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Home / Features / Dear all tech companies: stop adding obnoxious eye-searing lights to gadgets

Dear all tech companies: stop adding obnoxious eye-searing lights to gadgets

Gadget light pollution is a crime against humanity (and sleep) – it’s time to ditch bright lights from consoles, TVs, chargers and other tech

Women blinded by lights from loads of LEDs
Image sources: Justin Lane (lights) and Marcelo Dias (woman).

I’m currently humming along to that famous track by The Weeknd that goes: “Ooh, I’m blinded by the lights! I can’t sleep because your stupid gadget is lighting up the room, in an incredibly obnoxious fashion, and I want to throttle your designers.” OK, so that doesn’t rhyme, and I might have made up the second line. But that’s because I also have a headache. And that’s because I just got blasted by a light on a gadget designed by a sadist.

Let’s face it, there are a lot of them about. It seems gadget creators won’t be satisfied until they’ve turned every house into a rubbish sci-fi set with eerie neon glows. But no product should need to blast a laser-beam-like light into your retinas, just to point out that it is functional.

Assuming it does even that. Because, really, who knows what each light is actually for? It might mean something is on. Or off. It might show that it’s charged. Or charging. Or maybe it’s just there to announce the gadget‘s existence, because the design team had a budget to play with and a corporate ego to stroke.

In a bad light

The Weeknd blinding lights video still
The Weeknd, screaming about annoying lights on his gadgets. Probably.

If nothing else, there’s at least some variety in how these gadgets assault your eyes. In my office alone, several unnecessary gadget lights compete for attention. There’s an OWC Thunderbolt Hub – an objectively great product, but did it really need a massive blue glowing OWC logo that’s the brightest thing in my line of sight? No. No, it did not. There are my Ruark speakers, with output LEDs that I feel could have appeared briefly, rather than stay on indefinitely, adding yet more visual noise. And then there’s my RGB30 – a fab handheld console that also happens to have an eye-searing green ‘on’ light, in case you fancied a personal spotlight/laser beam while playing retro games.

Still, that’s nothing compared with what’s going on elsewhere. I have some Anker chargers, each capable of illuminating an entire room the second a phone lands on its charging pad. “Look, I’m charging,” the light would declare. Yes. Thank you. “Still charging,” it would needlessly inform me, potentially forever. That’s nice. Well done. Maybe turn the light off now? Needless to say, that never happened. So I resorted to gaffer tape to cover the lights up. Not the most aesthetically pleasing solution, but at least I could sleep.

See the light

Alexa gadget with annoying yellow light
“The chances of turning off this yellow light are a million to one,” he said.

Terrifyingly, they weren’t the worst perpetrator in the dark. That would be an Alexa that once lurked in the bedroom. Just for a change, its light was yellow. Or at least it was most of the time, because Amazon would send notifications even when you told it not to, and the alert took the form of said light. The last straw? When I awoke in the dead of night to see a weird pulsing yellow glow from behind the curtains, briefly convincing my sleep-addled brain that aliens were staging a silent invasion.

Look, I get it. You might argue devices need to indicate that they are healthy and functional. But there are better ways. Back in the day, Apple concocted a subtle ‘breathing’ light on a Mac, which made the tech almost feel alive. But honestly, I’d be perfectly happy if my tech came across as dead until I needed it – and kept the lights off even when I used it. And even Apple joined the league of (evil) light anyway, with the Apple TV’s piercing number that could light up a runway, leaving you no choice but to notice it. Perhaps the next iteration of Apple’s little black box could include a setting for a little black light. That, at least, is a light on a gadget I could get behind.

Profile image of Craig Grannell Craig Grannell Contributor


I’m a regular contributor to Stuff magazine and Stuff.tv, covering apps, games, Apple kit, Android, Lego, retro gaming and other interesting oddities. I also pen opinion pieces when the editor lets me, getting all serious about accessibility and predicting when sentient AI smart cookware will take over the world, in a terrifying mix of Bake Off and Terminator.

Areas of expertise

Mobile apps and games, Macs, iOS and tvOS devices, Android, retro games, crowdfunding, design, how to fight off an enraged smart saucepan with a massive stick.