It may be tempting to become a hermit during the winter, but you know that doing so will come at the expense of your social life.
So, you’ve braved the cold weather and ventured outside — even though what you really want to do is snuggle up inside and hibernate. But it’s OK, you’ll just show your face, stay for a couple of hours, and then call a taxi to take you home.
But when you try to make the call, you realise your phone battery is completely dead. You could have sworn it had at least 40 per cent battery life when you put it in your jacket pocket earlier. While it won’t be much of a consolation at the time, you might find it reassuring to know that most people who own a smartphone will have experienced this.
If you’ve ever found yourself in a similar situation, you may be wondering why this has happened, what you can do to fix it and how you can prevent it from happening again. In this article, we’ll reveal all.
Most mobile phones are powered by lithium-ion batteries, which don’t handle cold weather well.
Despite this, these types of batteries are used in mobile phones because they charge quickly, they can be recharged even when they are not completely flat, and they are affordable to produce.
Continue reading to find out what happens to your phone’s battery in cold weather.
What happens to my phone in the cold?
Your phone’s battery dwindles quicker in cold weather because low temperatures slow down the chemical reaction that sends charged particles through the device’s circuit system and powers the phone. The colder the weather, the harder your battery has to work, as more of these particles encounter resistance and get stuck as they try to move.
When this happens, your device may crash or reboot. This can also happen to any device that’s powered by a lithium-ion battery, for example, digital cameras and tablets.
Scientists don’t fully understand the balance of chemicals that keep your phone battery charged, which is why your battery indicator may give the wrong readings in cold weather. For example, it may say your phone has a 40 per cent charge one minute and then show 10 per cent — or turn off altogether — the next.
How else can cold weather affect my phone?
In cold weather, you may also find your apps become slower or your phone’s LCD screen grows blurry or glitchy. Additionally, as mentioned above, onboard sensors can become inaccurate because battery metres are calibrated, assuming they will be used within a specific temperature range (usually 0 to 35 degrees Celsius).
Can cold weather permanently damage my phone?
Cold weather can damage your phone, but how much damage is done depends on the temperature:
- Extreme cold — Temperatures well below freezing can permanently damage a phone’s battery (and its screen)
- Freezing cold — Freezing temperatures can cause a phone to become temporarily inactive, but trying to recharge a battery that’s below freezing may cause permanent damage
- Chilly temperatures — Temperatures above freezing but below room temperature can quickly drain your phone’s battery, but this shouldn’t cause permanent damage
What to do when your phone battery dies in cold weather
As you would expect, when your phone stops working due to cold weather, the key thing is to bring it back up to room temperature. It is important to do this slowly, though, to prevent condensation from developing in the battery and causing water damage. So the best thing to do is to take it inside and wait for it to warm up.
If, however, you need to use it desperately, you may be able to speed up the process by doing the following:
- Use your own body heat to warm up your phone and its battery. This may not work in extremely cold temperatures, though.
- Place your phone near a warm surface, like your car’s dashboard, while the engine is running. Note that you should not put your phone directly onto a warm surface, nor should you try to heat it up in an oven or microwave.
You should wait until your phone has returned to a normal temperature before you charge it. If you attempt to charge it while it is still cold, you could permanently damage the battery.
How do I keep my phone battery from dying in cold weather?
It is recommended that if you are going out in conditions below zero degrees Celsius, you should leave your phone at home. However, in certain situations, this isn’t a realistic option. If you do need to take your phone out in cold weather, there are some measures you can take to preserve the life of its battery:
11 Tips for protecting your phone battery in cold weather
- Check your phone’s temperature range — Before you take your device out in cold weather, check its operating temperature range. If you’re going out in conditions below this range, take care to insulate it from the cold.
- Fully charge the battery —The more charge your phone’s battery has, the less likely it is to die in the cold.
- Turn your phone off — Switch your phone off when you’re not using it so that the battery won’t react to the cold.
- Close unessential apps — Close apps you’re not using and turn off resources like GPS, location services, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, as they can all drain your battery in cold weather.
- Download maps before you leave — If you need to use maps while you’re out in low temperatures, download them ahead of time and use your phone in airplane mode.
- Change your battery settings — Activating battery-saving mode limits your device’s capabilities to preserve battery life.
- Keep your phone in an inside pocket — When you’re in cold weather, keep your phone warm in an inside pocket instead of putting it in an outside pocket or handbag.
- Buy an insulating case — To help keep your phone as warm as possible, consider buying a thermal case for it. Similarly, you could use a beer can holder with a hand warmer tucked inside.
- Use wireless headphones — When using your phone in cold weather, keep it in your pocket and connect it to wireless headphones so it’s not exposed to the elements.
- Use your phone sensibly and sparingly — If you need to use your phone in the cold, turn your back to the wind and take it out for as short a time as possible. When using it, keep it close to your body.
- Take a portable charger out with you — With a portable charger, you can charge your phone on the go. Just remember only to use it when the phone is at room temperature.
Alternatively, you could consider investing in a smartwatch or taking a spare device out with you. This won’t save the battery life of your main phone, but it could provide you with a lifeline in an emergency situation.
Does hot weather affect your phone battery?
At temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius and above, you may see an improvement in your phone’s performance. However, this comes at a cost, as your battery will be draining up to 6.7 per cent faster. This is because when batteries become too hot, they work harder, which causes them to drain more quickly.
Regularly using your phone in hot conditions can shorten its battery life, and temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius can cause serious damage.
If your device does overheat, move it to a cooler place and wait for it to return to room temperature before you use it again.
How to keep your phone cool in hot weather
Most smartphones have built-in protections to limit their capabilities in hot weather and prevent overheating. iPhones, for example, attempt to regulate their temperature by shutting down features or turning them off completely in conditions that exceed the normal operating range. Similarly, Samsung devices may close apps, temporarily cease charging, dim the display or power off altogether.
Here are some tips for ensuring your phone stays cool in hot weather:
- Don’t place your phone in direct sunlight
- Avoid leaving your device inside a car, as temperatures inside vehicles can soar in hot weather
- Close any apps that use a lot of power, such as cameras, maps and games
- Disconnect Bluetooth devices
- Turn off Wi-Fi
- Turn the screen brightness down
- Switch your phone off when you are not using it
How long should a phone battery last?
A typical lithium-ion battery works at optimal capacity for about two to three years. However, it’s worth noting that usage can also have an effect on the lifespan of batteries. This means your phone battery could last anywhere between one-and-a-half to five years, depending on how often you recharge it.
If you’ve noticed that your phone battery has started depleting quicker than usual, you might be considering investing in a new device. But before you do, it’s worth knowing that the cheaper option is to buy a replacement battery instead.
Lithium-ion batteries are used in mobile phones because they charge quickly, they can be recharged even when they are not completely flat, and they are affordable to produce. However, they don’t handle cold weather well. This is because low temperatures slow down the chemical reaction that sends charged particles through the device’s circuit system and powers the phone. When this happens, your device may crash or reboot. You may also find that your apps become slower, your phone’s LCD screen grows blurry or glitchy and onboard sensors, like battery indicators, become inaccurate.
Temperatures well below freezing can permanently damage a phone’s battery, but in freezing temperatures, it is likely that your phone will only be inactive temporarily. In this case, it’s best to take it inside and wait for it to return to room temperature, but you may be able to speed up the process by using your own body heat or placing it near a warm surface.
If you need to take your phone out in cold weather, you may be able to preserve its battery life by:
- Checking your phone’s temperature range
- Fully charging the battery
- Turning your phone off
- Closing unessential apps
- Downloading maps before you leave
- Changing your battery settings
- Keeping your phone in an inside pocket
- Buying an insulating case
- Using wireless headphones
- Using your phone sensibly and sparingly
- Taking a portable charger out with you