Business Technology

Sunday 25 February 2018

This is why your phone slows down and loses battery in hot weather

Smartphones are easily affected by the weather
Smartphones are easily affected by the weather

James Titcomb

Ireland is currently basking in the best sunshine we've had all year, a heat wave we hope will make a repeat appearance before summer's end.

If you have ventured outside a safely air-conditioned building, you may have noticed that as well as the risk of dehydration and sunburn, your phone might have lost some of its power, and be draining battery faster than usual.

Most portable electronics but especially smartphones, which tightly pack a collection of powerful components into a metal or plastic frame, are easily affected by the weather. Performance can suffer, battery life can drop like a stone, and in extreme circumstances batteries can catch fire.

Why do phones get hot?

Most smartphones are designed to work even on hot days. Apple, for example, states that the iPhone is designed to work in ambient temperatures of between 0 and 35 degrees celcius, meaning it should in theory get through this week’s heatwave.

However, certain conditions or processes can make this worse. The most common ones are direct sunlight and running programs that are either processor or screen intensive - these include playing games, watching video and using sat-nav systems.

Phones heat up when doing this because complex processes require a lot of movement within the phone’s chip architecture, and movement generates heat.

This is especially true if you are charging the phone, a process that shoots electricity through the phone and involves rapid movements of chemicals, and even more so if you have a phone with rapid charging.

What happens when a phone gets hot?

A phone can be put at risk if it gets too hot - components can be damaged, screens can crack and batteries may even catch fire, causing the handset to explode.

To protect against this, modern smartphones have inbuilt response systems that stop a phone working too hard when it approaches dangerous levels of heat.

To begin with, they will start to slow down the processors, which is why your phone might start to slow down in hot conditions: it’s not anything wrong with the phone, it’s just that it’s entered self-protection mode temporarily.

If your phone gets really hot, it might start to take more drastic action. The iPhone has a temperature warning screen that will dim the screen, put cellular radios on low power mode and stop any charging. On Android you can download an app that does the same, such as CPU Cooler.

Battery life can also be affected by heat. For one thing, the phones are typically working harder, which takes up more energy. Heat can also degrade the components in a battery.

What can I do?

The best advice is simple: try not to use your phone too much when it’s hot, and try to keep it out of heat. Here are a few easy things that will help

Take it out of its case if you’re willing to. The plastic or leather that surrounds a phone will stop heat escaping.

Dim the screen or close any intensive apps in the background, or active battery saving mode to reduce the chance of your phone heating.

If you’re out and about keep your phone in the shade or in a bag, especially if you’re going to charge it.

Try to avoid processor-intensive apps like games or video, and try to avoid using it as a sat-nav if possible.

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