Today, I want to focus on relaxation, meditation and all the good things after spending the day reading and watching the news about how people were burnt alive in the Ukrainian Odessa. As I was browsing the Google Play store, an inconspicuous app attracted my attention with its 4.6 rating, so I took it for a test drive.
Lightning Bug is a free Android app designed to help people relax, chill out and maybe even fall asleep. It is beautifully designed, versatile, and offers a large gallery of sounds and sound effects that can be combined in an endless multitude of variations.
The app itself is free, and it offers both free and premium packs of sounds. If you don’t like spending an extra buck on entertainment, you can very well enjoy the Lightning Bug without any purchases.
Lightning Bug is a sound machine at its core. You can do absolutely nothing and enjoy the default scenes and the alarm clock functionality, but if you enable the Plug-in mode, download the free, or premium, sound packs and start toying with the app – it is sure to impress you.
Sound packs come with different sound effects that play in a loop when enabled. The default theme you will see when you first launch the app is the Simplicity, where you only hear the rain and occasional thunder. As you download more sound packs, you get a wealth of sound elements, some play continuously, while others can be set to repeat at user-defined intervals.
Sound elements come as loops, and each element is customized in the volume level and repeat rate, unless it is continuous. At first, you will be enabling random loops, trying out how they match together. I strongly recommend you try out the Pads that come in a free Winter Pack. These have become my favorite after all the flutes, free Cubicle Pi pack and premium Meditation pack, and guitar, Rustic pack free. Also, a fine selection of Cosmic Aums come with a starter pack, and they will probably appeal to the meditation folks.
There is a wealth of themes besides the Simplicity – Beach at Night, the Monastery, New York skyline, Earth Attack and Van de Grall. Each theme has a pre-set of its own sounds you can toggle on and off, but I suggest you enable plug-in mode and create your own theme. You will use one of the existing themes as your default – my choice goes to the Earth Attack since it has the lightning bugs. The latter, as much as the lightning, can be customized in quantity and colors so you can set up to 14 lightning bugs flying around in the dark, which looks spectacular if you turn the lights off.
Beach at Night takes you to the moonlit seashore, the Monastery theme is full of chanting monks, while the generator theme offers white noise sounds.
The white noise and household themes and sound packs appeal to the kind of folks I don’t understand, but tastes differ. It beats me who would care to listen to the dishwasher or the crisp white noise sounds, but we all have our oddities.
The themes, preset and customized, create a highly sensual atmosphere that will set you in a meditative or relaxation state, or simply put you to sleep. The app has ample Settings, where you can set the screen time-out time, alarm clock, clock color, set up system alarm and sleep timer. The sleep time is a really nifty feature since you can turn on the Lightning Bug, set the Sleep time in some 30 minutes, check the box next to Close App After Sleep, and doze off. When the 30 minutes pass, the app shuts down automatically and you device goes to sleep.
I wouldn’t say the configuration settings are very transparent since I was not immediately aware you could use more than one theme, or how to adjust the number and color of the lightning bugs, since the buttons are not self-descriptive, and it takes getting used to memorizing where the Settings are. A Clock icon instead of a regular Gear icon for Settings seems unfortunate. I would say the entire left-side set of icons would be better in text instead of icons. The right-side set of toggles stand for the loops you can add, customize or remove, so that is very straightforward and simple.
Now, the good part about this app is the developers took the time to explain why the app needs the permissions it requests, a move I seldom see from Android developers. For one, it speaks for accountability and transparency – “yes, we request access to certain functions and here is why.” Let’s take a look at the brief breakdown.
- Location – Lightning Bug has an option to display current weather (disabled by default), but if you choose to turn it on the app will need to pull weather conditions from the weather service; hence, the request.
- Internet access – to download sound packs, images and updates from 1908 Media servers or to contact your weather app.
- Storage – to store images, sound files and program files.
- Phone Calls – to mute the theme sounds during phone calls.
- System Tools – to prevent the device from sleeping, to enable alarm clock feature.
- Run at boot – to synchronize the app’s alarm clock with the system-wide clock. It should be noted the app only runs briefly at start up, and turns off after synchronizing the clock settings.
There are no in-app purchases as such in the Lightning Bug. You can download a free sound packs and rejoice at their versatility, or try out the premium themes, especially the Meditation Pack.
- Tap once on the sound icon on the right to enable or disable the sound effects, called loops.
- Long-press on a sound icon to adjust the volume and frequency of the loop.
- Tap on the ‘bull’s eye’ icon on the left to change the color of the lightning or the bugs.
- Tap the clock icon to access the Settings, where you can set up the alarm, sleep timer, enable full screen mode, customize fonts and colors of the clock (perfect to set up and use as a bedside clock).
- You can have the Lightning Bug run in the background. Why, you ask? Try out the continuous sound of rain while you listen to some nice chill out or jazz music via your music app. The experience is really awesome.
- Beautiful, relaxing, entertaining
- highly customizable and easy to use
- a great set of default themes
- does help you relax or fall asleep
- transparency about app permissions
- crashed the first time I launched it. Other than that, a random crash is possible if you enable the app to run in the background.
- no widget, which is a welcome addition.
- basic alarm, with only one alarm slot available.
- no way to add your own sounds.
Nevertheless, provided the app is free of charge; you get a really great deal of features to toy with, so I appreciate the value.
The Lightning Bug is an awesome relaxation app, which is sure to help you fall asleep, meditate or simply make a break in between the brainstorming at work. Nevertheless, it looks and sounds best when you can turn the lights off and reset your brain. The app is free, customizable, aesthetically gorgeous, yet minimalist. Overall impression – the Lightning Bug has obviously been around for quite a while now, but I am glad I discovered this hidden gem in the debris of Google Play.