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Winter is coming: How to protect your smartphone from cold

With its freezing weather, ice and snow, winter is not necessarily the best time of year for smartphones; there are many dangers for these expensive gadgets. However, these handy tips and tricks will definitely help you get your smartphone through the winter unscathed.

Winter is coming. It's not just Game of Thrones fans that feel a shiver down their spine when they hear this; a lot of people don’t like winter – and nor do tech gadgets. But as explorer Ben Saunders has shown with his Galaxy A5 while traveling to the South Pole, your smartphone doesn’t need to take damage in the winter when used properly.

Always keep it close to your body

The important thing in crisp, cold, sub-zero weather is to do your best to keep your smartphone from cooling down. As such, you should not put your smartphone in your handbag or backpack, but as close as possible to your body, such as the inside pocket or in your pant pocket. However, winter sportsmen should be aware that a smartphone can become an additional safety hazard and cause injuries if you crash, so make sure that everything is well-padded when going on daring adventures.

LCD-based displays in particular are vulnerable to the cold. The liquid crystals are quite capable of freezing and, at the very least, temporarily limit the display and permanently damage it in case of ongoing coldness. OLED panels do not have this problem, but are not designed for extreme cold either. Thus, if you want to protect your display, only use your phone in extreme cold in emergencies and as briefly as possible.

Batteries do not like sub-zero temperatures

Apart from the display, the battery in particular is a smartphone component that is especially harmed by the cold, and capacity is noticeably reduced in a cold environment. Furthermore, connecting the battery to the charger while ice cold is harmful for it. As such, you should only charge the smartphone when it has reached its normal temperature again. If you use your smartphone as a GPS when driving your car, think about taking it with you if you are leaving your car parked for a while. Cars cool very quickly when the engine isn’t running, turning them into a smartphone refrigerator in the winter.

press06 model x rear three quarter with accessory carrier
Better not leave your smartphone in a cold car. / © Tesla

In addition to the cold, the second biggest problem is moisture. It rains and snows during the winter and slush, puddles, drops, and ice are all things that are not good for your smartphone, but you can adequately protect it with a waterproof case and a bit more precaution than normal. But there is a hidden danger: moisture from condensation. It quickly forms when you suddenly heat up a cold object—people who wear glasses can tell you all about it. Thus, you should generally give your smartphone time to defrost and by no means leave it on the heater or even defrost it with a hair dryer – the display glass can also crack as well. We recommend waiting at least a half hour until using your smartphone again after venturing into the ice and snow and simply let it sit still or put it in your pocket for that amount of time.

Surprise, surprise: cases provide protection

A protective case should practically be mandatory in winter, since it dramatically reduces the hazard when falling. If you slip on snow and ice, you generally drop your smartphone, too. Furthermore, thick gloves do not ensure a tight grip. With the right case, the smartphone is better protected from falls, but, in many cases, it is also better protected from moisture. A common misperception: Unlike gloves and socks on people, smartphone cases do not continuously keep the device warm, because to do so, the smartphone itself needs to emit heat that the material can reflect. At some point, your smartphone with a case is just as cold as without one.

galaxy s8 2 piece case enlarged
Protective case should provide a little bit more protection than the new Samsung bumpers. / © Samsung

Speaking of gloves: Many smartphones now offer a glove mode for operation, which can mainly be turned on and off in the settings, and which is simply nice to have in wintry weather. However, this generally affects the accuracy of touch inputs, and you furthermore can’t use the fingerprint sensor for unlocking either. If you have a Smartphone with face unlock like the OnePlus 5T, consider yourself lucky.

samsung galaxy s8 teardown
Moisture can corrode the insides of a smartphone.  / © iFixIt.com

Take anything you can out

If your smartphone gets wet or shows signs of moisture on the inside of the display glass, you’d better act quickly. We recommend quickly removing the SIM and memory card and leaving the slot open so that the moisture can escape. If the smartphone has a removable battery, you need to quickly take that out, too, but since many smartphones now have sealed batteries, you can only remedy the situation at first by turning it off. The smartphone should be given at least one day to dry off. Even if it works again, damage via corrosion can form, which won’t be noticeable until later.

Has your smartphone already become a victim of this rough winter? Do you have any more tips on surviving the freezing weather?

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  • It's a shame most people don't use COMMON SENSE when dealing with very expensive electronics. Just as for winter, same can be said for summer (which the southern half of the globe is experiencing). Never leave your phone in a car on a hot day. Could act up, or considering how TOUCHY LiOn batteries are, could go BOOM! And then you have to explain to your insurance agent why your car caught on fire.


  • Good advice for carrying devices. A lot of people are still shopping post-holiday sales, and here in ice-box Toronto we have had to take precautions to be sure packages to ourselves and others are not left out on the porch. Sending a nice "surprise" of some "on sale" DSLR batteries got nervous-making when we learned the recipient wasn't home on delivery day.