Smartphones are not built for the extreme cold.
The weather in Milwaukee and all of Southeastern Wisconsin over the past few weeks has not been ideal for phones and tablets. Since not using your phone is no longer an option, we have put together some tips for using your phone in the cold weather.
Cold weather touchscreen tips
Keeping yourself very warm in weather like this is obviously the most important thing, and often a pair of mittens or gloves is a part of that. Those mittens and gloves won't work on capacitive touch screens, which is the technology currently used on most smartphones and tablets. Screens like this depend on your body's ability to conduct electricity to work, the thick layer of wool on gloves and mittens prevents the screen from registering your taps and pokes.
There are inexpensive gloves that include special, conductive fabric on the tip of the index fingers so you can touch your screen rather than having to expose your hands to the cold to use your phone.
Another option for smartphones and tablets is purchasing a stylus, which is better than a fuzzy finger if you need to do work in the cold for a long time.
What happens to phone in the cold
Some smartphones list the optimum range of temperatures in their technical specs. As an example, when it's turned off, the iPhone 5S can withstand temperatures between -4° and 113° Fahrenheit. When it's turned on, the range is not nearly as big.
When operating an IPhone, Apple recommends not going lower than 32°. Other phones are rated for much lower temperatures, and some can go as low as -4° Fahrenheit while in operation.
When lithium-ion batteries are exposed to cold temperatures, their performance suffers. A phone battery will drain faster than normal when cold, or it might say it has ample power remaining and then suddenly go dead. These problems will only be temporary and the battery should behave normally when the device is brought back up to warmer temperatures.
Smartphones are made up of other delicate electronic parts, like their LCD screens, that can malfunction in extreme temperatures.
Freezing temperatures can also make a phone's glass surfaces more sensitive to cracks and breaks, especially if there's already a flaw or nick in any of the glass. There have been reports of the glass on the back of the iPhone shattering in extreme cold temperatures.
Prevent phone freeze
To keep phones from getting too cold, don't leave them alone for a very long time in a frigid place, like a parked car. Storing your phone in your pocket, where it can absorb some of your body heat, is best. If you do need to leave it behind, turn the phone off instead of just putting it to sleep.
Cases also help to keep phones warm. There are even cases especially built to regulate a phone's temperature in extreme situations.
One last tip: If you're depending on a phone to make outgoing calls in case of an emergency -- say, while driving on icy roads -- keep a back-up power source with you.