Q: I have an iPhone 5, and my boyfriend recently installed a “flashlight” app on it so I can use the camera light as a flashlight to see in the dark. This seems like a great idea, but I’m worried that I might burn out the lightbulb prematurely by leaving it on more often. Is this a bad idea or am I okay to use it in this way?
A: You should be completely fine, and in fact when Apple releases iOS 7 in the fall it looks like it will add the flashlight capabilities as a built-in feature in the new Control Center, eliminating the need for a separate app entirely.
Like most mobile phones, the iPhone uses a Light Emitting Diode (LED) for the flash, rather than a traditional flash bulb. LEDs have a significantly longer lifespan than most other light sources, rated generally at between 25,000 and 100,000 hours.
Although factors such as operating current and temperature can affect LED life, iOS apps have no way of modifying the amount of current that runs through the LED flash, and you’re unlikely to be able to use your iPhone at all in temperature conditions that would affect the LED flash—keeping in mind that it’s the temperature of the actual iPhone itself within a case or your hand that is the relevant factor here.
The bottom line is that even at the lower end of an LED life estimate, 25,000 hours equates to just shy of three years of continuous use over that entire time period—24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Since typical LED flash use, even as a flashlight, is going to be limited to minutes per day, your LED flash will quite likely outlive any other component of your iPhone—including you.