Customize Android notification alerts, even without a dedicated light

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Last week, we showed you how to take control of your Android phone’s notification light, using an app to force it to blink pretty, custom-coded colors.

But what if your device has no light? Android devices come in many (many, many) different forms, and not all of them are blessed with a customizable LED light for your notification alerts. And that’s too bad, because silent, inconspicuous custom notifications are very useful (especially if you’re trying to discreetly check your phone during a boring meeting).

Good news: Because this is Android, not iOS or Windows Phone, there’s a workaround. Several, actually. You can get customized notifications without a flashy little light on the front of your device thanks to these three apps.


NoLED is a free notification app that serves up LED-like notifications on phones and tablets that have – wait for it – no LED. This app displays notifications as small colored dots or icons against a black screen. Although the screen is technically on, only the dots or icons are lit up, so the app won’t totally decimate your battery life if you have an OLED display (where only lit-up pixels really draw power).

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A little dot on your otherwise black screen can serve as a faux-LED notification alert.

NoLED lets you set custom notifications for missed calls, texts, voice mail, battery life, and third-party apps. If you’re looking for a true LED experience, I suggest going with the colored dots – the first time I used NoLED on my Galaxy Note II, I thought the pink dot was actually coming from its LED. The dots don’t blink like your LED will, but they do bounce around every few seconds to ensure that no one pixel will be overused and eventually burn out.

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NoLED lets you set different alert settings for individual functions and apps.

NoLED also features icon notifications, which are helpful for people who prefer not to decipher a complex colored dot code. The app will even pull icons from third-party apps, including games, to display on your otherwise blank screen. If you don’t like NoLED’s default icon set, you can download additional themes from the developer’s website (or perhaps create your own).

Flash Notification 2

Your device may not have an LED notification light, but it’s probably got another light: A camera flash. Flash Notification 2 is a free app that co-opts your camera flash for alerts. They’re not exactly discreet, but they are silent.

Flash Notification 2 lets you set up custom notifications for incoming and missed calls, text messages, and third-party apps. It’s fully customizable, which means you can set flash frequency (1–20 flashes per second) for different notifications. For example, an incoming call might be set to 4 flashes per second, while a missed text message might be set to 13 flashes. The app also lets you set screen flashes too, in case your phone is face-up when a notification comes in. Screen flashes can be customized by color and flash frequency, so you can identify different types of notifications.

flashnotification settings

Be careful how you set Flash Notification 2’s settings. Your camera flash isn’t discreet!

Flashing your camera or screen doesn’t provide the most discreet form of alert—camera flashes are bright and, well, flashy. But if you’re interested in a flashing light and your device has no front LED, this is basically your only option. Because flash notifications are pretty obnoxious, the app offers a “working time” feature, which lets you define times when the notifications won’t work (for example, when you’re sleeping).


While NoLED turns your screen on discreetly to display a small dot, DynamicNotifications takes a different approach. This free app (with a paid option) turns on your screen to display a larger icon, the time, and a custom background image, if you like.

DynamicNotifications is as discreet or as indiscreet as you want it to be. In its default setting, the app lights up your screen with each new notification icon against a black background. Upon seeing each notification, you can choose to swipe to the left to open the app, swipe to the right to unlock your device, or swipe down to dismiss the notification. Unlike other notification apps, DynamicNotifications allows you to take action right away, just in case that email absolutely cannot wait.

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DynamicNotifications lights up your screen and lets you take action on a notification immediately.

It’s very customizable, but you have to pay for it. You can customize the background image, the text and icon colors, and even edit the swipe actions, provided you purchase the premium version for $2. While this customization is nice, it makes the app more of a lock screen replacement app rather than a pure notification alert app. Instead of just discreetly alerting you to missed text messages, DynamicNotification encourages you to take action (whether that’s to answer or dismiss it).

dynamicnotifications settings

To really customize DynamicNotifications, you have to pay $2 for the premium version.

The app does have a built-in power-saving feature: your phone won’t light up when it’s in your pocket or face-down on the table, but it doesn’t constantly display a new notification alert like NoLED does. DynamicNotification is perhaps most convenient for ultra-important notifications, whether or not your phone has a built-in LED notification light.

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