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KSNF/KODE — Most people know that high temperatures can damage your smart device. Some devices, such as the Apple iPhone, will shut down to prevent damage when it starts to overheat. Extreme cold temperatures can be just as damaging to electronic devices. With winter weather ahead, you’ll likely need your device to work optimally to stay up-to-date with emergency alerts, navigation, and storm tracking. Here’s what you need to know about your device and how to protect it.

How does cold weather damage my electronic devices?

Almost 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 are charged by moving lithium atoms between the cathode and the anode. When the battery is used or discharged, the lithium atoms move in the opposite direction from the anode to the cathode. At low temperatures, the battery’s anodes slow down, reducing their ability to hold a charge and taking more energy to operate. This is why you may have to charge your devices more often or notice that your battery life has been compromised during cold spells. You can read more about how these components interact here.

When one component isn’t working well, other components don’t affect the overall performance of your devices, including touchscreens and buttons. To prevent this, Apple says to use your device between 32º and 95º Fahrenheit. Using the device outside of its operating temperature may shorten battery life, disable the device, and generally affect its ability to charge.

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

Not only can temperature affect a battery, cold temperatures can too literally freeze your LCD (liquid crystal display) screen, making it glitch or appear blurry. Touchscreen sensors can lose accuracy because they are calibrated to operate within a specific temperature range. Extreme cold can also make your screen more prone to cracking.

What can I do to protect my device?

  • Keep your device between the temperature threshold. If you happen to leave your phone or laptop somewhere below freezing, allow the device to warm up before charging, whether in your pocket, near your natural body heat, or in a warm room.
  • Keep your device from collecting condensation. You should not take your device from extreme cold to extreme heat (or from extreme cold directly to the charger) as this may expose your device to condensation and may result in water damage. Give your device as much time as you can to warm up gradually before charging. Avoid placing your device in an oven or using a heating device (hair dryer, heater, fire, etc.).
  • Reduce exposure to your devices by storing them in an airtight protective case if possible. It’s also a good idea to keep your phone out of the elements in your handbag, inner pocket or backpack when you’re not using it. If you often travel with your devices, be sure to bring them inside so they don’t freeze overnight in your car.
  • Keep your device fully charged and have a portable charger handy to prevent the cold from draining the battery completely. A fully discharged battery takes longer to charge and reconnect when cold, which can be detrimental in an emergency.
  • Save your battery life by turning on “battery saver/low power mode” if you have one, turn off location services until you’re ready to use them, and close apps you’re not using. You can also download movies, music or maps ahead of time and work in “airplane mode” to extend your battery life.
  • Turn off your phone and use it sparingly. It’s almost impossible to live without a smart device these days, but most phone use is out of habit or boredom. If the temperature freezes, these tips, used in addition to turning off the phone or putting it aside, will prevent your device from suffering irreparable damage.

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