How to Keep Your iPhone From "Bricking" in Cold Weather

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iStock

You’ve just built the perfect snowman: top hat, carrot nose, corncob pipe, the works. You whip your iPhone out to snap a photo for your Instagram feed, but the screen won't come on. It was fully charged when you left the house, so what happened? Did the cold weather kill your phone?

While this scenario is bleak—the dead-as-a-brick phone, not your empty Instagram feed—there's no reason to panic, says Matt McCormick, owner of Jet City Device Repair in Chicago and Seattle.

“In the winter, especially on iPhones, it’s easy to see your phone simply die if you’re standing out in freezing weather,” he says. “I personally had this happen a few years ago when I was hiking with some friends in Wisconsin. The cold weather made the phone unusable as long as I was outside.”

In fact, “bricked” phones aren’t as common as you may fear. In the traditional software sense, a phone “bricks” when “the hardware is perfectly fine but the software has the phone locked up and unusable,” McCormick says. The most common causes of that are when someone tries to jailbreak his or her phone—hack it to access its master files or install third party apps—or if someone stops an update partway through the process. Neither of those are weather dependent. (While a bug on the new iPhone X did cause the phone’s screen to freeze when exposed to cold weather, Apple has since released a software fix to solve the problem. Other times, catastrophic hardware failures can permanently brick phones.)

“However, we do frequently see phones that appear dead,” McCormick says. Some common causes of that include water damage, a broken or blocked charging port, and the occasional software glitch that prevents the screen from coming on. But the most destructive and widespread is a bad battery.

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, the kind used in iPhones, are vulnerable and volatile. According to Apple’s guidelines, iPhones should be used between 32°F and 95°F. Some tests suggest that the phones’ batteries can stop discharging electricity altogether when in frigid temperatures.

“Low- or high-temperature conditions might cause the device to change its behavior to regulate its temperate,” Apple says. “Using an iOS device in very cold conditions outside of its operating range might temporarily shorten battery life and could cause the device to turn off. Battery life will return to normal when you bring the device back to higher ambient temperatures.”

If your phone dies while you are in the cold weather, the solution is to keep your phone warm or warm it back up. That’s how McCormick ultimately revived his seemingly dead iPhone: He hiked inside.

To prevent this from happening when you’re outside, keep your phone in a sturdy case and store it close to your body—in a pants pocket, for example, instead of in a coat pocket. And while force-closing apps isn’t recommended for saving battery, it’s still a good idea to look at what’s using your power both onscreen and in the background. (You can check to see how much power your apps are using by following these instructions.)

If your phone screen still goes black, wait until you’re back inside and the phone has warmed up before trying to turn it on. Also, go easy on the charging while the phone is still cold—Battery University says never to charge consumer grade lithium-ion batteries in temperatures below freezing, which can cause permanent damage.

Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

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Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

Google Is Tracking Everything You Do With Its ‘Smart’ Features—Here’s How to Make That Stop

Maybe you don't want Google seeing how many exclamation points you use in your emails.
Maybe you don't want Google seeing how many exclamation points you use in your emails.
Taryn Elliott, Pexels

Since we don’t all have personal assistants to draft emails and update our calendars, Google has tried to fill the void with ‘smart’ features across Gmail, Google Chat, and Google Meet. These automatic processes cover everything from email filtering and predictive text to notifications about upcoming bills and travel itineraries. But such personalized assistance requires a certain amount of personal data.

For example, to suggest email replies that match what you’d choose to write on your own—or remind you about important emails you’ve yet to reply to—Google needs to know quite a bit about how you write and what you consider important. And that involves tracking your actions when using Google services.

For some people, Google’s helpful hints might save enough time and energy to justify giving up full privacy. If you’re not one of them, here’s how to disable the ‘smart’ features.

As Simplemost explains, first open Gmail and click the gear icon (settings) in the upper right corner of the page. Select ‘See all settings,’ which should default to the ‘General’ tab. Next to ‘Smart Compose,’ ‘Smart Compose personalization,’ and ‘Smart Reply,’ choose the ‘Off’ options. Next to ‘Nudges,’ uncheck both boxes (which will stop suggestions about what emails you should answer or follow up on). Then, switch from the ‘General’ tab to ‘Inbox’ and scroll down to ‘Importance markers.’ Choose ‘No markers’ and ‘Don’t use my past actions to predict which messages are important.’

Seeing these settings might make you wonder what other information you’ve unwittingly given Google access to. Fortunately, there’s a pretty easy way to customize it. If you open the ‘Accounts’ tab (beside ‘Inbox’) and choose ‘Google Account settings,’ there’s an option to ‘Take the Privacy Checkup.’ That service will walk you through all the privacy settings, including activity tracking on Google sites, ad personalization, and more.

[h/t Simplemost]