Why Your Phone May Be Overheating—and How to Cool It Down
Should you be worried when your cellphone starts to burn up? Here’s what it means and what you can do to cool it down.
rd.com, Courtesy Apple
If your phone has been sitting in direct sunlight or was left in a hot car, it’s not surprising that it might be overheating. However, excessive heat can occur for other reasons—due to circumstances either outside the device or from the inside—and it’s one of the ways you’re shortening the life of your phone.
Smartphones hold a lot of our important information, so it’s a good idea to educate yourself about these and other reasons your phone might be heating up. Sometimes it’s the result of regular use, but it’s also possible your phone is overheating because someone hacked into your device. It’s a good idea to learn how to tell if your phone has been hacked and to follow best practices regarding smartphone security.
One of the main reasons our phones overheat, however, is that we’re taxing the batteries in some way, so saving battery life on your iPhone is a great way to protect your device. Once you understand why it might be heating up, you can learn how to cool down your phone and protect your investment.
Why is your phone overheating?
Chelsea Ashbrook, digital experience manager at Genentech, says one of the primary reasons for a phone to overheat is having too many background applications open. “It is not uncommon for an iPhone app to crash,” Ashbrook says, “causing a constant feedback loop that ultimately leads your iPhone’s CPU usage to spike, leading to overheating.”
Damien Mason, a technical writer for ProPrivacy, says that having multiple apps open “causes the processor and RAM to work overtime, which inevitably strains the battery.”
Phones may also overheat if you haven’t cleared your web browser cache. “Excess files, cookies and cache force the iPhone to work harder to retrieve data, which can result in overheating,” Ashbrook says.
Using outdated hardware or software can also lead to your phone overheating, as can some user habits, like leaving it plugged in most of the time.
How to cool down your phone
Take your phone out of the heat
You might like sunbathing, but your phone does not. “Most modern smartphones have internal temperature sensors,” says Tom Paton, founder of Green Smartphones. “When they begin to get too hot, your phone might give you a push notification, warning that it’s overheating. If the temperature rises further, the phone will likely switch itself off to prevent damage to the processor and other components.
“Even brand-new phones with really good thermal management can’t withstand more than 10 minutes of use in direct sunlight on a 100-plus degree day,” Paton says.
If your cellphone overheats due to high temperatures, Paton says the best way to cool down your phone is to “take it inside, ideally somewhere with air conditioning, and stop using it until it cools down. This should take about 5 to 15 minutes.”
“Whatever you do, never put your phone in the fridge or freezer,” Paton warns. “Sudden temperature changes and condensation can very easily damage your phone.”
Close your apps
“Simple physics explains this reason,” says Ben Hartwig, web operations executive at InfoTracer. “If the user is on the phone all day long and if multiple apps are running simultaneously, high use of the processor and the electrical chips within the phone generate heat.”
Keeping apps open forces your battery to work harder, which may result in the phone overheating and the need to cool it down. It’s even worse if your apps aren’t updated.
Not only do you need to keep your operating system updated, but you also need to make sure you’re running the latest version of your apps. “If mobile apps aren’t updated, they require higher use of RAM and processors,” Hartwig says.
“New software and updates are produced regularly, and each update increases the minimum hardware requirements for the phone to run smoothly,” says Ajinkya Mishra, consumer tech expert at DevsJournal. “Old hardware can struggle to meet the requirements of new software, and even simple tasks such as sending emails can start overheating your phone.”
Stop charging your phone
“Overcharging is another usual cause of overheating, so once your phone reaches 100% charge, be sure to unplug it,” says Eloise Tobler, smartphone expert at Wisetek Store. “Otherwise, your phone will just begin to build unnecessary charge, which generates excess heat.”
Your device isn’t getting the rejuvenation it needs if you use it while it’s plugged in. “Using your phone while simultaneously charging it is called ‘pass-through charging,’ which heats up phones dramatically,” explains technology expert Nick Wolny.
Instead of charging your phone longer, learn how to charge your phone faster.
Remove your phone from its case
Just like you take off layers when you get hot, removing the case from your device will help cool down your phone. “Many cell phone cases don’t have good airflow and can cause your phone to overheat quickly,” says Josh Wright, CEO of CellPhoneDeal.
“Beware of ‘life-proof’ cases that are heavily rubberized, as they can block vents and make it harder for our phones to cool down when in use,” Wolny says. Since our phones tend to heat up when they expend a lot of processing power, the devices must have clear channels to release this heat and regulate their temperature. Wolny recommends “stripping your phone” when it is outside in the heat or powering multiple applications. Just be extra careful not to drop it!
Keep your phone away from other electronic devices
Molly White from UBreakIFix says it’s best to keep phones separate from your other tech. “Stacking your running phone, tablet and computer together in a bag makes them more susceptible to overheating,” White says. “Keep them separate to help keep them cool.”
Turn on airplane mode
White also suggests using airplane mode if you need to cool down your phone. “If your phone has low or no signal, it may be working overtime searching for a connection, which can lead to your phone warming up,” White says. “Turn on airplane mode until you’re back in an area with coverage.”
Turn off your phone
If all else fails, one of the best hacks to cool down your phone is simply to turn it off. According to Will Manuel, president and CEO of mobile app and website development agency Core Mobile Apps, leaving your phone powered down for 30 to 60 seconds can help “the heat to dissipate within the phone and reset some of the memory-intensive processes that may have been causing the phone to overheat.”
“A simple restart will often cool off the phone in no time at all,” says Bill Mann, privacy expert at Restore Privacy. “It’s like giving the phone a little break and letting it breathe for a minute or two before using it again.”
How to prevent your phone from overheating
Get sunblock for your phone
Probably the No. 1 thing you can do is keep your phone away from heat sources. “If you do insist on taking your phone to the pool, investing in a heat-resistant pouch or case could be worth the money to try and keep the phone cooler,” suggests Sarah McConomy, COO of SellCell. “Remember, phones are designed to shut down after they reach a certain temperature as a preventive measure to avoid too much damage.”
Use the right charger
Another way to avoid overheating is to use a charger from a reputable manufacturer that is compatible with your device. “If you shelled out over $1,000 for the newest Apple iPhone, I hope you also shelled out for the $20 Apple Lightning USB cable,” says tech expert Jessica Naziri, founder of TechSesh.
Naziri recommends using only official name-brand chargers that come with the electronic device. “Cheaply made chargers are usually not manufactured correctly and will have all types of issues, including exposing your phone to increased temperatures,” Naziri says. “There are chips close to the plastic cover of a charger for a reason, and that reason is to help the heat escape easier. Often the fake ones are poorly made, with cheaper chips.”
Turn off Bluetooth
Turning off Bluetooth—especially if there’s nothing to connect to—will prevent your phone from overheating too. “If Bluetooth is on but the phone isn’t connected to a device, it will constantly scan for something to connect to,” says White. “This can cause the phone to warm up.”
Adjust your brightness
White also suggests turning down the screen brightness on your phone. “Turning your screen brightness up will force your battery to work harder and create more heat,” she says. “Lower your screen brightness and consider shortening the screen timeout duration to keep your screen from being on for unnecessarily long periods of time. Also look into an anti-glare screen protector—it can help you see your phone’s screen in the sun so you won’t have to turn up the brightness.”
Additional reporting by Carley Lerner.
- Chelsea Ashbrook, Corporate Digital Experience at Genentech
- Damien Mason, technical writer at ProPrivacy
- Tom Paton, founder of Green Smartphones
- Ben Hartwig, web operations executive at InfoTracer
- Ajinkya Mishra, consumer tech expert at DevsJournal
- Eloise Tobler, smartphone expert at Wisetek Store
- Nick Wolny, technology expert
- Josh Wright, CEO of CellPhoneDeal
- Molly White, tech expert at U Break I Fix
- Will Manuel, president and CEO at Core Mobile Apps
- Bill Mann, privacy expert at Restore Privacy
- Sarah McConomy, COO of SellCell
- Jessica Naziri, tech expert and founder of TechSesh