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Extreme Temperatures and Mobile Devices

Date Written: 09/11/14

With the transition of the seasons coming on once again it is always a good idea to be educated on how the elements can affect the mobile devices we rely on while in the field. Here is a quick rundown of what to know and what you can do to help protect your device.

In general, our mobile devices are powered by lithium-ion batteries and when these batteries are exposed to severe cold their performance suffers. The cold slows the chemical reaction in the battery causing it to output more power in order to keep the needed energy supply sufficient for your device to operate. In other words, the cold temperatures will cause your battery to drain faster than normal. While the device will return to behaving normally when brought back within normal temperature range, do not restart it until you have brought it inside and have given it a chance to warm up as turning it back on immediately could potentially shorten your battery life. Exposure to extreme heat can also have negative effects such as shortening your battery life and causing your device to behave differently (for example, going into a self heat regulating mode where you cannot use the device until it has cooled down).

LCD screens (the screen you can find on your tablet, smartphone, computer/laptop, etc.) use liquid crystal molecules for the display. Very low temperatures can create bubbles and disturb the molecule order causing permanent damage to your display. Cold temperatures can also make the glass surface of your device more sensitive to cracks and breaks.

Finally, extreme cold can cause damage to the circuit board as the fluctuation in temperature causes the materials to expand and contract and frost causes moisture to collect in and around the components of your device. As you can imagine your mobile device is made up of many tiny and fragile parts and exposure to the elements can make for a poor circuit connection.


What should I do to protect my mobile device?

  • Don't leave your device in extreme temperatures (for example: a parked car), but if you must be sure to turn the device completely off.
  • Turn down brightness, GPS and mobile data to conserve energy when using device in colder temperatures
  • There are protective cases that can keep your phone warm! "Saltcases" has developed cases for all sorts of mobile devices that use NASA technology created using thermally protective materials. Check out www.saltcases.com
  • You can also protect YOURSELF when using devices with touch screens by using gloves that include conductive fabric on the index finger. Since touch screens rely on your body's ability to conduct electricity, regular gloves will not work. When out in the field it may be easier to have gloves with the conductive fabric so that you don't have to fumble around taking gloves off and on while working. There are tons of resources on the internet explaining how to make your own. Another option is using a stylus.

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Mobile Device in Cold Weather

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