Here’s Why Your iPhone Battery Dies in Cold Weather

man uses iphone outside

File this under first world problems, but given the time of year, it can be a nuisance and a real threat in bad weather: a dead cell phone.

The other day I took my daughter to the Downtown St. John’s Christmas Parade. I left the house with a relatively full battery, maybe 70% or so and within 20 minutes it was at 1% and ready to die at any minute. Not a big deal. At worst I was a 10-minute walk from home, but it had never occurred to me just how much havoc cold weather can play with an iPhone battery’s lifespan.

As we head into the busy holiday season when the annual trek to Nan and Pop’s house might be over snowy roads or late at night it’s important to have a reliable, working phone handy in case of emergency.

The iPhone Battery

All iPhones use a type of battery called Lithium-Ion (sometimes abbreviated Li-ion). This is the most common battery technology found in rechargeable devices.

Li-ion batteries carry certain advantages – they charge fairly quickly and don’t need to be completely depleted before recharging (in fact, it’s better to recharge at 20% than waiting for your phone to die). Unfortunately, these batteries don’t do so well when the temperature outside drops.

Lithium-Ion batteries suffer in extremely cold temperatures:

According to Battery University, cold temperature “increases the internal resistance and diminishes the capacity” of a Li-ion battery. Specifically, they estimate that at -18 degrees Celcius a Li-ion may only deliver 50% of its capacity.

During last winter’s Polar Vortex, Global news did an experiment which showed an iPhone left outside dropped 14% in only 30 minutes, while an identical phone left inside dropped only 1%.

Apple specifies that their batteries work best at a range of 0 degrees Celsius to 35 degrees Celsius. While we almost never reach the upper range in Canada, temperatures below freezing are typical for the winter months.

iphone battery comfort zoneBecause the battery meter is calibrated assuming warmer temperatures, the reduced capacity in the cold can cause the reading to be unreliable. This is one of the reasons your phone may die while still showing 30%.

Keep your phone alive as long as possible

To keep your phone working as long as possible while it’s cold outside, the best thing you can do is to keep it warm. Avoid exposing it to the cold air unless absolutely necessary. This means keep it in a warm pocket – your hands will thank you too (it’s too cold to be walking and texting anyway!) A case may help the phone retain some heat as well, just like a coat keeps you warm in the cold weather.

If all else fails, you may want to bring an external charger with you or keep one in your car when it’s extra cold just in case your phone unexpectedly dies on you mid-day.

The Other ‘Peace of Mind’

Smartphones can provide a lot of peace of mind in emergency situations but before you hit the roads for those holiday drop-ins let us review your coverage. Our team of trusted advisors can help identify any gaps in your coverage and get you squared away. We can’t save you from the holiday fruitcake or Aunt Barb’s hugs, though.

Thanks to Orchard for the blog details.