Is It Actually Helpful to Have LEDs on the Back of a Smartphone?

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OnePlus might be about to join Nothing in producing an Android phone with LEDs on the back. But are they actually useful, or is it just for show?


In the early days of the smartphone era, innovation was fast-paced. Followup models had way more improvements until they peaked towards the end of the 2010s when new smartphones were all about incremental updates. This is the case for current smartphones, from the iPhones to Samsung Galaxies.


However, as a new smartphone company, Nothing brought something unique by including LEDs at the back of its first device, the Nothing Phone (1). And now OnePlus might be joining in the fun. But are LEDs on the back of a smartphone helpful, or is it just a gimmick?


OnePlus Shows a Concept Phone With LED Lights on the Back

OnePlus showcased a concept phone ahead of MWC 2023 based on the OnePlus 11 with blue LED strips on the back as the major highlight. These “icy blue pipelines” run through the concept’s entire back, making the device appear as if it has a “series of blood vessels,” according to the company (via The Verge).

OnePlus 11 concept phone
Image Credit: OnePlus

LED lights at the back were brought to light by Nothing when the company launched its first device in July 2022. The LED-centric design is cool, and it sure did help Nothing get the media hype at launch. But is there any utility that can make rear LEDs one of the features your next smartphone should have?

Should You Care About Having LED Lights on Your Next Smartphone?

To understand how rear LEDs could have some utility on a smartphone, let’s take some notes from the pioneer, the Nothing Phone (1).

The Nothing Phone (1)’s glyph interface LEDs serves four practical functions. First, as a light source to the camera when taking images in the dark; second, to check your battery percentage; third, to identify different notifications (for instance, you could use one lighting pattern to identify calls, another for SMS, and so on); and, finally, you could also assign a unique glyph pattern to individual contacts.

Nothing Phone (1) in black and white colors
Image Credit: Nothing

To enjoy these functions, the Phone (1) assumes you’ll always have your device in your eyesight. These are all nice-to-haves but unnecessary, and you’re better off using built-in features. For instance, on Android you can view your battery percentage easily, set a unique ringtone for individual contacts, and you’ll get more light onto the subject by using the flashlight instead of rear LEDs.

This makes Nothing’s LED glyphs gimmicky, just as we stated in our Nothing Phone (1) review. They’re likely to be that for OnePlus, too, if the company adds them to a future phone.

The bright side is that they help add an extra oomph to a smartphone’s design. To some, it could be a welcome change in an industry where design differences are limited to placing the rear cameras at different angles.

But as far as utility goes, don’t expect anything tangible when buying a phone with rear LEDs.

You Don’t Need Rear LEDs on Your Smartphone

If the Nothing Phone (1) with its glyph LEDs is anything to go by, there’s no real utility in having rear LEDs on a smartphone. They are primarily gimmicky, so don’t buy a phone solely for that. To some, however, this might be okay if you want a phone that grabs attention in a landscape where devices all look the same.

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