Android 13 could get this surprisingly useful upgrade

android 13 logo on a pixel 4a
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Update: Google has confirmed Android 13 will come with some battery-saving features, including a notification that warns you if a background app is using too much power

A new Android 13 feature could let you adjust how bright your phone's flashlight is. And it's about time this was a default option on Android phones, if the beta discoveries make it to the release version of the OS.

As found by Android expert Mishaal Rahman of Esper (via XDA Developers) in the developer beta of Android 13, there are two new APIs named getTorchStrengthLevel and turnOnTorchWithStrengthLevel. While it's using the British English term, it's quite obvious that these APIs are related to settings that will let users change the brightness of the flashlight

Being able to adjust this option is more useful than you might think. If you want to avoid blinding someone while looking for something in the dark it's courteous to dim the light, while cranking it up will make sure you can see as much as possible.

The fact that Android has only allowed users to switch the flashlight on or off until this point is surprising. You have been able to do this in iOS (by long-pressing the flashlight button in Control Center) for some time, and likewise in Samsung's One UI by long-pressing the flashlight in quick settings. Getting this option added by default into Android will mean you won't have to rely on your phone's manufacturer's tweaks to Android to give you the option: it'll just be there, ready to use.

One potential issue is that to use these new commands, the phones will need to update their cameras' hardware abstraction layer (HAL) as well as the overall Android software. Since HAL updates are currently not required, to ensure phone makers can certify their devices for four generations of Android, it's possible some companies won't make this HAL update and therefore won't have access. As Rahman writes though, it's hard to say for certain how big a risk this is since Google's requirements for Android 13 are not yet final.

Beyond these new flashlight features, there is more to look forward to in Android 13 when you buy a new phone or update your current one. More precise photo and video access permissions for your apps, new app icon theming and a rumored new system for transferring media across devices all sound like worthwhile upgrades, and no doubt more will be on the way in subsequent beta tests all the way up to the planned Android 13 release window in mid to late summer.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.