iPhone Tips for Cold Weather

iphone-tips-cold-weather

updated by Chand Bellur
February 3, 2022 at 5:21 p.m.
  • All lithium-ion powered devices function best at optimal temperatures.
  • Cold temperatures cause atoms to slow down, which is the root cause of smartphone failure in frigid weather.
  • Keeping your iPhone warm may extend its operating time in cold temperatures.
  • If your iPhone becomes very cold, special care should be taken before turning it on to avoid damage.
  • Some iPhone cases, such as those constructed out of neoprene, provide limited insulation for cold climates.

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 13 series, along with most Apple devices, operate best at temperatures between 0° to 35° C. These devices are more robust when turned off and can withstand temperatures from -20° to 45° C.

Contrary to Samsung fans’ beliefs, their products also obey the laws of physics. They have the same temperature limitations as other lithium-ion battery-powered devices. Samsung smartphones with Exynos processors tend to run hotter, making them ideal for cold weather but problematic in hot climates.

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 to 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.

How you shut off your iPhone depends on which model you own. Newer iPhones, such as the 13 Pro Max, present the shutdown switch when users press the lower volume and side buttons simultaneously. This applies to all models with a notch. Models such as the iPhone SE (first and second-generation), iPhone 7, and 8 only require the user to press and hold the side button. You can also tap on Settings > General > Shut Down to display the “slide to power off” switch.

Slide to Power Off iPhone

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 Cold Weather iPhone Case

Cold weather cases are now available due to increasing demand. Typically, these are insulated cases. Some of them resemble sleeping bags for iPhones. Here are a few of the most popular cold-weather cases available on Amazon:

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.

Keep a Car Charger for Emergencies

Given the iPhone’s vulnerability to cold weather, one must be prepared for emergencies. If you get stuck in the snow, a cold iPhone that doesn’t work can be a life-threatening situation. Even though the battery may not perform well, you will probably get some power if you plug it into a charger. Make sure to keep a car-compatible iPhone charger in your automobile at all times. Some of these can plug in to the cigarette lighter. Most modern cars have a standard electric or USB outlet, so you can use just about any charger.

Ideally, you should use the charger provided by Apple. Rapid charging with too much current can damage the battery from overheating. Even if you are in a cold environment, a rapid charger could exacerbate the temperature extremes, causing damage to your device.

Use an Old iPhone

Prior to the iPhone 5, Apple’s iconic devices were sandwiched between two sheets of glass. Glass is an insulator. Given this insulating property, the iPhone 4 and 4S should operate better under cold conditions.

Officially, Apple recommends the same temperatures for these older, glass-sandwiched iPhones. The laws of physics would seem to indicate they will perform better in cold weather, due to the insulation. Of course, if the device is left in the cold for a long time, it won’t matter. However, if you take it out of your pocket to use briefly, it should remain operational longer.

Being an old iPhone, you might not get too upset if the temperature extremes ruin the device. I wouldn’t go out and buy an old iPhone for this purpose. You may want to keep your old iPhone 4 or 4S to use outdoors in the winter. Many carriers will allow you to keep your old device activated for free.

Buy a New iPhone

Apple revisited the glass sandwich design from the iPhone 4 lineup. Starting with iPhone 8, Apple re-introduced the fragile-but-thermally-stable glass back design. All new iPhones, including the latest iPhone 13 lineup, feature a glass “sandwich” design. Since glass is an insulator and metal dissipates heat, the “new” configuration should fare better in cold climates.

Keep in mind that the newer glass-backed iPhones are much more fragile than their metal counterparts. In fact, with the latest iPhones, the screen is far more durable than the glass back. Using Corning’s new Ceramic Shield technology, Apple finally solved the problem of cracked screens. However, the company constructed the back of the device with much less durable material. If you happen to drop your glass-backed iPhone on a hard surface and the back shatters, repairs cost upwards of $400 because the entire back unit, including the camera module, must be replaced.

Needless to say, putting your iPhone in a case or protecting the back with a “screen” protector is a smart move. I opted for the latter option, purchasing a tempered glass overlay to protect the back glass on my iPhone 13 Max Pro. If you’re a klutz, it’s probably best to go for a protective case.

Use the Apple Watch to Access iPhone Functionality

The Apple Watch may function better in cold weather. The device’s operating temperature range is the same as the iPhone — 32º F to 95º F (0º C to 35º C). Certain aspects of the Apple Watch may enable it to fare better in cold weather. Since the Apple Watch is worn on your wrist, heat from your body will keep it from getting too cold. If you wear it under a heavy coat and expose it only for quick glances, it should operate in cold weather.

Its material design may also keep the Apple Watch from getting too cold. The front of the device is sapphire glass, which acts as an insulator. The back is either a composite or ceramic material (depending on model) and metal. Body heat should keep the device warm enough to use, even in cold weather. A metal-backed Apple Watch will fare better in cold weather, as body heat transfers through the material.

Buy a Samsung Phone With an Exynos Processor

Samsung smartphones feature one of two brands of processors — Qualcomm or Samsung’s own Exynos chip. The best and fastest Samsung devices use Qualcomm processors. Since the company can’t get enough Qualcomm processors, it puts its own Exynos chips in some of the same models at a lower price.

Exynos processors are decent chips, but they tend to have thermal issues. This is actually a blessing in cold weather. A Samsung S20 with an Exynos processor will fare much better in cold weather than the same phone equipped with a Qualcomm processor. Models with Exynos processors are typically a few hundred dollars cheaper too.

If you’re constantly in cold weather and need to use a smartphone, an Exynos-equipped Samsung phone should work well. In warm weather, the processor simply slows down to stay cool, so you can still use your device.

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76 comments

  1. We have iPhone 4, iPhone 6, iPhone 6S iPhone X all bought in Europe.

    At 0 degrees the 4, 6 and 6S are shutting down within 1 Minute including new batteries from Apple store didn’t change that.

    The iPhone X can run all day at -10 in Swiss alps while skiing and still at 40% at the end of the day while tracking is on permanently so we can follow our son where he is in the mountain.

    My mother in law has bought the iPhone 6 in Russia, Asian model, different from EU model.

    Her phone has a 3 year old battery now and just as the iPhone X runs all day even at -10 in the Swiss alps.

    Li-ion is not li-ion. There are many different technologies. I guess for EU and US Apple sells us the crap and for Asian customers they get the high quality products. Same as iPhone X, you get the high quality .

    Note Apple has not just different technologies for different markets but also different suppliers.

    Btw, same for Nokia or Samsung, if you have a model produced with some other supplier for the batteries your phone might work at -10 but if another model has a different supplier with different technologies for the same stats on paper that one might already shut down at +5

    That’s how people get the different experiences.

    1. According to Apple’s specs, an iPhone will probably experience problems at 0°. If it shuts down at that temperature, it’s to be expected. It’s amazing that the iPhone X can handle lower temperatures.

      It is true that Apple gets parts from different suppliers. There was a notorious issue with the A9 processor. Some were manufactured by Samsung and others by TSMC. They differed slightly in processing power. US customers got either processor. The part was not distributed based on market location.

      The other story is that a supplier often has different manufacturing facilities. For example, Bosch Sensortech is a German company, but has facilities in the U.S., China, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. They supply Apple with accelerometers.

      It is true that there are a few different types of lithium ion battery, however, Lithium Cobalt Oxide (LiCoO2) batteries are used for smartphones, tablets and notebook computers. There are slightly different designs and manufacturing tolerances. You are correct that Apple used to get their batteries from different suppliers. Now they get their batteries exclusively from Sunwoda Electronic.

      According to my research, Apple makes three models of iPhone X (A1865, A1901, A1902), but they are identical apart from their modem chips. Two of the versions are for the US/EU/China/etc. depending on the carrier. The third version is made exclusively for Japan. They are assembled by either Foxconn or Pegatron.

      With older iPhones, one could get batteries from one of two manufacturers. They varied slightly in terms of quality. Apple is pretty strict about manufacturing tolerances, so the differences are insignificant.

      In my experience, people usually ruin their iPhone battery through overuse. I know people who use their iPhone 12 hours a day and use it extensively while it is plugged in. This will shorten the battery’s lifespan and make it more susceptible to failure from temperature extremes.

      My guess would be that your mother-in-law isn’t playing Angry Birds for 12 hours straight, which could also be why the battery has lasted so long. I still have an iPhone 6 and it is my daily driver. It is over 3 years old and the battery lasts all day. I don’t use my iPhone heavily. I turn it off when I charge it. I put it in Airplane mode and Do Not Disturb mode, because I am inundated by telemarketers. (That’s what happens when you have the same cell phone number for 20 years and live in a country with crooked politicians.) The climate is fairly cool where I live. I’m not too surprised that my iPhone’s battery is still in great shape.

  2. Yak… Why are you defending Apple over and over again by referring to the specs of the iPhone? Who cares about the specs? The reality is that neither of the competition shuts down in cold weather like 0 degrees C. Only the iPhone. In particular the 6s. I had the battery replaced by the recall program and I still face the issue. I’m using the Xperia XZ in minus 8 perfectly while the iPhone doesn’t even work in 0. Turning off the phone when it’s cold? Seriously man, are you on drugs? A phone is a portable device that can save your life in a certain situation. Don’t spread the BS please.

    1. As I mentioned, the phones that do well in cold weather don’t fare well in warm weather. For example, if I type “Xperia XZ o” into Google, it populates the “o” with “overheating”. That’s because so many people have searched for those terms, because the phone overheats. It is notorious for overheating. There are hundreds of web pages referring to this problem. A phone that overheats will perform better in cold weather.

      “Why are you defending Apple over and over again by referring to the specs of the iPhone?”

      Product specifications are facts. I care about facts. I’m not defending Apple. I am stating facts. I am offering tips about using an iPhone in cold weather, because, in case you haven’t noticed, this site is about Apple products. I am not going to write the narrative you want, which is that people should go buy something other than an iPhone. These are tips for people who own an iPhone. You can go and create your own Sony fanboy site that no one will visit.

      You seem to be in some sort of tech news echo chamber, one with an anti-Apple bias. Please, keep me out of your black and white echo chamber. Your simplistic straw man tactics are tedious and intellectually fraudulent.

      “the iPhone doesn’t even work in 0”

      No kidding. Who told you it did?!?

      As you mention, you don’t care about the specs. If you did, you would have discovered that the iPhone’s operating range is 0º to 35º before you purchased the device. Apple is transparent about the operating temperatures. I have posted them in the article. They are posted on Apple’s site. You are upset that it doesn’t work at a temperature that is at or below the operating range.

      You’re the one who bought a phone that doesn’t work well in cold temperatures. Apple did not hide this from you. You ignored it, because you don’t care about specs, and you assume that everyone feels the same way. Maybe do some research, but it seems like that’s not your strength. You didn’t do due diligence on your purchase. You bought into iPhone hype, blindly purchased an iPhone like an iSheep, and now you are taking it out on me. No one is to blame but yourself.

      I just bought a new WiFi router. I bought a Google WiFi and not an AirPort Extreme. I researched it, and the AirPort Extreme has a problem with the fan breaking. Apple hasn’t refreshed the device in years and they are getting out of the router business altogether. If I had bought the AirPort Extreme and it broke after a few years, more fool me for being an iSheep. I am not an iSheep. I always research everything before buying it. The irony is that you, an iSheep, claim that I blindly defend Apple? You’re the one who bought an iPhone without researching it. In fact, this web page provides critical information that could have helped you make an informed purchase, yet you take offense to any discussion of facts.

      Who are you? You’re some anonymous guy posting something on a website. What credentials do you have? I’m supposed to value some random angry person’s anecdote over documented specs?

      That said, I don’t doubt that the Xperia XZ works in -8º weather, because it is well-known to overheat. The specs also say it works at -10º. This is the only phone I have found that doesn’t have the 0º C to 35º C operating range. I only checked the major brands of competing phones. Sony is a major brand, but not when it comes to smartphones.

      “Turning off the phone when it’s cold? Seriously man, are you on drugs?”

      That recommendation is based on the operating temperature range. Apple’s documentation, based on lab tests, finds that it can operate just above 0º C, but it can be stored at -20º C. Thus, if it gets below 0º, it’s probably a good idea to turn it off, because it can’t operate at that temperature. What’s controversial about that? You don’t like facts and truth. Maybe you can try persuading your iPhone to work at -8º with your wonderful personality?

      Your ad hominem attacks reveal that I am dealing with a moron who can’t blame himself for buying the wrong phone. If you live in a cold environment, you may want to check on that, but you didn’t. You were too lazy and stupid. You admit that you don’t care about specs, which is precisely why you bought the wrong phone. I guess you will come back and post another rude, accusatory comment when you make the same mistake again.

      I try to stay away from ad hominem attacks, but you are a moron. I couldn’t resist. Go blame yourself for buying the wrong phone. It’s like someone who goes outside in freezing weather wearing a t-shirt, and they blame Hanes for it. You need to find a moron-proof phone that works in cold weather.

      1. Is this not defending:

        APPLEDYSTOPIA says

        DECEMBER 30, 2017 AT 8:01 PM

        “Unfortunately, this is a reality of lithium ion batteries. No one makes a phone that can survive cold temperatures. I have read anecdotes of other brands of phones that fare better in cold weather, however, the documentation doesn’t support the claims. They all seem to have the same temperature range for operation.

        The best you can do is get a case that can insulate the phone. Neoprene cases are inexpensive and do just that. It’s the same material used in wet suits.”

        Obviously samsung HAS made a phone that survives in the cold at the cost of performance in warm ambient temperatures. The thing is, would you sit outside in the heat and use your phone? Do Android phones die in emergency situations in the summer?

        Facts are facts but you can put it in context. You always avoid context to make Apple’s design failure acceptable.

  3. Wow, I can’t believe we cannot use our iPhone 6 in the cold. My car broke down yesterday. I stepped out of the car to check it and tried to call a tow truck and my phone was dead. It had a 86% charge before I left the car. So dead car and dead phone. Great for emergencies. My husband’s Samsung has never done this at all and he has been out in minus 35C this winter. He doesn’t even have a phone case on his phone. Explain that one.

    1. The iPhone 6 is an old device, and unless you have replaced the battery, the unexpected shut down is probably due to a failing battery. It is notoriously true that Apple slows down the iPhone 6 to avoid unexpected shut downs, however, in cold weather, the battery can fail spectacularly. This is also because the iPhone runs cooler than other smartphones (due to its efficiency), which is great in the summer. It’s not so great in the winter. Other smartphones that run warmer may fare well in the winter, but will experience problems in the summer. Overall, they will have shorter battery life, as heat damages lithium ion batteries. I’d much rather have a phone that runs cooler, even if it shuts down in the winter. If I lived in Alaska, I may have a different preference.

      Samsung also specifies an operating range for their devices, which is exactly the same as Apple’s. Your iPhone 6 probably died because the battery is in poor shape. After all, it is an old phone. I own one too, and it is three years old, and I bought it 4 months after it launched.

      My advice — get the battery replaced for $29. If you don’t like it anymore, sell it. You can still get good money for an older iPhone. That can’t be said for other brands.

  4. When I charge my iPhone via a laptop and use it for a half hour then the touch screen doesn’t work properly.
    Sometimes I type a message but it opens other apps (Whatsapp etc) even sometimes I press A but it pressed L or remove it.
    I charge my iPhone with laptop I don’t use adaptor etc. What is the reason and what is the solution?

    1. There are two possibilities. Is your iPhone speaking when it exhibits this behavior? If so, you may have activated an Accessibility feature by accident. I have done this a few times. I usually have to do a soft reset to get it back to normal, as it is too hard to navigate through settings.

      If you have an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, it may be a case of Touch Disease. I doubt it, because it seems to happen only when you charge your device with a laptop.

      Try doing a soft reset. Hold down the sleep/wake button and Home button for approximately 10 seconds. Let go of both buttons when you see the Apple logo. Your device will restart with some cached data cleared out. This solves the majority of iPhone problems. It’s the magic bullet used by most Apple “geniuses”.

  5. I have the same issue with iPhone 6s. Today I played Phone Pokémon go outside at ~5C. Phone was charged at 90% in my car. After 20 mins it shutdown saying 20% Battery. Meanwhile my son was playing on my Motorola G4 plus. It had 60% power initially and had 45% power, and did not shut down. The issue is not the battery but Apple and their fanboys saying “it’s a feature not a bug”.

    1. Was your iPhone 6s manufactured between September and October of 2018? Apple is doing a recall of iPhone 6s models manufactured between September and October 2015. It is a known issue. Their battery supplier had a bad production run, which causes some iPhone 6s devices to shut down unexpectedly. Please read “Check If Failing Battery Is Slowing down Your iPhone”. It has more information about this issue and a link to check if your model is affected.

      As for the “feature, not bug”, I believe that’s more about Apple slowing down iPhones with failing batteries. That’s the correct thing to do. Who would rather have a phone shut down than slow down? I haven’t found one person who prefers the former. Every engineer I know, including myself, thinks it’s pretty amazing exception handling. Their competitors don’t do it because they can’t. Their hardware and software are loosely coupled. Apple has tight integration between hardware and software.

      Neither Apple nor their fan boys claim that an iPhone shutting down due to cold weather is a design decision. I didn’t write that. I’ve never read that. That’s just a reality of lithium ion batteries. Cold weather affects all lithium-ion powered devices. Some devices overheat, so they fare better in cold weather. They can fail or even be a hazard in warm conditions. The other phone you mention is notorious for overheating. That means it will fare quite well on a cold day, but won’t perform well on a warm day.

      I’ve owned iPhones for the past 8 years and have never had one shut down unexpectedly. Every other non-Apple device I have owned or used crashes, shuts down unexpectedly and is quite buggy. Apple’s not perfect, but I’m not about to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    1. Unfortunately, this is a reality of lithium ion batteries. No one makes a phone that can survive cold temperatures. I have read anecdotes of other brands of phones that fare better in cold weather, however, the documentation doesn’t support the claims. They all seem to have the same temperature range for operation.

      The best you can do is get a case that can insulate the phone. Neoprene cases are inexpensive and do just that. It’s the same material used in wet suits.

  6. Lived in Canada for 3 years and had a Samsung S6 and S7, even in -30 temps the battery was NEVER affected and phone never shut off suddenly. Now living in Japan where -10 and iPhone dies within minutes even if you only take it out to take a quick photo.
    Samsung have it right!! Shame on Apple

    1. That’s because AMOLED displays handle cold weather better than LCD. Apple didn’t offer AMOLED displays because they weren’t good enough for their specifications (beyond the thermal issues). The iPhone X is the first iPhone with an OLED display, and it is the best display on any smartphone, according to DisplayMate’s exhaustive testing. Even though it is made by Samsung, the iPhone X’s display is built to Apple’s specifications, and it’s the best display on any phone. It offers the same cold temperature benefits of other phones.

      Also, those older Samsung phones were made of metal with a glass coating on the back, which is an insulating material. Great for cold weather, but not great for warm weather. Glass also traps in heat when the phone is doing intensive operations (gaming, multimedia, heavy network activity). Too much heat will shorten the lifespan of the battery.

      I’m not so sure that either company got it right or wrong. It just happens that Samsung’s products worked better at cold temperatures, because they made glass-backed phones with AMOLED displays.

      It is interesting that Apple can instruct Samsung on how to make a better display. Apple doesn’t have the manufacturing capabilities, but their intellectual property and design capabilities are impressive.

  7. Guys… just buy a powerbank, they are cheap and with those your iPhone will switch one, despite the cold weather. Problem solved

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