How to

30 January 2017

Lithium-Ion iPhone Batteries Can’t Handle Cold

Img: zdnet 
The world’s most iconic phone is not designed to work well in cold temperatures. Optimal operation for Apple products – iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Apple Watch – demands that temperatures be at or above 32°F (0°C) and be no greater than 95°F (35°C). This purported safety zone ensures that the battery powering the smart phone is able to function.

All Apple products use the same lithium ion battery. It has a smaller profile than other types of phone batteries, namely nickel cadmium and nickel metal hydride, though lithium ion tends to more temperamental. For this type of battery, energy is conducted through an electrolyte liquid. When cold, crystals form in the liquid, obstructing energy flow and leading to insufficient function. If the phone gets cold enough, the liquid can freeze totally, rendering the phone nothing more than an expensive block of unusable technology. To counteract the cessation in function, the phone must be warmed up. 

A perfect example of what not to do.
Repeated exposure of an iPhone to temperatures outside the safety zone will decrease the life of the battery. Rather than simply affecting iPhones, this problem persists across any phones that use lithium batteries (i.e. lithium ion, lithium polymer, and nickel metal hydride).

Environ Laboratories, an environmental testing facility, examined the effect of lowered temperature on phones by degree. In reaction to the cold ambient temperature, phone screens would dim and show low battery. After prolonged exposure, phones displayed severe battery and screen problems before becoming entirely inoperable.

Preventative Measures
Much in the way humans bundle up to face the great, cold outdoors, the best way to guard against sub-optimal temperatures is to get a case. The additional layer of protection not only stops major damage from happening in the case of a drop or spill, it insulates the fragile pocket computer against unseasonable temperatures.

If you can afford to give your phone a break, power it off for a while. When off, the battery is able to withstand -4°F (-20°C).

Rather than pulling out your phone at the beck and call of every Facebook message, text alert and new email, keep your hands unoccupied. That is, don’t use your phone willy-nilly when in cold temperatures. Keep your phone close to the body and limit use to indoors. 

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).