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iPhone overheating? How to keep your device cool.
iPhone overheating? How to keep your device cool.

There is no sunscreen for smartphones, but if there is, now would be the time to use it.

Summer has arrived in the United States with record-breaking heat and humidity. It is uncomfortable—and sometimes downright dangerous—for us humans to be exposed to such extreme conditions. Unfortunately, the same is true for our high-tech devices.

Allowing your smartphone, tablet, laptop, and other essential devices to get too hot can shorten battery life, damage parts, and cause your device to run extremely slowly. In extreme cases, heat buildup can even cause a smartphone battery to catch fire.

Here’s everything you need to know to protect your expensive smartphone and other devices from the scorching heat.

How hot is too hot for your smartphone?

Apple, Samsung, Google and other manufacturers agree that you shouldn’t use smartphones in extremely high temperatures. Most say that 35°C (95°F) is the upper limit of what your handheld can withstand. If you put your phone away (and turn it off), the limits are a little higher, at around 45°C (113°F), but that’s borderline.

Anything that exceeds these recommended limits puts the electronics at risk – and possibly even you.

Most modern smartphones have temperature protection features that put them into standby mode or turn them off automatically when temperatures get too high, but this is no guarantee that the heat won’t cause permanent damage when temperatures rise.

Remember that even if your weather app says 35°C, that’s just the ambient temperature and local temperatures can be much, much higher. For example, if you leave your phone on the dashboard of your car on a hot, sunny day, temperatures inside the vehicle can quickly soar.

In one study, researchers tested the interior temperature of a car parked in the sun on a 35°C day. Within just one hour, the average temperature inside the vehicle was 46°C. Even worse, the dashboard temperature reached over 60°C. On the same day, the temperature in a test vehicle parked in the shade exceeded 38°C. That’s just too hot and can permanently damage your device.

When do smartphones start to overheat?

My smartphone just started overheating while it was on the charger during a Zoom call, so it doesn’t even need a heat dome to cause problems. I’m sure you’ve felt your handset get hot before. Almost everything you do with your devices, including running popular apps, charging batteries (especially with a cheap/no-name charger), and even using protective cases, generates heat. Unlike humans, smartphones can’t sweat, so heat builds up.

Is it good to put the phone in the fridge to cool down?

As tempting as it may be to put your smartphone – or even yourself – in the fridge during a heatwave, it’s an absolute no-go.

Avoid exposing phones, tablets or other devices to direct sunlight. Many phones are black and have dark screens when not in use, so they absorb heat like a sponge. Avoiding the sun’s harsh rays is key. But there are other tips and don’ts here too:

DO: Let it breathe

Keeping your phone in your pocket is a habit, but remember that electronic devices also generate heat, so air circulation is important. Giving your device room to breathe in a shady place is the best way to avoid damage when it’s extremely warm outside. Using a bulky case could insulate your phone and make the situation worse, so consider downsizing it temporarily.

DO: Treat yourself to a break

The more you use your phone, the more heat it generates internally, so only use it when absolutely necessary. If you’re like me and constantly crank up the screen brightness, that can also be a problem. Higher screen brightness uses more power, and therefore generates even more heat, so avoid putting more strain on the electronics. Also, enable power saving mode if possible.

DO: Turn off apps you don’t use

You don’t want to run a 10K in this heat, and your devices need a break, too. Leaving a lot of apps running in the background will force your phone to work harder — and get hotter. Here’s how to close them: On an iPhone: Slowly swipe up from the bottom of the screen to see all open apps, and swipe up to close any apps you don’t need. On most Android devices: Tap the menu icon in the bottom-left corner of the screen (depending on your phone model, it might be three vertical dots or three vertical lines). If you don’t see either on your screen, you may be able to swipe up from the bottom to see open apps and swipe on the apps you want to close.

DO NOT: Place in the freezer

Even if you get the dreaded temperature warning on your screen and your device shuts itself off, don’t panic and throw your phone into a nearby freezer or ice-cold cooler. Instead, find a shady spot and take a deep breath. Let your phone gradually return to a normal temperature in a moderately cooler environment like an air-conditioned building or vehicle (out of direct sunlight) to avoid any potential condensation issues. Remember: water and the inside of your phone don’t mix!

DO NOT: Immerse in water

Speaking of water… While many smartphones are waterproof, that doesn’t mean they’re safe for use in a pool. If your phone is extremely hot, your first move might be to submerge it in water. This will cool it down, but you also risk water damage. Even if a phone is safe for contact with water, the potential hassle isn’t worth it, especially if your phone’s delicate water resistance is compromised in that extreme heat.

DO: Turn it off

All of these tips are great if your device is on the verge of overheating, but if it’s getting really hot, it’s probably best to turn the phone off completely.

My phone turned off because of the heat – what now?

Don’t panic. As mentioned, most modern devices have safety precautions and automatic shutdowns are part of the plan. Take your smartphone out of your pocket as soon as possible and put it somewhere where it won’t be exposed to the sun.

Device insurance and repair company Asurion recently posted that fanning your phone or even blowing on it can also help. “Just as fanning keeps your body cool, a breeze can help cool down your phone if it gets a little too hot,” Asurion experts report on their website.

The company also recommends removing any phone cases and turning off Bluetooth so your device stops searching for speakers, printers, and other devices to connect to. With that in mind, turning on Airplane Mode can be helpful when you’re away from home and your phone is constantly searching for a signal.

Finally, Asurion also recommends storing your devices separately. Again, remember that you’re cramming a lot of sweaty bodies into a small space. (Yuck.) Just like people, devices need some space to cool down.

Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer technology columnist and on-air correspondent. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY. Contact her at [email protected].