Discovery Hub

Cold-Weather Tips: Can Your Phone Get Too Cold?


January 06, 2020

For much of the country, "too cold" is when you can no longer stay outside comfortably without protective clothing. Your phone agrees. You probably know that a phone can get too hot, but you might not know it can also get too cold. Most phones are powered by lithium-ion batteries, which begin to perform differently once the temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Here's how to:

  • Figure out your phone’s optimal temperature.
  • Protect it from the cold.
  • Know what to do if it shuts off in freezing temperatures.

Optimal temperature range

No matter what phone you use, you can find the technical specifications online. For example, the newly announced iPhone 11 has an operating ambient temperature between 32 degrees and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Its "non-operating temperature" are below -4 degrees and above 113 degrees Fahrenheit. There's a small gap between these temperature ranges where your phone will continue to operate, but not at its best.

If your phone reaches -4 degrees or 113 degrees, a warning message will appear. If you don't adjust the temperature, the device will shut off to protect the internal components. Hanumant Singh, an electrical engineer at Northeastern University, tells Wired magazine, "Carrying around a smartphone in any weather colder than -35 degrees Fahrenheit will kill it completely in five minutes."

The technical reason is that the cold slows the chemical reactions that power the battery. Sensitive components in the LCD screen can also be damaged by too low (or too high) temperatures. Your phone is built with safeguards to protect it, but it's good to know how to circumvent these.

How to protect your phone from the cold

If you live in an area of the country that experiences freezing temperatures, follow these four steps to safeguard your phone from the cold.

  1. Keep it in your pocket

    Keeping your phone in your pants pocket (or an internal jacket pocket) rather than in a purse or a messenger bag will keep it warmer, longer. A bag offers some protection, but keeping your phone against your body allows your body heat to keep it from reaching critically low temperatures.

  2. Don't charge it in the cold

    The Apple support page warns that charging a phone in extreme temperatures can permanently damage the battery, but says that the loss in capacity due to cold temperatures is temporary. To make the battery last longer, warm your phone to its normal temperature range before you try to charge it.

  3. Invest in an insulated case

    If you regularly work in an extremely cold environment — outdoors in cold climates or in a facility where temperatures are kept low — invest in an insulated case to protect your phone and keep it warm. This is a great alternative if you need to use your phone in frigid temperatures.

  4. Turn it off

    The best way to protect your phone from long-term damage is to turn it off, especially if you plan to be in extreme temperatures for an extended time. Store it in a pocket until you're somewhere warmer and can use it without risk of damaging the internal components.

How to safely warm a phone

If your phone shuts off or won't operate because of the cold, you will need to safely heat it before you can use it. Here's how.

  • Keep it against your body

    Your body heat will warm the phone safely without the risk of any damage from external heat sources. Keep it in an internal pocket and away from the cold. If you need to heat it quickly, hold it under your arm or between your thighs — areas where body heat is naturally higher.

  • Turn it off if there is condensation

    If your phone gets wet or experiences condensation due to the cold, turn it off and dry it completely before you turn it back on. To avoid water damage, make sure any moisture inside the phone has evaporated before you try to use the phone.

If you regularly use your phone in cold weather, follow these tips to keep the battery safe and the components running properly. If you're in the market for a new device, Xfinity Mobile has a variety of phones available to suit your needs.

iPhone 14 Pro

iPhone 14 Pro

Experience iPhone in a whole new way with Dynamic Island and Always-On display.

Shop iPhone