How long can your phone survive in a polar vortex?

Find out how best to handle your smartphone during extreme cold temperatures.

Shelby Brown Editor II
Shelby Brown (she/her/hers) is an editor for CNET's services team. She covers tips and tricks for apps, operating systems and devices, as well as mobile gaming and Apple Arcade news. Shelby also oversees Tech Tips coverage. Before joining CNET, she covered app news for Download.com and served as a freelancer for Louisville.com.
  • She received the Renau Writing Scholarship in 2016 from the University of Louisville's communication department.
Shelby Brown
3 min read

It's polar vortex season across the US and temperatures have plunged to -60 degrees Fahrenheit (-50 Celcius) in some areas. In conditions as extreme as those, it's important to know how to stay safe and get help.

If you're traveling or have lost power during the polar vortex, you should always keep your smartphone with you. But you should also be aware of how long your phone will last in the bitter cold.

Here are a few things to know.

Watch this: Keep your phone warm this winter


iPhones don't do well in extreme temperatures -- anything colder than 32 degrees Fahrenheit (or anything hotter than 95 degrees Fahrenheit), according to Apple . The company suggests shutting the phone off if it's colder than four degrees.

The phone's lithium-ion battery can stop discharging electricity at extremely cold temperatures.

The iPhone X, for example, can become unresponsive in frigid air. Getting the device warm, by getting inside or keeping it close to your body, and then charging it should solve the problem, Roger Gurney, owner of Arctic Tech Solutions in Fairbanks, Alaska, told USA Today.

Staying on top of software updates can include technology that protects your battery and saves energy.

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Samsung Galaxy phones

Android devices have similar needs to iPhones because of they have the same kind of lithium-ion batteries. Samsung said that its phones will operate under normal temperatures, but may experience difficulties in extreme hot or cold.

The company warned users not to leave their phones in car glove compartments in the cold (or hot).

Google Pixel phones

The Pixel 2 XL reportedly has trouble charging at temperatures under 68 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Android Police.

Reddit users reported poor performance on the Pixel 1 as well. One post detailed trying to use the Pixel 1 in 18-degree weather while the battery was at 83 percent. The user said the phone crashed and didn't recover, despite rebooting in battery save mode, until it was properly charged at home.

It's possible that the latest  Pixel 3 will have similar issues in the extreme cold. It's also worth noting that if your smartphone has the fingerprint lock enabled, it might be a bit less accurate in freezing weather.

Other devices

Huawei , OnePlus and LG smartphones have similar problems in the cold. Users in forums and on Reddit reported the devices losing battery life or shutting down in frigid temperatures.

How to keep your phone safe in the cold

The best way to ensure your smartphone's battery life during the polar vortex is to avoid going outside with it if you can help it. You probably don't need to be told to avoid going outside to make phone calls in frigid temperatures.

But if you are outside with your phone, keep it in your pocket. If you have an inner jacket pocket that keeps the device close to your body, all the better. Avoid leaving your phone in a parked car as well.

If the temperature gets low enough, it can be best to shut your phone off. Wait until your device has warmed up a bit before you attempt to turn it on or charge it again. Trying to charge a very cold or hot device can result in battery damage.

If you have to be outside with your phone often, you can also purchase a case that can keep your phone warm. ClimateCase, Burton Antifreeze and Salt Cases all make insulated smartphone cases.

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