Lithium Battery Issues in Cold Weather

Smartphones or rather their lithium ion batteries are downright unreliable in the cold, and with the newer slimmer phones they are worse than ever… but there is more:

I’ve been taking a lot of photos with the iPhone 6 lately and at the moment it is snowing where I live so I am often out and about taking quick landscapes between skiing and snow sports, and I’m finding a few major issues with the phone. Not just reduced battery life but blurry photos and screen freeze – the phone seems to switch off.

Cold Iphone 1Cold iPhone 2 - blurry

First of all, it seems fine, I take a few nice shots, pop in to a mountain cafe for a hot chocolate and some editing for Facebook and Instagram, all good – still ¾ power…then an hour later it’s all over!! Nil nada no power no phone – or so it seems – it looks switched off and will not switch on, then it does turn on momentarily and pops up a low battery warning before going totally unconscious. I love skiing but when this happens I feel like there’s no point staying out any longer – it’s a vital tool and part of my days joy.

So I tried to forget my dead flat ski buddy and do a couple more runs before OCD set in and I head back to the car and the charger.

Part of the problem may be caused by mobile phone coverage issues but it’s quite common knowledge as well as my experience that the lithium battery in devices (including my cameras) won’t hold charge as well in colder temperatures, but some phones a reduced to half the charge time when the temp drops to zero!

Did you know that it’s not advisable to charge your phone up if it is cold!? In fact it needs to be in a safe range of 60°-70°f (15°-21°c) otherwise you are risking a similar ‘memory’ type of issue to what we used to have in the old NiCad style rechargeable batteries – an irreversible capacity loss.

Apparently you can adversely damage the battery by charging as well as discharging below the safe operating temperature range through a process called lithium plating.

This applies to your DSLR rechargeable batteries too!!

So I opened up the car and put my freezing cold sleeping baby on my awesome super fast My iWalk Batteryiwalk charger before I even take my boots off…not good.

…15 minutes and I have enough charge to function in life again – awesome! I sat down with a schnapps and have a better look at my pics….why are some blurry??? Then I remember a moment of screen freeze as well… So all round my iPhone friend is telling me she prefers a shady spot in the tropics…

So the solution for snow bunnies like me is to wrap up my gear like I do myself…Personally I’ll be looking for a beanie to fit an iPhone and putting a thicker case on and getting some backup hand warmers.…and somehow keeping it closer to my body for warmth – maybe a pouch or something.

Extra tips:

  • Apple recommends 32°f (0°c) as the lowest ambient operating temperature. Apparently there are other phones which are capable of operating at much lower temperatures – down to -4°f (-20°c).
  • Keep your phone in a ziplock bag is a good idea too to prevent condensation from sudden temperature change when you enter that nice warm cafe.
  • Keep a backup power source handy!
  • Check out these very cool Salt Cases  that keep the phone ward!
  • Frustrated every time you have to take your gloves off? Try this DIY!

I did however get a few good shots!

Thredbo Resort Chairlift June 2016 Thredbo Resort June 2016

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