The BlackBerry LED light, blessing or curse?

By IsaacKendall on 11 Aug 2011 08:57 am EDT

Seinfeld Red Menace

A while back we posted an article on Word Substitution, one of those "BlackBerry only" features (for now).  Today I'm going to tackle another BlackBerry only feature - the LED light. Most will call this an awesome feature while others I know think of it as a curse and the cause for sleepless nights.  For me personally it is both blessing and curse.  Before I get into that, for our friends reading this article who are not fortunate enough to have a BlackBerry and are not aware of this great feature let me give you a quick overview.

In the top right corner of all BlackBerry smartphones is an LED light.  Out-of-the-box it flashes Green - to indicate network coverage; Blue - for when connected to a Bluetooth device; Red - when you have an unacknowledged message.  Most BlackBerry users I know immediately go into the options to turn the silly coverage indicator (green) light off - seriously is there anything less useful than that?  The Bluetooth one is useful on rare occasions.

The red light is the useful one because the BlackBerry made it's bones as a messaging platform and knowing you have a new message is important.  Other smartphones have a popup or a notification bar that you've go a message, but the challenge to those smartphone owners is if they are out of the room when the message arrives they won't hear the audible alert to let them know they have a message.  Until they walk over to the device and wake up the screen they just won't know that a message arrived.

So awesome is this little light that an entire industry of third party developers has created innovative and interesting applications to harness this light and allow for multicolored notifications.  One of the favorites of my on the CrackBerry team is BerryBuzz, it was the runner-up in the Utility App category in the 2010 CrackBerry App Awards. I use it to distinguish my emails from personal vs work, when I walk back into the room work emails flash a different color from personal so at a glance I know what emails have come in.

All good right?  Why is the LED also a curse?  At night when the BlackBerry is at my bedside snug in its cradle the red menace is just waiting for me to turn over and open my eyes at 2:30am.  Calling me like a homing beacon calmly flashing letting me know that I've got mail.  Now I know there is a very good chance it's Bla1ze with his insomnia messaging me but I MUST check my mail!  You just never know it could be really important.

Wether the message was some junk email from Future Shop telling me of the upcoming sale on TVs or Bla1ze letting me know there is an OS leak it will be at least 1/2 an hour before I can get back to sleep.  Another night not sleeping all the way through courtesy of the BlackBerry LED light.

Now I 'could' edit the device profile and create a "night mode" with no LED notification, but I'm a masochist and I just need to know that I've got mail. What if, I mean what if...someday that 2am email is actually important?

What do YOU think? Is the LED light what draws you to your BlackBerry? Or could you get by without it? Sound off in the comments!

Reader comments

The BlackBerry LED light, blessing or curse?


seriously .. the greatest feature of a blackberry. Drop it on my dock at night and it automatically goes into bedside mode showing a nice dim clock so I can see what time it is when I wake up in the morning. No LED alerts, no phone calls (unless I want them) and no audible alerts. Solves exactly the issue described in this article, and frankly, I'm surprised he didn't know about it being an editor for crackberry.

i thought bedside mode is BlackBerry 101 i thought everyone used it.

it's the best feature of BlackBerry! try it out!

Can't agree with you guys more. I love bedside mode and you can even enter bedside mode without plugging in the phone.

i set my LED for nothing more then sms/bbm. being that i cant get my work email on my personal phone, nothing else is that important. true story tho, i would be LOST without the blinking red light! lol

LOVE the LED (especially paired with BeBuzz). Across the room I can tell if it is a BBM (need to check it) or an email (it can wait).

Jenks has it right. Bedside mode is your best friend at night.

No need to create 'night mode' because 'bedside mode' already exists on all BBs on the alarm clock options

I use bedside mode and turn off LED notifications and just set the profile to PHONE ONLY so I will only get woken up by a phone call.

That's exactly what I do! I'm a light sleeper so vibrate doesn't cut it for me and I figured, if someone's calling me at 3AM, it's probably more important than the million $ sweepstakes emails.

I purchased BeBuzz and use it extensively. I have it set different colors for different messages (work, personal, SMS, BBM,) and the color lets me know if I need to look at the message right away. The other nice thing about the software is that you can mute the LED based on time of day and day of the week. So every night I go to sleep knowing that at 2300 the LED is off and at 0600 it comes back on independent of the profile I use on the blackberry. Great product and it makes the LED a BLESSING!!!

Not to mention you can also slow down the time between blinks after a given time. Helps to save the battery!

The LED is awesome when paired with BeBuzz!

I have BeBuzz also, and it is wonderful!
I don't have to worry about any flashing at night, and I don't have to remind myself to program those settings every time - program it once and I'm good to go. Plus, I can make different LED notices for a few, higher priority people.
I would miss it terribly if I didn't have it any more.

It's a great feature, but can get a little addictive. There comes a time when you realize that there is no message that can't wait until the morning and you should just shut off your phone when you sleep.

Ditto on BeBuzz/Bedside Mode. Love the light. I'm in an IBM class all week and I can glance at my berry and see if there are any work emails I may need to answer and distinguish them from my other email accounts or bbms or texts with just a glance. :)

I like the LED lights but there should be a built in application to change for different notifications because having red for everything is confusing

Try BuzzMe.

I can set different colors for each type of notification on my 9630. Extremely handy and surprising how many color profiles there are, including the multicolored "disco mode".

Yeah, I'm such a dork...

The LED light is designed to be a handy way to ley you know if you got messages without cjeking the hone.
You should use night mode, disable radio or turn your unit upside down.
If you gotta check every single email 24/7 then there is something wrong with your job.

The LED is one of the BEST features of the BlackBerry (specially with BeBuzz). I rely mostly on the LED's color when I get an SMS/BBM or anything from Facebook & Twitter.

But it's true, it gives you sleepless nights sometimes. You can't help but check your phone when you see it flashing, whatever color it is.

Still a great feature.

Test driving another OS at the moment since my storm died and I admit....that is my biggest beef so far - not having the LED notification.

I've always completely disabled it... when I am ready to check my Emails / messages, etc... I will use the device (I need to be using it to receive the message or reply to it anyways), and I don't need that annoying LED to try and pressure me into reading my Emails in a meeting or while I'm speaking to someone.

I always have unread Emails, I receive hundreds a day... leaving that LED on just irritates me.

My droid pro has a great little led. It can flash in blue, green or red. Granted, its nowhere near the beacon of light on a bb, but it works and catches my attention.

I had one on my ancient HTC built QTek 9100 running Windows 6.5 from 2005. It was just a green LED, but did the message notification trick perfect. Only logical that HTC built phones should keep this feature. That phone also had a good keyboard, which is why I naturally then moved to a Blackberry when the HTC went insane.

I absolutely love the LED even in its "out-of-the-box" state, but when paired with BeBuzz and SmartAlerts, its like injecting your BB with Steroids, an absolute HOMERUN! ;) I never understood the fascination with the LED when I was in my iPhone "phase" but after owning a BB for the last 2 years, I can safely say I would be pretty much lost without that beautiful little glow!

Well, it's been quite a while since I trolled anything on CB since I left BB for a Droid X. Now before you guys cast me out for desertion, I have something to say.....

ALL phones should have a notification and LED as the BB. I miss it more than anyone knows. The LED and Berrybuzz is an amazing combination. Like spaghetti and meatballs. It is the biggest feature I miss about my phone. I'm not talking about the kind of miss you feel when you forget something at home. I'm talking about missing it like it was a part of your family kind of miss. BB may not be cutting bleeding or even bruised edge tech, but they did the notifications and LED with the utmost perfection. They say you don't know what you are missing until it's gone, and holy mother of BB, I miss you!

Umm Droid X has a notification LED...
Green = Email/SMS/etc..
Blue = Facebook
Red = Dieing..

Granted sometimes the stupid LED doesn't light up when you receive things which gets annoying if you aren't actually turning on your phone looking for your messages...

I do agree I greatly miss not having my BB back for that same reason, and many others.

Yes it does, however it isn't nearly as robust and useful as a BB LED. Plus, it only works with the display off. If I'm watching a video or if I'm using an app that is full screen, it would be nice to know what is actually coming in without even having to leave the app. Also, the color support is kind of lacking in comparison.

The led light notification saves battery- you don't need to activate the lcd just to check if you have a new msg.

After years of BB use I went to an iPhone...(don't throw things at me, One of the biggest things I miss is that little red light letting me know I have a message! iPhones will push to the screen, but if you don't look at the phone every once in a while, you can miss it. With BB, you know by the light. Never even realized how much I would miss that. Among other things. I'm contemplating going back this week and try out the 9860.

A lot of my friends- iPhone people especially- keep making fun of me for even calling this a "feature". To them, a "feature" has to be some ridiculous app, or a silly name for a high-resolution screen, or a front-facing videochat cam that no one actually uses. They just don't seem to understand that in concert with the keyboard and other messaging functions, the LED is one of *the* most useful features on BB. Or (not to get all BB-elitist) maybe they just don't care enough about messaging to get any use out of it. That always baffles me, though. How can anyone with an expensive communication device (which is, after all, what *all* phones are) not put a priority on the efficiency of that communication?

Since BB Users generally have work to do unlike iToy users... Since they are constantly looking at their phone 24/7 they don't actually need an LED light since their phone is always on! =P

I love it. I use it with BerryBuzz and put it into bedsode mode before I got to sleep. Only a phone call will wake me. Everything else can wait. I was thinking of jumping ship to an iPhone in December but now the 9860 is soon to be released on Rogers, I'm so happy I'll still have my little led.

I love that everyone uses BeBuzz. That's probably the greatest feature to add for the LED. I set mine different colors for different people and apps, so I can know if I need to check my phone or not. But at night since I use my PB as my clock (Antair Nightstand App), I just flip my phone upside down and turn it on silent :P

I'm beating a dead horse but bedside mode is the cure for the nightime led woes. it's such a good feature and you can customize the profile it activates when turned on. I set mine to phone calls onl, disable the led, and dim the screen.

The BB LED is a work of genius! It is both iconic to a BB and fundamental to the way BB users are used to communicating. I have loaned my Torch 9800 to my wife to replace her recently lost phone and I am using my Android spare as we (impatiently) wait for 9900's to release on AT&T. I am going bonkers using the cumbersome messaging system on Android and I am constantly picking the phone up to see if any important messages have come in while away from my desk.
As far as sleeping at night, I prefer to turn off bedside mode by pushing the "back" button and instead force the screen to turn off completely (so that I don't have to look at the dimmed bedside display). Additionally, I just turn the device face down onto a soft surface so I don't have to look at any flashing lights at 3:00 am!

Love the led! wouldn't want to be without it, it's really practical and usefull (when combined with some software)

I Love the LED on my BB and of as well BeBuzz!!! ;)

Btw: since BeBuzz 4.0 you can edit your BB Profiles out of the app and can specificate (LED, audio, vibra etc) each of them. So I turn my "All Alerts Off" profile the the real "All Alarts Off" one and has just to switch the profile when I'm going to bed... no more waiking up @night because of the led! ;)

The LED is one of my favorite features on my BB, and it has been since I first got a BB many years ago. In fact, it actually pisses me off that the LED on the PlayBook is useless (essentially)... I have had BeBuzz (formerly BerryBuzz) on my last couple of devices and use the different colors to give me a heads up of what I've missed: Blue - BBM, Yellow - SMS, Red - email, etc... I highly recommend BeBuzz, literally my most used and favorite BB app on my Torch! But, I must say, night mode is ideal for getting over the LED curse. I put my Torch in the cradle when I get into bed and put it in night mode, that way it doesn't bother my sleeping.

It's a blessing if you configure 3rd party apps properly. Use profiles to match what you're currently doing and you'll be at the top of your game when needing to be reached to and chilling otherwise.

At the end of the day the blessing out weighs the curse :).

Soon as I got my bb I noticed how much more of a power user I became with the led light factor. If it wasn't for the blackberry gods bestowing this beacon of light upon the small sun through my top right corner I would be doomed.

No berry god beacon - delayed responses, missed messages of timed importance.
Berry god beacon - epic disco ball for parties, perfect notification when your screen is sleep.


The combination of customizable LED and physical keyboard are the only reasons i haven't switched to Android yet.

The only thing is why would someone email you something so important at 2:00am. They wouldn't. If it was an emergency or something super important that person is just going to call.

I switched to Blackberry a few years ago just for the LED. :) Still at the top of my list for most important feature.

I was this close to begrudgingly switching an Android Nexus S a few month's back and all it took was the lack of LED notifier to convince me to walk out of Best Buy with my slow, old Bold. God I love that light.

I always used the LED on my Blackberyy but switched to an Iphone 4 in May but am seriously thinking of coming back to Blackberry since that's one of the things I miss along with the awesome notifications, profiles and Bedside mode.

One of the best features of a BB, and a key factor in keeping me from moving to another platform. With BBuzzI can keep my phone on silent in a meeting and see what's coming in without having to fire it up.

If the iPhone 5 really has an led light, and if there is an untethered jailbreak so that it can behave more like a BlackBerry, and if iMessenger is just as cool as BlackBerry Messenger, then the iPhone might become the primary toy. I carry both toys because I can't live without the led light and I cannot live without BlackBerry Messenger.

I use the night mode so I don't get any blinking lights. If I miss a very important email at 2 AM so be it lol

Jim Balsillie you seem very subtle,
I need a new blackberry 7 to cudle,
Hopefully I won't drop you in a puddle.

My stupid coverage light turned off, as to other ppl I hate it. It annoys me lol I have my BeBuzz set in the manner I know what I'm getting n who my emails/texts r from

This can't really be a serious question. I don't know how many times I've read from Android owners about their mourning the loss of their old BB's LED messaging alerts.

I just recently got a BB for work and my personal phone is a Droid X. The Droid X does have an LED light as well. So the LED is NOT a BB only feature. Also, the LED on the Droid is customizable out of the box, you don't have to download an app to customize the color of it.

PLEASE NOTE: I'm mentioning this because I don't think the BB is the end all be all, and I don't like it when people are so blinded by BB's that they think its the best no matter what. I'm not a diehard android person as well, I like different features in both phones and nothing is perfect. So please, if your going to comment about how BB is better than Android, save your time. Both OS have their pros and cons and it's personal preference. But when it comes to certain features and sounding off on them do your research first

The LED is one of the main reasons I have stayed with BlackBerry - the others being Sound Profiles.

At night I set my BlackBerry to Phone Calls Only mode, with the understanding that, if someone is calling me at 3am, it's either an emergency or a booty call--both equally important.

Now I hope that OS 7 has multiple alarm clocks!

I like it, I leave it at the default settings, and my phone stays in the kitchen at night so it doesn't bother me. When I travel for work, bedside mode is my friend.

I would easily trade the LED for stuff like a working web browser, and decent apps that don't cost 8 bucks.

I LOVE the LED! And with an LED (I adore BeBuzz) app you can customize so that it shuts off at night or whenever you want peace from the blink.

Get close to 250+ emails a day across 5 email accounts on my Blackberry.

I keep the LED off, except for emails from my contacts
that way if someone I know sends me an email, I know right away, else the message can wait

I do keep LED notifications for Calendar events, but disable for BerryWeather, SMS and the like...

That's why I can't even think of switching to another platform or OS

Love the LED light. Especially when you can change the colors with BerryBuzz.. When my phone isnt on normal profile. If i hear it vibrate. I dont want to RUSH to the scene.

If its pink its a txt, blue its FB (which can wait), green its bb, baby blue twitter, yellow yahoo, orange google. etc

its very convenient. Especially in the shower. i just have to pop my head out and check what color is blinking. :)

(In normal mode i have my txt saying - new message, bbm - bbm meeeeee, yahoo - the yahoo yodel, so me and the world know exactly whats coming through lol...

The only problem for me is when light reflects off of the corner of my BlackBerry and I catch it in the corner of my eye; by-instinct, I turn to look at the LED but see it's not flashing -- false alarm. Sometimes I even wake up the screen just to be sure...

I love love LOVE the LED and the way I can customize it with BeBuzz. I know if an e-mail is coming from work, if individual friends are texting me, or if I'm getting updates from one of my many apps just with the quick glance at the LED. And bedside mode is a life saver that I don't take my curiosity with me to bed.

The led light was the reason why I returned to BB after using an IPhone for a while. With the IPhone (and every other phone) you have to grab it out of your bag, unlock and open several apps to see if you have an email, sms, an appointment and so on. With my BB (Torch) I just have to peek in my bag, without touching it and see if someone or something needs my attention.
Best thing ever !

someone help me to turn off the low battery led and I'll be a happy man cause I love the led for everything else!

I hate to break this to you guys, but Android has this feature on almost every phone.

A simple free app by the name of LightFlow is basically BeBuzz on Android, giving you customization over the colors of your notifications.

PS: And to the fans who say "Oh well, some phones like the Samsung Charge and the Galaxy S don't have the LED built into the phone! Blackberry wins!" Well, those screens are AMOLED, which means that the entire screen doesn't light up, only the pixels that need to show colors. This enables apps like NOLED to draw little moving envelopes on the screen, without using more battery life than an LED. It's pretty insane actually, take a look:

PPS: To the people who will hate and call me an Android fanboy, I'm not. I read Crackberry daily hoping for the day that RIM gets their act together so I can jump back to BB, but right now the phones available are sub-par on everything except messaging. I simply don't want well-intentioned crackberry-ers making fools out of themselves saying that their phones are great because of a feature that isn't exclusive to the platform.

PPPS: You are however, correct about the Iphone having an abysmal notification system, with no LED to call attention to it or screen that can power a notification without killing the battery. That phone is horrific for messaging.

I love my LED light. But once I go to bed my phone goes into bedside mode so I don't know or see anything that i receive until the next morning.
I can be a curse if people don't want to either turn off their phones or put their phone in bedside mode, but then that's their own fault.

Too bad BerryBuzz doesn't actually work, though. Actually, if you have a model that supports customising the light, or you can find an app that works, it's incredibly useful. And, it is a pain in the arse at night, but there are a couple simple solutions to that.

1. You could just charge it outside your bedroom, like in a living room or somewhere else where people aren't sleeping.

2. Or you can do what I do. Just quick switch it to vibrate, stick it in the sock drawer, and shut the drawer behind it. So, you got wires coming out of your sock drawer. It's a simple and effective fix to the no sleep problem.