can't Reach Narrow Corners

I do this all the time.
I do this all the time.

Again, the fact that it is a phone first and for all, and not any other tool means that it was not made to do what it doesn’t meant to do. The flashlight apps will work but trying to maneuver a fat rectangular object into corners is no less awkward. For this kind of work, small keychain lights are the ideal tool.

Then there is also the chance that you could damage your phone while doing that.

6. Cannot be Used for Extended Time.

This might occur.
This might occur.

I won’t say much on this, but it got to do with the phone’s battery life I mentioned before. Again, it is a phone, not a flashlight, so don’t expect that it could stand abuse. It will put too much strain on the phone battery, not to mention to the phone itself. The phone might overheat if you use the flashlight app for too long.

7. A Phone Cannot Be Used for Self Defense

This thing could hurt you.
This thing could hurt you.

Steel flashlights boast this feature. Not only that you got a torch, you also got a bludgeon. Who could forget the venerable Maglite, the original tactical light? Its heavy aluminum construction (that could reach more than a foot long) is more than enough to split open your skull. Other tactical lights come in smaller size, but with a strike bezel, you got yourself a spiked kubaton.

And we are yet to mention that tactical lights could blind an assailant.

It is not unusual for a tactical light to exceed 100 lumens, which is more than enough for the eyes to take. At the same time, tactical lights could be used with firearms through various shooting techniques.

Try that with an iPhone X.

8. Tendency to be Stolen

This will happen.
This will happen.

All expensive items, be it flashlights or phones can be stolen. It’s just that smartphones are more tempting targets for thieves. When I’m still looking for a good flashlight, I will never pull out a phone to use as torch in dark alleys. Who knows, doing that might invite unwanted attention. And what if you are working in the shop, you are using your phone and someone took interest?


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