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Android finally has a universal native flashlight function

Using the flash on your phone as a light source is something people have been doing for years, but the method used to activate your camera LED as a flashlight varies wildly depending on what phone you are using. As manufacturers start to release their own versions of Android 5.0, it has become clear that actually locating your flashlight for regular use is still going to be a guessing game from device to device. While you can always install a flashlight app of your choosing, it's mildly frustrating to see how non-obvious this procedure can be. At least, until now.

The good news is Google has implemented a solution that makes it so everyone with an Android phone can do the exact same thing to access the flashlight. The less good news is it's not so much a button as it is a Google Now command.

Google Now Voice Commands

Of the many things you can do with Google Now, controlling hardware is kind of hit or miss, and in most cases will just take you to the setting you want to activate so you can tap the toggle yourself. As the folks at Android Police discovered, things are starting to change. Telling the service to take a photo is a neat trick, but ultimately not all that useful for most. The new hardware commands, however, are a huge step forward. You can control things like Bluetooth, Wifi, and the LED flash with simple verbal commands. This means you can quickly activate the flashlight from anywhere, and through the "OK Google" command you need only have the screen on and unlocked with most phones (And yes, Moto X users can use these functions with the screen off).

Lollipop Flashlight Settings

One things stock Lollipop users will notice about this new tool is the need to turn the flashlight off the same way to turned it on. For whatever reason, activating the flashlight through Google Now removes the flashlight toggle from Quick Settings, but only why the flashlight is on. Once you turn the flashlight off again, the toggle returns to Quick Settings like nothing happened. This only seems to happen in Lollipop Quick Settings so far.

This is a pretty small thing overall, but it does mean there now exists a single method of accessing the flashlight that works on every Android phone. It's also not limited to voice, though typing or swiping "Flashlight on" into Google Now is hardly more convenient than an app with a big friendly button. The option exists all the same, which is good for everyone.

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

69 Comments
  • Well, not the quickest way of accessing it... But at least it's there now! Weird about the toggle though.
  • If you have always listen turned on.. It may actually be the quickest though Posted via the Android Central App
  • Oddly enough, most of the times I'm in need of a flashlight are exactly those moments where talking is usually best avoided (people sleeping, watching a movie, weird noises in the house... )
  • Definitely weird noises
  • LOL. So true.
  • Other than maybe typing in a longer search I think you could easily use a toggle faster than google would be able to process everything.
  • About that toggle? It's one of the biggest issues I have with Android, the way it handles camera and flashlights. While I am probably wrong, the API of the camera and flash are tied to each other and if one app is using either one of these, another app can not. This is exactly why when Google Now activates the flashlight you can't activate it through your system settings, the same reason why if you use a third party flashlight app(and the app leaves the flashlight on in the background) you won't be able to use your camera apps without getting a "can't connect to the camera" error. I wish Google would just allow one app to assume priority over another and terminate whatever the last app is doing with the flashlight or camera, or maybe Google separates the flashlight and camera. Posted via the Android Central App
  • How about spanish commands? Any news?
  • And how about UK English ? We call it a torch here, not a flashlight.
  • Aha - 'turn on torch' works too ! Although the voice does say in what sounds a rather stern tone, 'turning on flashlight', just to remind me I said the wrong word ....
  • Yeah that's quite weird, my phone is trying to over rule me. Posted via Android Central App
  • c:
  • I just tried it, and it works. Thanks!
  • I'm glad that my Asus Zenfone already have flashlight option by default. ; )
  • Google now works fine for flashlight, WiFi, Bluetooth. Posted via my Nexus 6!
  • I hope Sony includes the flashlight toggle in the quick settings menu in Lollipop. As it is now, you turn on the flashlight (on the Z3, at least) through the flash toggle in the camera app, which is a really clunky and cumbersome way of doing something that, when you need light, you'd like to be able to do as quickly as possible.
  • Uh, on my Z3, I have a flashlight toggle in my quick settings panel. You edit it and drag it in from the bottom. Posted from the Nexus 5, Sony Z3, or the Surface Pro 3
  • My Z3v also had a toggle. Just had to edit what was in the pull-down menu and select it to be displayed. Posted via my Sony Xperia T2 Ultra
  • Son of a... I hadn't noticed that. Thanks for pointing out something that should have been entirely obvious. :)
  • Cheers brother! Posted from the Nexus 5, Sony Z3, or the Surface Pro 3
  • Cool! With a N6 or Moto X, this will come in very handy when your hands are otherwise occupied, since the screen doesn't even need to be on. Thanks! Posted via the Android Central App
  • That's still pretty cool. If you think about needing a flashlight, it might be situation where you don't want to have to fumble with your phone.
  • I find the quickest way to activate my flashlight is by pulling down the notification shade at the lock screen and hitting the quick toggle. However, it's nice to know I can also activate it using moto voice if my hands happen to be full. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I think what he is saying is that some manufacturers remove that quick toggle in their customized UI (sense/touchwiz/etc)...
  • Flashlight function was baked into Android 5 in the quick settings. How is this news after so many months after Android 5 being released? I've been using this function since this came out...
  • This is about using Google Now to access the flashlight, since tweaked versions of Lollipop (*cough*Samsung*cough*) may not have the quick toggle. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It wasn't something you could activate with a verbal command before. It also sounds like non-stock 5.0 setups might not have it in the quick settings (wouldn't know, I'm on a Nexus 5).
  • Just tried it on my G3 and it worked. It updated to lollipop last week but for some reason LG felt the need to remove the flashlight toggle from the quick settings. Stupid! Posted via the Android Central App
  • I found a really cool app for the G3, called Key Plus. It allows you (without root) to replace the Shortcut key for your up volume button (default is quick memo) from your lockscreen to toggle on/off the flashlight. It works great for me. https://www.androidcentral.com/e?link=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.anrdoezrs.net%2F...
  • thanks! i'll check it out
  • Thanks so much for that. Very happy as I'm always looking in roofs and in walls etc. (Electrician) Posted via the Android Central App
  • So does this work on any phone with Google Now or is it Lollipop only?
  • It appears to me that it is Lollipop only. I tried it with several devices with versions ranging from 4.1.2 through 5.0.1 and only the Lollipop devices worked. Not even my Moto G on 4.4.4 worked.
  • It's Lollipop only, reason being is is part of the OS in Android 5.0 that's why Google Now will work it, a system app controlling another system app.
  • If so then the article might need updating hehe It makes it sound as if the toggle is for Lollipop, but the Google Now command is 'universal'.
  • Now we just need a plane node voice toggle and I'm set :-) Squashed under a N6
  • Love the name of your wifi network. Table - flip. nice!
  • Ugh... I don't like it at all. Posted via Android Central App
  • I use it the other day to find my phone in the couch cushion. When it slip through the crack I said ok Google turn on flashlight. There it was down in the bottom glowing. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Anyone notice that the LED on the GS5 sucks? Also, one of the apps out there turns on the flashlight when you shake the phone from the lock screen. Pretty slick.
  • I've been using Power Button Flashlight (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.brink.powerbuttonflash...). You just tap the power button 3 times, and the light comes on. No need to unlock or anything. Works great.
  • Just tried on Nexus 7 and it said back to me "actually this device doesn't have a flashlight" duh Posted via Android Central App
  • Could open the camera the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth settings but not the flashlight Posted via the Android Central App
  • Luckily the Note edge has a pull down screen on the side where u can activate it and turn it off.
  • I just tried to voice command it, and "ok google flashlight on" turned into a search for Fleshlight Porn. Thanks Google Now!
  • LOLOL....Did it shed light on Flashlight porn?,,,thanks for the laugh!
  • I use the 'Sidebar lite' app and have all my toggles there, super easy to access and i have my flashlight on it. so easy. Highly recommend the app in general.
  • How about just downloading a flashlight widget...I use "POWER TOGGLES".....simple as that!. You can always just light up the screen...that is usually good enough for quick stuff...like avoiding legos on the floor.
  • I have the g3 and with G3 tweaksbox, there is an option to set it to the volume up rocker when the screen is off. fastest way i have across for for for accessing flashlight when needed
  • With POWER TOGGLES you can turn on/off everything....WFi, Data, Bluetooth, Flashlight, GPS, SYNC and Settings
  • Power Toggles has a Sound Toggle that can give you back normal silent mode as well in Lollipop because Google is stupid.
  • My Nexus 6 has this in the quick settings all the time.
  • "Power Button Flashlight / Torch" by Jones Technologies is the way to go. Totally worth getting the full version too. You don't even have to look at the phone to use it, just hit the power button 3x. It's the closest thing to a real flashlight! Posted via the Android Central App
  • Htc here. When Smith left he took my flashlight with him. >_<
  • Hate it when the light comes on when I'm yelling "flame on!"
    -Johnny Storm- Posted via Android Central App
  • Jeez... Did you even glance over your article before posting? So many grammatical errors... I never want to be that guy but I had a tough time reading parts of this. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Nexus 6 users can also use the "OK Google" command with the screen off. Posted via the Android Central App
  • You can also turn on WiFi Hotspot. Posted via Serenity
  • I tried the flashlight command on a nexus 7 2013. Google Now let me know this device doesn't have one. Very cheeky. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Why would HTC remove the quick toggle in their version of lollipop for the M7? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Commandr for Google app has had this feature for a while, amongst many other voice activated toggles. Works great.
  • At least something works in lollipop Posted via the Android Central App
  • Meh. Root ur phone and install Wanam Xposed and Xposed Installer. Hold volume up when screen is off to turn flash on, hold again to turn off. 5.0 not required. You're welcome. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I'd like a better way to lock that control-- I tried this and the light turned on, but when I tried to turn it off, I accidentally swiped it away. No big deal, I'll do it from Quick Settings instead-- no icon. I had to repeat the command to get it back, which took 2 tries. It might be better to not let you swipe that control away until you turn the light back off.
  • I just use the flashlight widget...
  • Using an app called Torchie, just press both 'volume buttons' together to turn on/off torch anytime. It just works anytime, even when screen off (if enabled from Torchie Settings). It kinda make your phone feel like a conventional battery operated torch
    https://www.androidcentral.com/e?link=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.anrdoezrs.net%2F...
  • Yip i also just use a 3rd party app as I'm not one of those people that constantly has phone's data on so Google now is useless to me. I'm also the kind of person that uses a vpn more often than not because i prefer not to have my every movement tracked by a multi national like Google. So i still use super bright led light which I've always used since my first android phone, however in lollipop it's not so great so I'm going to check out torchie as i very much like the volume button function, which i thought Google would have implemented ages ago. Guess it's only human to not get everything right? Better luck next time! Looks like 3rd party devs beat you to it!
  • Just in case we have develop a nice Flashlight for outdoor activity (Map, Compass, Forecast, etc) will be nice if you can give a try Guys! Check for SwissLight on Google Play
  • In terms of features and functionality, the following app takes it-hand down for best and brightest flashlight app, its from Jaswal Studios