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Winter Is Killing Your Smartphone: Here's How to Protect It

By Casey Cora | February 4, 2015 5:31am
 Our devices need lots of love in the colder months, tech experts say.
Our devices need lots of love in the colder months, tech experts say.
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CHICAGO — Yeah, yeah. Your toes are numb and your nose is frozen. 

But spare a thought for that smartphone in your pocket. 

The devices, comprised of processors, sensors, batteries and circuits, aren't necessarily built to withstand dangerous cold temperatures. 

"They generate a little bit of internal heat, so the trick is to have it on," said Jeremy Hajek, a teacher at the School of Applied Technology at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Casey Cora says its important where you reboot your phone:

"But let's say you leave it in the car overnight. Think about that. Outside it's negative five [degrees], you turn it on and the [phone's] internal temperature jumps to 60 or 70 degrees. That huge jump is what shocks electronics and over time that's how things break," he said. 

For phones and tablets left in cars, or, say, turned off in your pocket while waiting for the bus, it's best to bring them indoors and let them warm up first — about 10 or 15 minutes — before powering up, Hajek said. 

But suppose you work in a place that bans cell phones on the job for security or productivity purposes and you're forced to leave the device in your car for long periods of time. Or you are just going to be outside for an extended period of time and the battery dies.

Hajek said it's wise to wrap the devices in a blanket or sweater. That way, the phones are partially protected from wild temperature swings. 

Plus, a snuggled-up cell phone can prevent "microfractures" in the glass screens caused by the change from bitter cold to quick heat. 

And hard shell cases are a must, Hajek said. They safeguard against those inevitable drops caused by clumsy frozen fingers. 

"Buying a hard shell case or protector is standard. You almost have to. It's a $5 or $10 piece of plastic to protect a $400, $500, $600 smartphone," he said.

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