Cell Phones and Extreme Temperatures
Cellphones are designed to function in a variety of locations, environments and temperatures, although performance levels can vary. Cellphones that are exposed to extreme temperatures will start to malfunction. Symptoms include battery drainage and dimming display screens. Most phones can be operational again once returned to room temperature. If you are traveling in either extremely hot or cold weather, make sure your phone is well protected.
Cellphones should be kept out of extreme heat, including direct sunlight for extended periods of time. Too much heat can cause the cellphone battery to overheat and -- in some cases -- explode. Once the battery is damaged, the phone cannot operate unless you replace the battery. Cell phones infected with too much direct sunlight will have problems operating. The battery itself will not be able to hold a charge due to the heating of the battery cells. Once drained, the phone will not be able to charge at all.
"Popular Mechanics" conducted a test with the help of the environmental testing facilities at Environ Laboratories to determine how cold a cellphone must get before it ceases to work. Six phones were tested in all. When the temperature reached minus 10 F, some phones experienced a dimming display screen, slow key response and battery drain. At minus 20 F, a few phones began to turn off entirely. Once the temperature dropped to minus 55 F, all phones stopped working altogether. However, as soon as all six phones were returned to room temperature, they began working again. No permanent damage was done.
Cellphones have become an item we take with us practically everywhere, including while we drive. However, you should never leave your cellphone in your car, especially if you are parked in an area prone to direct sunlight. According to "Inc." magazine, the dashboard of a vehicle "can exceed 120 degrees Celsius" if it's exposed to direct sunlight. The inside of the vehicle can reach 80 degrees Celsius. If you must leave your cellphone in a car, try to park in the shade. If no shade is available, place the phone in the glove compartment. If not, the battery can become damaged or drained and, again, may explode.
"Popular Mechanics" conducted one more test to see how a cellphone would react to extremely cold conditions. A Motorola phone was dropped into a vat of liquid nitrogen -- minus 314.7 F -- which caused its battery to falter. However, once the phone was warmed to room temperature, it became functional again. The Motorola was dipped into the tank again and then thrown to the ground with force. Despite being horribly damaged, the display screen still turned on once the phone was plugged in, however it was unreadable. A few keys were responsive, and the audio worked fine.
References & Resources
- Cell Phone Batteries Now; Treat Your Battery With Respect; 2009
- "Popular Mechanics"; Does Cold Weather Injure Cell Phones?; Seth Porges; 2011
- "Inc." Magazine; Maximizing Your Cell Phone Battery Life; Damon Brown; 2006
- "PC World"; Cell Phone Battery Explodes in the Night; James Niccolai; 2007
- ABC News: Can Bad Batteries Overheat Cell Phones