iPhone Tips for Cold Weather

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The iPhone can lose battery life quickly in cold temperatures. This article provides tips to keep your iPhone operational during cold weather.

It’s been a cold winter for many people across the globe. Extreme weather seems to be the new normal. Unfortunately, electronic gadgets, particularly those powered by lithium-ion batteries, are not suited for temperature extremes. The iPhone is no exception. According to Apple, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus can operate at temperatures between 0° to 35° C. When turned off, these devices are a bit more robust and can withstand temperatures from -20° to 45° C.

Those living in cold climates may be familiar with this situation. If one takes out an iPhone on a cold day, the battery life diminishes quickly. Within a few minutes, the battery can lose enough power to shut down the device. It’s not actually discharging. Instead, the lithium-ion battery simply cannot function at extremely cold temperatures. The lithium ions slow down under cold temperatures, diminishing the flow of electricity.

This is not a flaw with Apple products. This happens with any lithium-ion battery-powered device. There are a few things you can do to keep your iPhone working and protect it from permanent damage.

Turn Off Your iPhone

If you are walking (or riding your snowmobile) outside and don’t need your iPhone, turn it off. As mentioned previously, when turned off, the iPhone can withstand a much greater temperature range. Make sure to turn it off, and not just put it to sleep. Hold the sleep/wake button and then swipe the “slide to power off” switch to turn off your device.

When you return to a warmer environment, don’t turn on your iPhone right away. This is true of every electronic device, and also some forms of media, such as video and audio cassettes. Turning on a cold device can warm it quickly. The rapid change in temperature can expand components too quickly, causing damage. Furthermore, your device is at risk for condensation to form. Any moisture inside the device can cause electronic components to fail. Simply wait for your device to come up to room temperature. With the new, metal-encased iPhones, this should happen within a few minutes. Just make sure it doesn’t feel cold to the touch.

Keep Your iPhone Warm

If it’s cold outside, chances are you are wearing warm clothing. You may have a thick, down-filled parka. If so, put the iPhone in an inside pocket. Between your body heat and the jacket’s insulation, your phone should remain within operational temperatures. If you can’t do that, try to put the device as close to your body as possible.

Of course, this limits the use of your iPhone. The buttons on Apple’s headphones actually allow users to control some iPhone functions. For example, one can invoke Siri simply by pressing and holding the center button on the headphones. I wouldn’t advise taking the phone out and returning it to its warm location repeatedly. It will present the same problem of expansion, contraction and condensation.

There are some cases that may provide adequate insulation for your iPhone. Neoprene seems like a good option. It is inexpensive and is the same material used in wet suits. You could probably even make one out of a mouse pad, since most are constructed from neoprene. Neoprene is also a great shock absorber. For those with the financial resources, a new, high-tech thermal protection case is coming soon…

Use a High-Tech Thermal Protection Case

Optimal is an active, electronic thermal protection case that is currently in development. It promises to be the high-end solution to using an iPhone in extreme temperatures. This high-tech case will help maintain the temperature of your iPhone in hot or cold weather. The case will have fans and heating elements to keep your iPhone at the optimal operating temperature. It will also ensure that your iPhone won’t overheat when gaming or engaging in other resource-intensive activities.

The Optimal case will only be 5 mm thick and constructed of anodized aluminum. The case has its own battery and must be charged, so as not to drain the iPhone’s battery. This is a high-tech case with active electronic components to monitor and maintain the optimal temperature. It will even work with Touch ID and will not obscure the camera lens. The case is currently under development, however, it is being crowd funded on Indiegogo. This case is not cheap. It will sell for around $200. However, if you need to use your iPhone in extreme temperatures, there’s really nothing else like Optimal.

Don’t Leave Your iPhone in the Car

Given the operational and non-operational temperature range for the iPhone, it makes sense not to leave it in a cold car. If you do, at least make sure to turn it off and wait until it warms up before turning it on again. The most sensible thing is to take it with you. It may be colder outside your automobile, but if your iPhone is tucked in a warm pocket, it will fare better. (continue…)

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14 thoughts on “iPhone Tips for Cold Weather

  1. How can I use an iPhone in case of emergency in cold climate when I’m in danger and need help? The iPhone is useless and by skiing cross country it is not possible to keep phone warm.

    Why you are not copying the technology from Samsung, Nokia etc.? They are working also in cold climate.

    • I would suggest putting the iPhone in an inner pocket in your coat. That should keep it warm, even if you’re outdoors in cold weather for a long time. I would suggest getting a neoprene case. Neoprene is the same material used in wetsuits, so it will help keep your iPhone warm. But you can’t expect to be skiing for hours with an iPhone externally exposed to cold temperatures. I wouldn’t expect someone to ski with an iPhone attached to their belt or on an arm band.

      Which models of Samsung and Nokia phones aren’t affected by cold temperatures? All lithium-ion batteries are subject to failure under cold conditions.

      The Samsung Galaxy S7 has the same operating temperature range as the iPhone.

  2. So let’s get this straight. I turn off my phone in cold weather and when I need it for say an emergency it is still cold so it won’t turn on to be used. So the best idea is to leave it at home when you go out in the cold because even if you do need it it is still completely useless. Did you work for Microsoft?

    • You can put it in an inside coat pocket. That should keep it warm. For hands-free operation, you can use the earbuds to control Siri and talk on the phone. On page two of this article, I cover using a car charger to use a cold iPhone in emergency situations.

      The point of this article is that, if it’s cold outside, don’t let your iPhone get cold. Don’t leave it in a cold car. Most of my cold weather jackets have inside pockets. That should be sufficient to keep it at operating temperature. If you take it out to use it, don’t use it too long.

      Unfortunately, no one can change the fundamental laws of physics. Lithium ions slow down when it’s cold, which prevents the battery from functioning. This is true of all smartphones. Any device with a lithium ion battery can stop functioning in cold temperatures.

    • I read that they acquired a battery R&D firm, so the technology may be implemented in the future. As it stands now, lithium-ion batteries are the only viable option for smartphones and many devices. Every smartphone on the market uses lithium-ion batteries and they are all affected by both cold and warm weather.

    • That will happen with any lithium-ion battery powered device. It’s not unique to the iPhone. I checked competing smartphone manuals, and they all have the same temperature ranges for operation and storage.

  3. I have both iPhone 6s plus and iPhone 5s. My 6s plus turns off when the air temperature is +1 C, and my 5s still works when it’s -5 C (may be even lower).

    • It may be because the iPhone 6 is almost all aluminum and thinner. The metal dissipates heat faster and offers less insulating properties. The thinness may also cause it to lose heat rapidly compared to the older model. The iPhone 5S only has a panel that’s aluminum, but the front and top/bottom of the back are glass. Glass is a better insulator than aluminum.

  4. Today it was +7C. My iPhone still shut off. I was downtown looking for my sister and couldn’t possibly call her because I have a phone that I can only use indoor apparently. Completely useless. Apple should seriously consider a recall. I seriously need my phone to call someone. I can’t possibly use it in my pocket. It should have different kind of emergency battery life at least to call 911 in case of an emergency.

  5. Unfortunately, I work outside, and I have an iphone. Just 2 days ago, I had to make a call and my phone had to be exposed to the cold air for less than minutes while I talked. Before the conversation ended, the phone got too cold and shut down, so keeping it warm doesn’t make it possible to use, if we have to bring it to our ear to talk. An awfully expensive essential device that doesn’t work in an emergency. A $30 flip phone is my next buy.

    • One possible solution may be to use the included headphones. I actually prefer using it for calls, especially outside or in crowds. Using the headphones, you can keep it in your pocket while you make calls. Siri can be activated by pressing and holding the center button on the headphones.

      I’m not sure any phone powered by a lithium ion battery will work in cold conditions. That said, a $30 flip phone may be worth a shot.

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