light.APP: An experiment


light_itunes_iconlight.APP is now available for free in the App Store. (click here to get it)

light.APP is the first flashlight app that utilizes the iPhone 4’s LED (camera flash) and was also designed to be used by people who need a flashlight! There are others that offer similar capabilities, but they all miss the mark.

After reading this article, I was motivated to conduct an experiment:
http://www.macrumors.com/2010/07/08/developer-earns-nearly-1400-in-one-d…

My experiment wasn’t, “can I make $1,400 in one day from ad revenue?” (although I wouldn’t complain). My experiment started like this:
“I wonder how much time would actually be required to make an app like that?” The answer: 11 hours, 10 minutes. Including all art work, programming and application submission (and significant improvements).

In addition to a standard flashlight function, light.APP:

  • Has an interface that was designed to be used in low light, unlike a surprising number of other flashlight apps, that appear to have missed the “design” phase of the development process.
  • Has the ability to enable or disable your iPhone’s built-in sleep function. The default setting leaves the light on as long as the app is running, so you don’t have to touch the screen every minute to keep it active
  • Can be set to hide or display your iPhone’s current battery charge level so that you always know how much juice you’ve got left

First of all, this began as a social experiment to determine the minimum effort required to create an app that could potentially net a developer $1,400 in a single day through ad revenue. It ended with the realization that I could do it significantly better than it has been done already with only a little bit of extra effort. Not that I expect or am planning for the same financial reward… Sometimes it pays (cash) to be in the right place at the right time, and I wasn’t in this case.

I was able to code the functionality of a basic flashlight app that uses the iPhone 4’s LED light in about 4 hours. Once that was resolved, I knew what I wanted to do to make it a much nicer app, so I did some research to see what the developers of other similar apps had done. I wasn’t too surprised to find the answer: NOTHING!

It is painfully obvious that the developers of these apps rushed iPhone 4 LED flashlight apps into the app store with these mistakes:

  1. With only a very few exceptions, just about every corner that could be cut was cut.
  2. Absolutely no attention was paid to user experience. I discovered problems such as the following:
    1. Open the “flashlight app” and some cute picture is staring at me, waiting for me to press a button or slide a picture to turn on the light! When I open a “flashlight app,” how many taps should I have to perform before I get a light?!
    2. Most (all?) of them have brightly colored screens. Some are even white! When I am in need of a flashlight, it is counterproductive to have a bright light shining back into my eyes! Not even ONE of the “flashlight” apps was designed to be used in the dark! NOT ONE!
    3. With only two exceptions, they all want you to pay them some money to try the app that couldn’t have taken more than a day’s effort to create. One of the exceptions has a white background, and the on/off button provides no feedback when pressed (about the same application I ended up with after the first 4 hours of development). The other, an ad-supported app, forces you to search the App Store to find its paid brother if you decide that you like it and want ads removed
    4. None of them have anything extra (except one had a “strobe” effect — not really useful for a “flashlight”). How about seeing my battery level? What about giving me the choice about whether or not I want to allow my iPhone to sleep/lock while the flashlight is running? Nope. I’m out of luck.

So, I spent an additional 7 hours and 10 minutes to complete the artwork, add an in-app purchase option to disable ads, and added the display of the battery charge level and control of the device’s auto-sleep/lock function through the iPhone’s Settings app. Run it through some QA, submitted to Apple. Done.

light.APP is available in the App Store. Just click here to get it.

light.APP is free with advertising and a $0.99 in-app purchase option to disable ads.

It is the very first LED flashlight for the iPhone 4 that was actually designed to be used by people! What a concept!

[iOS 7 Update] With the release of iOS 7, we can no longer, in good conscience, claim to have the best experience available for a flashlight app. Apple got to put their app directly on the lock screen — accessible through only a swipe and a push. We can’t replicate or compete with that, but it’s their OS, so more power the ’em. If you are using an iOS version prior to 7, light.APP is still the best available. Even if you are an iOS 7 user, you can still use light.APP to support APP(ideas) and its development efforts.