My iPhone doesn't do well in the cold. What can I do?
December 7, 2013 8:54 AM   Subscribe

I bought my iPhone last February. During what remained of that Winter, I would take it with me when cross-country skiing, walking outside, or taking the bus to work. It seemed to operate just fine, as had my prior phone which was a Samsung. This Winter, however, the cold weather seems to be seriously affecting the phone's battery life. The battery drains quickly when I'm outside and sometimes suddenly goes from 20% or more to dead. Today, I went out skiing with the phone. I was listening to a podcast and using an exercise app to track my speed and distance. When I started out the phone had 55%, but it died after only 10 minutes. The temperature was -10F/-23C. I've also had it drain quickly after waiting to catch the bus. Is there anything I can do to solve this problem and continue to use the phone in the Winter? Is this something the folks at the Genius bar can help with? Should I create some sort of insulated pouch for the phone? I realize that temperature can affect batteries, but I'm surprised because I didn't have this problem other winters. I know I've taken phones out in colder weather than today without such a sudden failure.
posted by Area Man to Technology (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know why this might be seen with your iPhone instead of your Samsung phone; it's been my experience with all electronics that the batteries drain faster when the phone is cold. Perhaps because the iPhone has a metal casing instead of plastic, and it's conducting the cold to the batteries more quickly?

As for what to do, where are you carrying the phone? When I ski with mine I always make sure to have it in an internal pocket to keep it warm from my body heat. An external pocket where there's a thick layer of down between you and your phone isn't going to do you any good.
posted by olinerd at 8:58 AM on December 7, 2013

Also - location tracking apps drain battery far more quickly than other apps do. Have you used the exercise app before in warm weather, or is this your first time using it?
posted by olinerd at 9:00 AM on December 7, 2013

it might not be the cold.

try plugging your phone when it's at like 20%. then unplug it. let it get the whole way down to zero (stream music, browse web, whatever) until it powers itself off.

if it won't go down to zero, keep doing the above until it actually does.

it's something about battery calibration. i recently had to do it w my iphone 5 and it works just fine now.

google iphone battery calibration and there should be some apple discussions about. on my phone or I'd link.
posted by sio42 at 9:03 AM on December 7, 2013

Yeah, I was having rapid battery-loss earlier this week, did what sio42 did & it seems to be back to normal (iPhone 4G). I think it's more likely to be a calibration issue or some glitch of how your latest software update & apps are interacting than a temperature problem. Or that the battery itself has started to die, but, you shouldn't have that problem so soon.
posted by oh yeah! at 9:07 AM on December 7, 2013

Location tracking apps will also drain battery faster when the radios have to work harder. If this was your first trip to a different place than last year, your battery life might be shorter if the cell towers or GPS are not as available.
posted by tomierna at 9:24 AM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Unlike some previous answerers, I definitely think that it is the cold causing this problem - I had the same problem with my iPhone 5 last winter, and it's started happening again this winter. I will try that battery calibration thing, though....hopefully it helps.
posted by barnoley at 10:18 AM on December 7, 2013

Batteries don't like cold just as much as they don't like extreme heat. Just put the phone in the inside pocket of your jacket, where your body heat will keep it at a normal temperature.
posted by a halcyon day at 10:23 AM on December 7, 2013

I'm having this problem too, but I don't think it is just cold (it wasn't nearly so bad last year). Rather cold seems to exacerbate the fact that my battery meter on my 4S has been extremely unreliable since ios 7. Calibration procedures partly helped but it is still far from what it was before the update. N.b. battery life does seem worse but I suspect it is as much a problem with the meter. Despite multiple calibrations any number under 40% is (unpredictably) untrustworthy.
posted by advil at 11:00 AM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have the same problem with my iPhone 4S, and it's definitely the cold, so there's that. It crashed in cold weather with iOS 5 and iOS 7 equally quickly. Even with 50% battery, if I try to use it when it's very cold, it just shuts down.
posted by Cygnet at 12:39 PM on December 7, 2013

I don't think it's iOS dependent because i'm still on iOS5 with my 5s, and yup, I get all these weird "yeah no more battery for you" behaviors.

It is certainly worse now in winter but it also seems to be worse than last winter.
posted by nat at 4:41 PM on December 7, 2013

I don't have an iPhone, but my iPod sometimes dies when it's cold, so it may be an Apple thing. Maybe it really is the metal casing, but that's all I can offer here, sorry.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 7:23 AM on December 8, 2013

My iPhone 4S (still running iOS 5) is doing the same thing this winter, after being fine last year. It's very annoying! If I use it for a few minutes outdoors when it's cold enough that I want gloves on, it can be on 65% and then suddenly shut down, claiming the battery is dead. When I plug it in, oh look, 65% straight away. And it's not even that cold here - daytime temperatures haven't dropped below 0C yet.

The only directly helpful thing I can offer is that if I warm it up with body heat, I can get it to reconsider its belief concerning the amount of battery left. (Unfortunately I am of the gender whose clothes tend not to have inside pockets, so this involves some mildly comical contortions and isn't all that practical a solution, but I'm guessing from your username that you might have an easier time of it.)
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 9:29 AM on December 8, 2013

I get exactly the same behaviour from my iPhone (4S), even when it is fully charged: it will just shut down in cold weather and pretend its battery is dead. However, when it warms up, the battery will be back at around the same place as before. They're just really crap in the cold (which is frustrating when you want to take a photo of a lovely snowy scene). I keep mine as close to my body as I can to avoid it shutting down from the cold.
posted by urbanlenny at 1:45 PM on December 8, 2013

« Older Why is SUMIF function not working when data is...   |   Could you tell me who she is? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.