KSNF/KODE — Most people know that high temperatures can damage your smart device. Some devices like the Apple iPhone will power down to prevent damage once it starts to overheat. Extreme cold temperatures can be just as damaging to electronic devices. With the upcoming winter weather, you’ll most likely need your device working optimally to stay up to date with emergency notifications, navigation, and storm tracking. Here’s what you need to know about your device and how to protect them:

How does cold weather harm my electronic devices?

Nearly all modern electronic devices contain lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are basically made of four components — cathode, anode, electrolyte, and separator. According to Quantum Scape, lithium-ion batteries charge by moving lithium atoms between the cathode to the anode. As the battery is used or discharged, lithium atoms move in the opposite direction from the anode to the cathode. In low temperatures, the anodes of the battery become sluggish, decreasing its capacity to hold a charge and taking more energy to perform. This is why you may end up charging your devices more often or notice your battery life has been zapped during cold spells. You can read more about the interworking of these components here.

When one component doesn’t perform well, neither do the other components thus affecting the overall performance of your devices including touchscreens and buttons. To prevent this, Apple says to use your device between 32º to 95º Fahrenheit. Using your device outside of its operating temperature may shorten battery life, cause your device to turn off, and may affect its ability to charge at all.

This source here says the temperature threshold for Android smartphones is also 32º to 95º Fahrenheit.

Not only can temperature affect the battery, but cold temperatures can also literally freeze your LCD (liquid crystal display) screen, making them glitch or appear blurry. Touchscreen sensors can lose accuracy since they’re calibrated to work within a specific temperature range. Extreme colds can also make your screen more susceptible to cracking.

What can I do to protect my device?

  • Keep your device between its temperature threshold. If you happen to leave your phone or laptop somewhere where temperatures dip below freezing, allow the device to warm up before charging it—whether that’s in your pocket, close to your natural body heat, or in a warm room.
  • Keep your device from collecting condensation. You shouldn’t take your device from extreme cold to extreme warmth (or extreme cold to immediately on a charger) as this could put your device at risk for condensation and can cause water damage. Give your device as much time as you can to let it gradually warm up before charging it. Avoid putting your device in the oven or using a heating device (blow dryer, space heater, fire, etc.) to warm it up.
  • Minimize your devices’ exposure by keeping them in a weatherproof protective case, if possible. Also keeping your phone out of the elements inside a handbag, interior pocket, or backpack when you aren’t using it is a good idea. If you travel often with your devices be sure to bring them inside so they don’t freeze overnight in your vehicle.
  • Keep your device fully charged and a portable charger on hand to avoid the cold from totally draining your battery. A totally drained battery takes longer to charge and turn back on when cold, which can be detrimental in an emergency situation.
  • Preserve your battery life by turning on a “battery save/low power mode” if you have it, turn off location services until you’re ready to use them, and close apps that you are not using. You can also download movies, music, or maps ahead of time and operate in “airplane mode” to extend the life of your battery.
  • Turn your phone off and use it sparingly. It’s nearly impossible to be without a smart device these days, but a lot of phone use is out of habit or boredom. In freezing temp situations, these tips used in addition to turning off your phone, or putting it away will ultimately keep your device from experiencing irreparable damage.