In some ways, you can think of batteries as being like people. They like to stay warm and be fed with lots of energy to keep their internal chemical reactions happy, and of course get lots of exercise. Just like it can sometimes be difficult to get your car started in winter, it’s also true that your phone battery won’t last as long in the colder months.
The science behind this phenomenon has to do with how batteries work. Batteries convert their stored chemical energy into electricity in order to power your devices. However, the cold temperature causes internal resistance that makes the whole conversion process less efficient, resulting is less effective capacity and longer charging times. Cell phone batteries are particularly vulnerable to this.
What happens to a cold phone, and what can we do about it?
Smartphones each have their own unique operating temperature ranges. For example, the iPhone 5s can withstand temperatures between -4°F and 113°F when powered off, and within a much narrower range when the power is on.
Apple recommends not operating iPhone in temperatures below freezing (32° F). Some other phones are rated for much lower temperatures, with some claiming that safe operation is possible in conditions as low as -4° F.
Sometimes smartphone batteries deplete rapidly in cold weather, and the phone itself may spontaneously power off.
“In the event that your phone does shut down, do not restart it until you’re inside and give your phone time to warm up. Restarting your phone immediately could cause more harm to your phone and actually shorten your battery life,” recommends Jeremy Kwaterski of CPR Cell Phone Repair.
It’s not just the battery, says Kwaterski. Smartphones are made up of other delicate electronic parts, like their LCD screens, which can malfunction in extreme temperatures. Cold temperatures can also bring damage the phone’s external casing, making it more sensitive to cracks and breaks.