Will My Phone's Battery Go On the Fritz in the Freezing Cold?


This Big Question comes from a coworker who went jogging yesterday in freezing temperatures; his admirable act of temporary insanity left him with a dead phone for 10 minutes. Once he thawed out, he wanted to know whether or not it was normal for his smartphone to catch a cold.

On its website, Apple recommends you use its devices “where the ambient temperature is between 32° to 95°F.” (Sorry Minnesota, that important phone call will have to wait until April.) In covering their legal bases, Apple is likely being overcautious. While extreme cold—much colder than 32 degrees Fahrenheit—can cause your phone to go on the fritz, this problem has almost always proven to be a temporary one.

And what causes the brief blackout? According to David Linden and Thomas B. Reddy’s Handbook of Batteries, very cold temperatures will lower the “discharge capacity” of a lithium-ion battery (the kind of battery commonly used in smartphones). In other words, the battery struggles to perform efficiently in the cold and will drain faster. Still, this is only while in use, and the long-term effects aren’t too scary.

Seth Porges of Popular Mechanics took six types of smartphones to an environmental testing facility to gauge their performance in the extreme cold. They started with a slightly brisk environment (40°F) and then incrementally lowered the temperatures to points far below zero.

All the phones survived down to -10°F. Once the mercury hit -30, however, “five of the six phones experienc[ed] serious battery or LCD problems.” Reassuringly, none of the damage suffered during these tests proved to be permanent. Once the phones returned to normal temperatures, so did their functionality.

The only phone to survive a plunge to -40°F was an outdated Motorola flip phone, one whose high-tech features include texting and not much more. In fact, that same flip phone survived conditions that are positively Plutonian (-314.7°F). After repeatedly being dipped in liquid nitrogen, the phone would still perform fine after warming back up to a normal temperature.

Score one for the “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” crowd. Clip those flip phones to your belts with pride, friends, you earned it.

WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images
Big Questions
What Are Curlers Yelling About?
WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images
WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

Curling is a sport that prides itself on civility—in fact, one of its key tenets is known as the “Spirit of Curling,” a term that illustrates the respect that the athletes have for both their own teammates and their opponents. But if you’re one of the millions of people who get absorbed by the sport once every four years, you probably noticed one quirk that is decidedly uncivilized: the yelling.

Watch any curling match and you’ll hear skips—or captains—on both sides barking and shouting as the 42-pound stone rumbles down the ice. This isn’t trash talk; it’s strategy. And, of course, curlers have their own jargon, so while their screams won’t make a whole lot of sense to the uninitiated, they could decide whether or not a team will have a spot on the podium once these Olympics are over.

For instance, when you hear a skip shouting “Whoa!” it means he or she needs their teammates to stop sweeping. Shouting “Hard!” means the others need to start sweeping faster. If that’s still not getting the job done, yelling “Hurry hard!” will likely drive the point home: pick up the intensity and sweep with downward pressure. A "Clean!" yell means put a brush on the ice but apply no pressure. This will clear the ice so the stone can glide more easily.

There's no regulation for the shouts, though—curler Erika Brown says she shouts “Right off!” and “Whoa!” to get her teammates to stop sweeping. And when it's time for the team to start sweeping, you might hear "Yes!" or "Sweep!" or "Get on it!" The actual terminology isn't as important as how the phrase is shouted. Curling is a sport predicated on feel, and it’s often the volume and urgency in the skip’s voice (and what shade of red they’re turning) that’s the most important aspect of the shouting.

If you need any more reason to make curling your favorite winter sport, once all that yelling is over and a winner is declared, it's not uncommon for both teams to go out for a round of drinks afterwards (with the winners picking up the tab, obviously). Find out how you can pick up a brush and learn the ins and outs of curling with our beginner's guide.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at

Why You Should Never Take Your Shoes Off On an Airplane

What should be worn during takeoff?

Tony Luna:

If you are a frequent flyer, you may often notice that some passengers like to kick off their shoes the moment they've settled down into their seats.

As an ex-flight attendant, I'm here to tell you that it is a dangerous thing to do. Why?

Besides stinking up the whole cabin, footwear is essential during an airplane emergency, even though it is not part of the flight safety information.

During an emergency, all sorts of debris and unpleasant ground surfaces will block your way toward the exit, as well as outside the aircraft. If your feet aren't properly covered, you'll have a hard time making your way to safety.

Imagine destroying your bare feet as you run down the aisle covered with broken glass, fires, and metal shards. Kind of like John McClane in Die Hard, but worse. Ouch!

Bruce Willis stars in 'Die Hard' (1988)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

A mere couple of seconds delay during an emergency evacuation can be a matter of life and death, especially in an enclosed environment. Not to mention the entire aircraft will likely be engulfed in panic and chaos.

So, the next time you go on a plane trip, please keep your shoes on during takeoff, even if it is uncomfortable.

You can slip on a pair of bathroom slippers if you really need to let your toes breathe. They're pretty useless in a real emergency evacuation, but at least they're better than going barefoot.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.


More from mental floss studios