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Hands-on with the Sparkbeats light-up iPhone case

This conversation-starter case leverages an iOS setting to flash wildly when you receive a call or text, no batteries required.

The Sparkbeats effect is most dramatic when the lights are low, but it's still quite visible under ordinary indoor lighting.

There are plenty of iPhone cases that do more than just protect your phone. Some double as wallets, some zap would-be attackers with 650,000 volts, and so on.

How about one that livens up the way you receive notifications? That's the Sparkbeats in a nutshell: it's an iPhone 5 / 5S case that lights up and flashes whenever there's an incoming call or text. And because it leverages a little-documented feature in iOS, it requires no external power to do so.

Sparkbeats began as a Kickstarter project in Australia, but is now available for sale via, which provided my review sample.

Available in black or white, the case sports two clear, raised channels that run from the camera LED all around the back and sides. To take advantage of this, you need to delve into your iPhone's settings (General > Accessibility) and enable LED Flash for Alerts.

With that done, the LED will flash whenever a call or text message comes in. And with your iPhone inside the Sparkbeats, that entire channel will flash as well. The effect is pretty cool, and it certainly has practical value: even if your phone is set to mute, you can see the flashing, making it less likely that you'll miss an important call or message.

Timed Company Limited

There's also a "pass-through" switch that allows you to use the LED for its intended purpose (i.e. flash photography). And if you want to have a little more fun with the case, the free Sparkbeats app lets you enable Flash Light mode (complete with an SOS option), a motion-sensitive flash, and Follow the Beats, which makes the LED strobe in response to sound picked up by the microphone.

Ironically, though, it doesn't seem to work with music you play on your iPhone proper.

All told, the Sparkbeats is a pretty cool gimmick. However, although the raised rear channels offer some added anti-slip gription, the case itself has zero lip to protect your screen in the event of a face-down drop. And it's necessarily on the thick side to accommodate the side channels.

Most of all, the Sparkbeats is a tough sell owing to its $50 (£30, AU$54) price tag. Last December I wrote about a similar product priced at just $20 (though it's no longer available, at least from that vendor). Cool and practical as this case is, I think a lower price is in order. Your thoughts?