Articles, Blog

Why Does Cold Weather Kill Your Phone?

December 29, 2019


♪♪♪ Batteries don’t do so hot when it’s cold. If you live in a cooler climate, you may have noticed this in the form of your car refusing to start on a chilly morning, or your battery level plummeting on your phone as you stand on the train platform in the freezing cold. But it’s not the batteries’ fault exactly. It’s not that technology works worse in
the cold. It’s chemistry. And that’s a much harder problem to fix. Batteries aren’t just big buckets of negatively charged electrons, even though that’s what moves through the wire when you plug a battery into something. The electrons start as part of neutral atoms or molecules, and they’re released by a chemical reaction inside the battery. As a result of the reaction, the electrons
move through a wire and meet up with positively charged molecules on the other side of the battery. That movement creates a current that powers your stuff. The exact chemistry depends on the type of battery, but that’s the general idea for all of them. And it’s also where temperature comes in. Temperature is a measure of heat. And at a molecular level, heat is movement. It’s particles jiggling around. Higher temperatures mean more molecular movement and more molecules bumping into each other, which makes chemical reactions more likely. So, in general, when the temperature drops, chemical reactions slow down. But how much depends on what’s reacting. Which helps explain why you might notice some batteries suffering more than others in winter. Not all batteries are made from the same stuff. Traditional alkaline batteries, for instance,
like many non-rechargeable AAs, AAAs, and the like, contain a solution of water and potassium hydroxide. That watery solution can freeze at really
low temperatures, but it starts losing its chemical punch well before it actually turns
to ice. So don’t try to use your TV remote outdoors
in a blizzard. That’s our advice for you. Then there are lithium-ion batteries like
the one in your phone. They tend to beat alkalines in cold weather, but even they have their limits, something that’s been holding back electric cars in areas that get really cold. A phone battery’s cold-weather performance
actually tricks the phone into thinking it’s dead. The difference between a charged, cold battery
and a dead battery is that the charged battery still has the capacity to produce enough electrons to theoretically power your phone. But because the temperature slows down those reactions, the electrons are released too gradually to do any good. Your phone doesn’t have a thermometer, meaning it doesn’t know how cold it is. So it just assumes there’s nothing left
in the battery to react — which is what happens when the battery’s dead. So the phone tells you the battery is low,
when really it’s just cold. Warm the battery up, so that more reactions
can happen again, and the phone will realize it still has more juice. One other very common battery is the lead-acid
battery, widely used in cars. Cold slows that reaction, too — but it
also makes oil and other components of the engine harder to move. Sp that’s double trouble for you, making
some cars particularly hard to start on cold mornings. So be nice to your batteries this winter. If your phone dies on you, just hold it against your body like a little baby duck. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow,
and thanks to our patrons for making it and everything we do possible. You guys are awesome, and you’re helping make free stuff for the whole world to enjoy. If you’re interested in joining this community of awesome humans, check out patreon.com/scishow. ♪♪♪

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100 Comments

  • Reply Torb 1 Trick December 29, 2019 at 4:11 am

    cold temprature warning:
    am i a joke to you?

  • Reply Mike December 29, 2019 at 4:20 am

    Samsung once made a phone that could warm itself so it was great in the cold. I think it was called the Note 7.

  • Reply Sanderen X December 29, 2019 at 4:25 am

    I mean, they do have thermometers in them

  • Reply Andrew Peter December 29, 2019 at 4:32 am

    The battery has a cold hint hint. 😝

  • Reply DashedEuthanasia December 29, 2019 at 4:39 am

    Oh, that's actually good news! I've been playing Pokemon Go a lot lately and I noticed that my battery drains a lot faster than usual. I thought the battery just wasn't good at holding charge anymore. (well it's probably PARTLY that, but not completely) Suppose that just means I should keep my phone in my coat pocket instead of in my hand when I'm going from one area full of Pokestops to the next.

  • Reply fantmclwd December 29, 2019 at 4:46 am

    Time to put my phone in the freezer

  • Reply Jon Sheha December 29, 2019 at 4:56 am

    You should do one about car batteries and other types of batteries

  • Reply 4G12 December 29, 2019 at 5:02 am

    That's why well designed EVs come with battery heaters.

  • Reply Corbald December 29, 2019 at 5:02 am

    I'm curious if the solid state batteries, such as the lithium glass battery proposed by Dr. Goodenough, can help alleviate this problem.

  • Reply Archi Teuthis December 29, 2019 at 5:02 am

    Related question:
    I go back and forth between Minneapolis and Chicago several times a year and every so often I will arrive in Chicago and my phone battery can no longer hold a charge that last more than a few minutes and has to be replaced. At first I thought it might be the heat of being in my pocket in a confined space for several hours but that wasn't always the case so it couldn't be that. I have no idea, what's causing this problem and have come-up with ideas as grounded as passing too many cell towers confuses the phone in a way that messes-up the battery, and as strange as there is some kind of magnetic field that messes-up phones if they pass through just right. What's happening there?

  • Reply György Mohl December 29, 2019 at 5:08 am

    Yeah, just yesterday i told my mom if i ever go missing in cold weather, forget about calling me. After about 10 minutes in 2°C the battery dropped from 70% to 12%, and the phone was constantly shutting off. Let's hope i don't break my leg out there and freeze to death.

  • Reply JellyDonuts December 29, 2019 at 5:09 am

    This just happened to me this morning and I thought my phone was on its last leg. I freaked out at the possibility that the dreaded impending doom of having to get a another one was just around the corner. Thanks for posting this before I started looking into getting a new phone.

  • Reply Luiz Felipe December 29, 2019 at 5:11 am

    Nice, I never thought about this because my phone can heat itself when I use its CPU. A 20w CPU heat must go somewhere.

  • Reply Hoze 123 December 29, 2019 at 5:18 am

    why pornhub drains my battery ??

  • Reply jonn mace December 29, 2019 at 5:23 am

    However, too much heat can also put your phone out of commission.

  • Reply Milkysaurus December 29, 2019 at 5:29 am

    Can't electric cars just use heaters to keep the batteries at least warm enough to be useful?

  • Reply Ryan Brown December 29, 2019 at 5:34 am

    You should do an episode on small modular reactors

  • Reply Brody Miller December 29, 2019 at 5:35 am

    It dose..? I dropped my phone in the snow for like 2 hours before and it was fine ._. (Granted it was a accident and broke a few months later)

  • Reply Oblong Polka Dots December 29, 2019 at 5:37 am

    This truly is one of the BEST channels on YouTube! Bravo!

  • Reply Alexandra Rolfness December 29, 2019 at 5:40 am

    As an Arizona girl I had literally now idea cold kills your phone. However I am very familiar with my phone overheating constantly cause it's too hot

  • Reply STTNGfan15 December 29, 2019 at 6:00 am

    Oh my gosh my phone went dead because of cold once and it ended costing me an hour and a half of my life. (Went skiing tried a taking a picture of the fog. Phone went dead so I couldn’t tell my father when to pick me up from the bus and thus had to walk home.)

  • Reply Baseball Squez December 29, 2019 at 6:04 am

    I'm in Georgia (USA) where it was 80 DEGREES on Christmas. I'm kinda hoping for cold weather, even if it does kill my phone

  • Reply Kyle kirkparick December 29, 2019 at 6:16 am

    Do one on cigarette lighters and cold too!!! Different stuff is happening, but it's the same result. New lighters are usually full, but if they sit in your car during a winter night, they wont work.
    Gas, cold, condensation… perhaps include that squeezing a cold lighter in your fist for a minute can make a cold dead lighter ignite quickly and easily as a new one should.
    Same chemistry, same dilemma, different apparatus but it has an easier solution. Life hack SciShow-style? :/

  • Reply Paul Ste. Marie December 29, 2019 at 6:20 am

    Fwiw, most phones do in fact have a thermometer inside. Various utilities will display the current battery temperature.

    As far as I know, it's there to prevent over-charging it over loading the battery.

  • Reply Ender Das December 29, 2019 at 6:24 am

    Imaging being given the right conditions to work at a more efficient and faster pace but yet have those same conditions cause you to die because they hinder only one part of you that can't handle them…

  • Reply leeoh ? December 29, 2019 at 6:26 am

    Wait, if my phone doesn’t have a thermometer of sorts then how do I get a high temperature alerts

  • Reply Cyril Gabriel December 29, 2019 at 6:26 am

    My iphones 6s be like: 🥶

  • Reply Rubber Band December 29, 2019 at 6:33 am

    I’m surprised you didn’t find a way to blame this on global warming.

  • Reply Ashley Lala December 29, 2019 at 6:36 am

    Actually, do NOT hold your phone next to your body like a little baby duck to warm it up, unless you want to get cancer. The phone manuals even say that phones should always be a certain distance away from your body because they emit radiation.

  • Reply Orhan Emre Çiftçi December 29, 2019 at 6:36 am

    İ once left my phone in a freezer and it worked perfectly

  • Reply emerysteele December 29, 2019 at 6:45 am

    TLDR; Batteries use chemical reactions to produce power. Cold slows those reactions down.

    Thumbs up for saving 3:44

  • Reply Xistence Studios December 29, 2019 at 6:58 am

    Wrong!! Most phone batteries have thermistors to measure temperatures and many phones can give temperature warnings

  • Reply Adrianna Fitzgerald December 29, 2019 at 7:00 am

    So how much would the cold affect electric cars??

  • Reply Rookie Card December 29, 2019 at 7:08 am

    Tomorrow when cars and buses will run om batteries how will they fight the freezing cold winters ?

  • Reply Zodie December 29, 2019 at 7:14 am

    Ah, reminds me of heat death. The end of everything.
    Happy holidays~❄️

  • Reply Phill December 29, 2019 at 7:20 am

    2:37 most phones do have thermometers to measure the temperature of components such as the processor and battery.

  • Reply Dimitrios Spyridon Chytiris December 29, 2019 at 7:21 am

    That only applies if you are ignorant enough to have an iPhone. Normal phones don't have this problem.

  • Reply Aadil Shah December 29, 2019 at 7:30 am

    Louis says it's because you got an iPhone and live in New York….

  • Reply Kelly White December 29, 2019 at 7:31 am

    Could SciShow tackle the physiology of getting a "second wind?"

  • Reply motogriso1 December 29, 2019 at 7:31 am

    My remote to open my garage door works better in cold months than hot. It’s very strange and now having watched this it’s baffling.

  • Reply nosuchthing8 December 29, 2019 at 7:36 am

    Had to stop 30s in. First time for this channel. Humans manage to keep trucking during cold weather, obviously because we are warm blooded. But we are just a bunch of chemicals, same as a smart phone. So yeah it's the fault of the phone.

  • Reply Franklin Allen December 29, 2019 at 7:36 am

    Some Android phones do have thermometers.

  • Reply Tfin December 29, 2019 at 7:56 am

    Nope, you're not allowed to love little baby ducks unless you also love old pickup trucks, slow-movin' trains and rain, little country streams, sleep without dreams
    Sunday school in May and hay. (etc.)

  • Reply necessaryevil455 December 29, 2019 at 8:08 am

    I want to hold a Baby Duck.

  • Reply RainyDayLady December 29, 2019 at 8:11 am

    I never had trouble with car batteries dieing until I started driving a Ford.

  • Reply Igabod Dobagi December 29, 2019 at 8:13 am

    Don't hold ducks against your body. That's how you get duck bites on your nipples. And trust me, you don't want duck bites on your nipples.

  • Reply Fake Name December 29, 2019 at 8:13 am

    You should have said this before I set up my outdoor theater on Antarctica to watch game of thrones in a more realistic setting. It might seem a little annoying that I have to travel a few thousand kilometers every time they switch from the ice wall to a warmer place, but it is so worth it

  • Reply こめっこKomekko December 29, 2019 at 8:28 am

    Don't worry i have Xiaomi…
    Its Hot

  • Reply Nhek Zero December 29, 2019 at 8:30 am

    If you want something to protect your phone from the heat and cold check out phoozy.com, saltcases.com, climatecase.com Be warned, these cases aren't your normal cases. Think of them as oven mitts for your phone.

  • Reply R BK December 29, 2019 at 8:37 am

    Who's here looking for a solution to slow JIO Data network

    🙋🙋

  • Reply DroolingLizard December 29, 2019 at 8:38 am

    I'm from a hot weather place and until now had no idea cold weather killed phones

  • Reply Ryan Paul December 29, 2019 at 8:57 am

    Somehow my phone survives repeated extended exposure to temperatures around -40c. Lucky me

  • Reply Mitsuraga December 29, 2019 at 8:57 am

    Cold weather kills phones? That's news to me. I've never had such a problem.

  • Reply Abby Leonard December 29, 2019 at 8:57 am

    Gretta was right. We gotta stop climate change before its too late!

  • Reply Mr Niceguy December 29, 2019 at 8:58 am

    phones don't have a temperature sensor? But they shut down to self-protect them from overheating?

  • Reply Brainstorming Plus December 29, 2019 at 9:02 am

    👍

  • Reply Nyan Kitty December 29, 2019 at 9:04 am

    Well, MY phone HAS a thermometer 🤔 Why not use that?

  • Reply Dave Davies December 29, 2019 at 9:06 am

    Interesting side note: A common misconception about electron flow in circuits (brought about in part by animated diagrams such as the one in your video) is that an electron can almost instantaneously leave the end of a battery, pass through wires and return to the battery. Although it's true that the EFFECT of closing the switch on a circuit propagates along the wire at about 1570 km/s, the electrons themselves move slowly, VERY slowly. The speed at which individual electrons move in a wire carrying a current is called the 'drift velocity'. The drift velocity is only about 20 μm/s (less than one thousandth of an inch per second). With an alternating current, the electrons jiggle back and forth (50 or 60 times a second) only about 0.2 μm so when you turn on your light, the electrons carrying the current never actually leave the switch contacts.

  • Reply Rik Thunder December 29, 2019 at 9:07 am

    I don't understand. I thought electrons move approximately with the speed of honey. So they can't move through the wires that quick, meaning electricity must be something else.

  • Reply FvckYoutube'sCensorship UseAdblock December 29, 2019 at 9:07 am

    I don't see why no one has stuffed electrons into a container yet with a linear accelerator and used that as a battery. In theory even a small container the size of present 4AH lipo batteries (that would be mostly the container itself) could contain enough energy to run a 10W phone 24/7 for centuries and even surpass antimatter energy density (not counting the container bulk). It would only be limited by the strength of the container itself, since electrons have no size we know of so the coulomb force could approach infinity.

  • Reply Some Random Edgy Guy December 29, 2019 at 9:07 am

    Also: Starting at -20°C you don't even want your hand outside on your phone

  • Reply Rik Thunder December 29, 2019 at 9:11 am

    So during the winter battaries pretend to die and during summer the phone fries and starts lagging…
    So much I kept the phone in the freezer once. I took it out after about half an hour and it worked fast again.

  • Reply FvckYoutube'sCensorship UseAdblock December 29, 2019 at 9:11 am

    2:33 Why is that? A gyroscope, a gps receiver, a magnetometer, bluetooth, wifi, and a dozen other widgets but nothing as simple as a digital thermometer for the battery? WTF? Sounds like a mod someone needs to do for Instructables, since Samsung didn't have the foresight.

  • Reply Florin Curteanu December 29, 2019 at 9:28 am

    But my phone's battery used to charge even 2X faster in a cold room, and 1.5X slower in the middle of summer.

  • Reply crilleedara December 29, 2019 at 9:28 am

    Naawww, I Love little baby ducks!!

    And chemistry, too!!

  • Reply byw December 29, 2019 at 9:38 am

    Now I have a video to link to next time someone claims "Batteries are better in the cold, because thing conduct better in the cold!".

  • Reply Matt Forbes December 29, 2019 at 9:40 am

    Who are these people holding baby ducks against their skin

  • Reply Fluffy Unicorn390 December 29, 2019 at 9:40 am

    Seems to me that they do better when the battery is cooler and not hot

  • Reply Sensational Ennush December 29, 2019 at 9:42 am

    wdym? i put my phone in the freezer for 15 seconds so it will cool off after playing games lmao

  • Reply Powerbounce December 29, 2019 at 10:05 am

    The coldest in my country is only 25deg lol

  • Reply NTclaymore December 29, 2019 at 10:07 am

    I will admit. I am not too familiar with pressing baby ducks against my body..

  • Reply eisavonkairo December 29, 2019 at 10:19 am

    Maybe the problem is that he is holding his Iphone upside down so he cant see the battery indicator

  • Reply Lirei Taichen December 29, 2019 at 10:29 am

    "If your phone dies on you, just hold it against your body like a little baby duck."

    Or maybe, just maybe, get a baby duck wallpaper, so that you can hold an actual baby duck against your body.

  • Reply Farar Rarara December 29, 2019 at 10:30 am

    Iphone and android all have built-in termometer.

  • Reply doc usnhmusmc December 29, 2019 at 10:36 am

    Baby duck❤

  • Reply Fiyaaah December 29, 2019 at 10:37 am

    When is this supposed to start happening? Because my phone died a couple of times at above freezing temperatures (like 2-5C) when I mounted it to my bike instead of holding it in my pocket.

  • Reply Goju09 alt December 29, 2019 at 10:42 am

    My phone died yesterday at 80% from the cold, I just put it on my inside pocket. Did help

  • Reply WarChicken December 29, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    I can confirm that this is not true I live in Wisconsin and I dropped my phone in the snow for like a day then I found it sitting in a snow bank the next day i turned it on and it was fine oh also forgot to mention there was a snow storm and it was -5 ish outside so ya plus I had a freaking iPhone which breaks so easily

    But I will say this the heat is what kills your phone 😂

  • Reply Silberzunge December 29, 2019 at 12:11 pm

    I remember that i allways pulled the battery out of my phone and rubed it untill it had some juice again. good old times 😀

  • Reply Mildly Cornfield December 29, 2019 at 12:14 pm

    ‘Hold your phone against your body like a little baby duck’ is a phrase I didn’t think I’d hear in a SciShow episode, but I’m grateful for it.

  • Reply i love cbd December 29, 2019 at 12:20 pm

    I got a fix for this : play pubg

  • Reply Trabber Shir December 29, 2019 at 12:28 pm

    2:33 You phone totally does have a thermometer, quite a few of them in fact. They just mostly aren't suited to the task you want it for in this case.

  • Reply Matthew Deglave Ravenstein December 29, 2019 at 12:42 pm

    How about the effect on it's lifespan?

  • Reply Like Bot December 29, 2019 at 12:44 pm

    I'm from the future: my phone doesn't require a battery.

  • Reply Joker sparrow December 29, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    Positively charged molecule ??? Wtf …..R . I . P PHYSICS …. Bro it's called proton ….positively charged molecule can be alpha particle etc

  • Reply Bret Sander December 29, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    The next step in power storage; baby ducks. Who knew?

  • Reply diego weiller December 29, 2019 at 1:37 pm

    Explained almost nothing.

  • Reply Hsuman Of Magnanimous Intent December 29, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    What about Game boy Ice 😉

  • Reply SeppyTW December 29, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    there are also NiZn and NiMH rechargables

  • Reply MrMegaPussyPlayer December 29, 2019 at 2:20 pm

    1:55 I try to keep it in mind to not set up my TV outside in Siberia (or Northpole or so).

  • Reply MrMegaPussyPlayer December 29, 2019 at 2:23 pm

    2:02 I'm against violence … So I will not let Li-ion batteries near alkalines when it cold …

  • Reply Jack John December 29, 2019 at 2:37 pm

    Ok, now do an accurate video on how batteries work because it's not like I understood much from that "electrons moving" thing.

  • Reply Melissa Geckensmerf December 29, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    “Like a little baby duck”

  • Reply Freedom December 29, 2019 at 2:49 pm

    You are right on this video for the most part. But: smartphones have thermometers, in fact, several. And at least on the battery. Otherwise you load a hot battery and it might explode. Otherwise, as always, great video👍🏻

  • Reply MWall711 December 29, 2019 at 2:54 pm

    Temperature is not a measure of heat.

  • Reply Kiki Lang December 29, 2019 at 2:58 pm

    If you are a guy, you carry your phone on your inside, vest pocket. This keeps your phone warm.

  • Reply Youtube User December 29, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    Why living things try to survive?

  • Reply Astigmatisme December 29, 2019 at 3:21 pm

    everyone living near the equator : laughs in heatwave

  • Reply Alexagrigorieff December 29, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    Another thing that kills iPhones: helium.
    about 2% or so of helium in the air (for instance, when an MRI rig is serviced) kills the phone for a week or so.

  • Reply xxx xxx December 29, 2019 at 3:26 pm

    My city in India kills humans due to intense heat, let alone phones 😅

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