Are you planning on taking a skiing adventure this winter? With the holiday season around the corner, it is probably the best time to go for a much-awaited break. Unfortunately, most electronic owners are unaware of the effect cold weather can have on their devices – including cell phones and tablets. Cold weather symptoms could include a sluggish LCD performance and poor battery performance; cold weather can even damage your device permanently.
How cold is too cold for your mobile device?
All the major cell phone manufacturers warn about using their products in cold temperatures and offer operational temperature guidelines. For instance, Apple provides a temperature range of 0 to 35 degree Celsius for their devices and are not covered under warranty if you use it in conditions that are any colder or warmer. A little more lenient, Nokia offers an operational temperature range of -10 to 55 degrees Celsius while Samsung suggests -20 to 50 degrees Celsius.
Why such a broad range by the manufacturers?
According to a test run by MikroPC, most cell phones stop working at -30 degrees Celsius except some cheap models by Nokia and Motorola. A basic summary of the test results are:
- At 10ᵒ C: Most of the phones experienced a slight dimming of the display
- At -10ᵒ C: Some phones faced battery issues
- At -20ᵒ C: Most of the phones turned off
- At -30ᵒ C: Most of the phones suffered major LCD and battery problems
- At -40ᵒ C and above: All phones were declared inoperable
Brand-wise cell phone performance in cold weather
The test was conducted within a “weather room” to monitor the performance of different cell phones. The initial temperature of the room was 32 degrees Fahrenheit and was lowered 9 degrees at each stage.
Failure 1. iPhone 4S and Nokia N9: These were the first phones to show symptoms at 23 degrees Fahrenheit with the iPhone displaying a SIM card error and empty battery for N9. At 14 degrees, the iPhone shut down with a low battery error.
Failure 2. Smartphone: Most of the Smartphone devices exhausted within a temperature range of -4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the Samsung Galaxy SII kept running comfortably as low as a temperature of -22 degrees Fahrenheit (shut down at -31 degrees).
Failure 3. Feature Phones: Some feature phones worked until -31 degrees with slow responding LCDs.
Failure 4. Last phone to stand at -40 degrees: The Nokia E65 and Nokia C1-01 worked as low as -40 degrees with a somewhat sluggish response.
Why do mobile phones fail at low temperatures?
The two major problems in mobile phones at extremely low or high temperature are:
- Slow LCD Display
- Battery Discharge
Why does your LCD becomes unresponsive/turn blue at low temperatures?
LCD screens use liquid crystal molecules for display and these molecules align to give the desired display pattern. However, exposure to lower temperatures can create bubbles or aggregate liquid molecules (meaning disturbed molecule order), hence leading to permanent damage to the display. It is quite common to observe dimming and screen blackouts at lower temperatures. So, the next time your display turns sluggish, try keeping it in your pockets!
Why your mobile battery discharges quickly at lower temperatures?
Remember your chemistry lessons back in high school? Cell phone batteries produce current because of a chemical reaction that allows electrons to flow from one terminal to another, thus creating a current stream. However, low temperatures slow down the chemical reaction and batteries tend to output more power to keep the needed energy supply sufficient to your device.
- Your cell phone battery will assume normal operation when warmed up, although the battery could suffer from memory lock, thus causing poor battery output for as long as the battery is used.
- Cold weather can also cause damage to the circuit board, similar to how a paved road cracks over time when exposed to hot and cold temperatures (because the concrete expands and contracts with the fluctuations in temperature). The same can happen with your cell phone, which causes poor circuit connections over time.
Tips to Prevent Cold Weather Damage to Your Mobile Devices:
- Power off the phone when not in use in extreme temperatures.
- Allow some time for the device to warm up before using.
- Place the device in your pocket with the battery side facing your body to transfer some body heat.
- Turn down brightness, GPS and mobile data if possible to limit the phones use.
Mobile devices aren’t meant to last forever. However, cold temperature damage is often overlooked as the resulting damage doesn’t happen immediately. It’s still a good idea to consider the impact it might have as device costs are increasing and you’ll want to preserve the resale value of your phone or tablet when the time comes to upgrade.
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