By January 26, 2012

Light Flow Android Phone LED Customization App Review

Overall I really like my new Galaxy Nexus phone by Samsung. Despite Sedagive?’s initial handset problem, I find that the phone is very, very fast and performs very well.

However, in my battery life write-up, I discovered that most of my battery usage comes from the screen being on. The Galaxy Nexus has a large, beautiful screen, but it uses a lot of juice.

My phone’s LED flashes whenever I have a notification. I have my Nexus set up to notify me for about ten different events, including emails from three different accounts, text messages, low battery life, etc. I wanted to find a way to cut down on turning the screen on every time I checked a notification.

My secondary desire was to customize the LED color so that I could determine what the notification was without turning on the screen. For example, I wanted to read a text message from Sedagive? right away, but I am usually not in a hurry to check voice mail. My HTC Droid Incredible had a single color LED for notifications, and I was turning the screen on and off again to read notification about events that weren’t immediately important to me.

I found Light Flow on the Android Market, and hoped that the app would allow me to customize my alerts and notification.

Holy crap, does it ever. Here’s my review.

Overview

Light Flow allows you to customize how your phone alerts you for events or notifications. An example of an event might be low battery, but you could also configure the phone to notify you when you don’t have signal, or if a Bluetooth device becomes connected, etc.

Despite the name, Light Flow allows you to set more than just the color of your LED. You can set customized sounds to events and notifications. You can also enable vibrations, and set patterns for those vibrations. You can also adjust the repetition and speed of the LED flash, as well as the repetition for alert sounds and vibrations.

There are two versions of Light Flow. Light Flow Lite is a free version. Lite isn’t as customizable as the paid version. For example, you can’t adjust the rate that the LED flashes. The full version has notifications for applications like Facebook, Google+, Google Voice, and many others. However, the Lite edition is very useful for finding out if the app works with your phone or not.

The rest of the review is about the paid version, which sells for $1.99.

How I use Light Flow

I use Light Flow to customize notifications for:

  • Text messages (both SMS and MMS). I have a special notification for Sedagive?’s messages.
  • GTalk instant messages
  • Facebook notifications
  • Facebook instant messages
  • Low battery
  • Gmail (three different accounts, but all the same notification style)
  • Voice mail via Google Voice

I don’t use custom sounds or vibrate settings. I never really thought about it until I started writing this review. Most of the time I have my phone set to silent while I’m at work, and hearing/feeling a multi-vibe at work isn’t my idea of a good time.

As I alluded to, I have a custom notification set up for Sedagive?. Her text messages glow a purple color; everyone else gets orange. It would be neat to set custom notification colors based on instant messenger contacts (e.g., Sedagive?’s GTalk messages would also be purple, everyone else’s would be yellow), but I imagine that’s impossible.

There is a setting to disable Light Flow during certain hours. I take advantage of this, as I found myself staring at the phone one night while I was supposed to be asleep. Basically, Light Flow’s blinky behavior goes on pause for a time range. Like the majority of the app, this time range can be customized.

A few drawbacks

The biggest drawback to Light Flow is acknowledging whatever event triggered a notification. There are two basic ways you can stop the LED from flashing (or your phone from chiming / vibrating depending on your set up).

One way is to dismiss the notification by entering the app that prompted the alert. For example, if I get a notification that I have a Facebook message, I have to go into either Facebook or Facebook Messenger. This is a sometimes a pain in the ass, especially for apps that have a “preview” state where you can read the message without opening the app. GTalk, Handcent SMS, Facebook, and many others have this preview functionality. I find myself reading the message in preview mode, and then opening the app to dismiss the Light Flow notification.

The other way is to dismiss all notifications when you pull down the notification bar. This is problematic for me, since I don’t want to dismiss everything when I want details on one event.

I’d like to be able to dismiss the Light Flow notification when the event is dismissed by the operating system. That could mean when you open the application and read a message, when you tap on a notification, or when you swipe away an alert in the notification bar.

Conclusion

For two bucks, Light Flow is a great deal. I enjoy being able to customize the color and behavior of the LED on my Samsung Galaxy Nexus. I recommend you download the free trial first to make sure it works on your phone. I do wish it was easier to dismiss alerts, but maybe a future version will address this issue.

Strongly recommended

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4 Comments on "Light Flow Android Phone LED Customization App Review"

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  1. phoebe m says:

    Good write-up; I’ve been meaning to try it out. Did you experience any instances when it did not kick in appropriately?
    Ps: naming consistancy in your header vs. article is off.

  2. DrFaulken says:

    Thanks for the comment!

    I have not experienced any instances where the light did not come on. My recollection is fuzzy, but there may have been times when the notification light did not turn OFF when I entered an application, but I have a feeling that was due to a problem / delay with the “parent” app, and not Light Flow.

    Thanks for catching the name slip-up, I must have had the TV show “Alice” stuck in my mind. ;)

  3. JasonL says:

    I love light flow, however i think it might be eating up battery, so I’m running some tests to find out.

    Just wanted to let you know, your annoyance with dismissal is common place… the developers are also annoyed with it. Right now there isn’t a way to tell when a single notification is dismissed… however requests for this are in on the android developer site. If you want to see this change, please star these two requests on the android developer site:

    http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=18763

    http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=23106

    Thanks!

  4. Brian C says:

    I know this is old, but just in case someone comes looking… One the drawbacks you mention is clearing notifications being an all-or-none deal. With the new Android Jellybean (and maybe with Ice cream sandwich too, i can’t remember), you can dismiss individual notifications by swiping them to the side.

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