watchOS 4: How to Activate the Flashlight Strobe and Red Light Modes

Apple Watch with watchOS 4 and Siri face

The watchOS 4 control panel introduces a flashlight with three modes. Here’s how to activate them.

1. Bring up the control panel as usual by swiping upwards from the bottom of the watch face. Look for the flashlight icon. Tap it.

watchOS 4 Control Panel.
watchOS 4 Control Panel.

2. The first pane is the normal flashlight mode. It will pause briefly at low brightness, then change to a higher brightness.

3. Swipe to the left on the watch face to get to the strobe mode. This is useful when you want to be noticed. For example, walking or running in the evening.

4. Swipe one more time to the left to get to the red light mode. This is most useful when you need some light but want to retain your nighttime dark adaption. (Red light doesn’t affect your dark adaption.)

As usual, the three dots at the bottom of the display indicate where you are in the three modes.

watchOS 4 red light.
The red light mode also has two levels of brightness. Thightfully shows the time of day.

To change between two brightness levels in any mode, tap the center of the watch face. To exit, just press the Digital Crown.

A Bug?

Unfortunately, the flashlight doesn’t remember the last setting. If you’ve been using the red light mode to stay dark adapted, leave the flashlight mode for other data, and then come back, you’ll start off with the white light again. It might ruin your dark adaption. Pilots and astronomers won’t like this, and I haven’t found a fix.

It would be nice if there were a watchOS setting that says, “Use the previous flashlight mode when activated.” Maybe in watchOS 4.1?

2 thoughts on “watchOS 4: How to Activate the Flashlight Strobe and Red Light Modes

  • Interestingly, if you turn on Theater Mode on your Apple Watch, the red flashlight is the default. Makes sense: when you’re in a theater, you don’t want to lose dark adaptation, nor do you want to annoy other audience members with a harsh white light.

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