Many Android phones have an integrated notification LED. With Light Flow, you can have your phone’s LED notification flash different colors depending on the types of notifications you have waiting for you – your phone can communicate notifications even with its screen off.

Light Flow requires a notification LED that can display different colors, so this will depend on your phone’s hardware. The Nexus 4, Galaxy S III, and a variety of Motorola and HTC phones all have the required hardware.

Get Notifications When Your Screen is Off

Let’s say you have your phone sitting on a table, or you have just pulled it out of your pocket and the screen is off. What do you have waiting for you when you turn it on? Is it a text message or a missed call you want to get to immediately? Is your phone low on battery? Do you have a new email, or a calendar reminder?

If you have a notification LED flashing, you know that your phone has something to tell you. But you don’t necessarily know what. Light Flow allows you to set different LED colors for different notifications. You could have a yellow light flash when you have a missed call, a green light when you have a text message, a blue light when you have a new email, and a red light when the phone is low on battery and needs to be plugged in. You can control which types of notifications produce a notification light – Light Flow supports notifications from over 550 different apps.

Getting Started

First, you will need to ensure your phone has a notification LED with support for multiple colors. You can find information about whether your phone is supported on Light Flow’s website. Some phones may need to be rooted to take advantage of this feature, some can only display three colors, and some can only display the LED while the screen is off. This will depend on the phone itself.

Light Flow offers a free app, named Light Flow Lite. The free version takes about 20 seconds to change the color of the notification light, while the $2 Light Flow pro version can change the light every 2.5 seconds. The pro version supports many more third-party apps in addition to the standard notifications included with the free version.

Light Flow Setup

After installing Light Flow, open the app and it will prompt you to enable an accessibility service that will allow Light Flow to function. Light Flow requires a lot of permissions so it can monitor your notifications. However, Light Flow doesn’t request the Internet access permission, so it couldn’t do anything bad with this data, even if it wanted to.

By default, Light Flow comes configured with different colors for different types of notifications, including missed calls, text messages, low battery notifications, instant messages, and emails. You can customize notification colors by tapping the Notifications icon, tapping a type of notification, and selecting a different color.

You can also configure a wide variety of other settings for different notifications, including the light duration and flash rate, although these settings will also depend on your hardware.

The notification LED’s color will depend on your “notification priority order” setting. You can control this by tapping the Notification Priority Order button (the one with the numbers on it) at the top-right corner of the Notifications screen.

To control what the notification priority order does, you can go into Light Flow’s Settings screen and set the notification method to “Show Latest Only,” “Show Highest Priority Only,” or “Cycle all” to display all notification colors in sequence.

The Settings screen contains a variety of other tweaks that can help Light Flow work on a variety of devices, a “sleep mode” that disables the notification LED during certain hours to save power, and many other settings. There’s also a More Apps screen where you can assign custom notification colors for hundreds of third-party apps, although this feature is only available in the paid version.

If you want your Android smartphone to communicate with you while the screen is off, Light Flow is the way to go. It’s a great example of something only possible on Android, not Apple’s iPhone.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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