The Effects of Ambient Temperatures On Smartphones

The Effects of Ambient Temperatures On Smartphones

Hello, let’s talk about the effects of ambient temperatures on smartphones in this article. This is a topic that doesn’t seem to have appropriate coverage online, that’s why I’m here to help.

What is Ambient Temperature?

As always, I am going to start by defining what Ambient temperature is before moving on to its effects. What is Ambient Temperature?

Ambient temperature refers to the temperature of your immediate surroundings. It’s that simple. I have seen some persons argue that the term ambient temperature only refers to room temperature and thus should be within a specific limit or range. This isn’t entirely true. It’s like touching an elephant trunk and declaring the trunk to be the whole elephant.

Ambient temperature refers to the temperature in your immediate surroundings. If you are in a room, then ambient temperature can be referred to as room temperature. But, if you’re out in the open, in the sun, in a shop, in a car etc. Wherever you are, the temperature of that environment immediately becomes your ambient temperature.

Ambient Temperatures may be hot or cold. However I live in a hot climate and that’s what I’m going to be writing about.

Case study:

So someone was complaining to me that their Redmi 12C was overheating for no reason. He stated that he doesn’t use heavy apps, all he does is use Google maps.

I quickly deduced that he is a ride sharer and he did confirm that he is a Bolt driver and the problem immediately became clear. Most Bolt drivers have their phones hanging off their windshield at eye level, where it is convenient to simply glance at the map and focus on the road. This however, puts their phone in the direct glare of the sun.

With the current economic situation, most people won’t burn the extra fuel on keeping the AC running. In fact, whilst waiting for passengers, a good number of drivers leave their phones hanging out in the hot car whilst they go cool off somewhere.

I laid these out for him and he was surprised. He was like “are you a seer?” I said “No. It’s just simple deductive reasoning.”

Sunlight + hot car + poor reception = hot phone

I mean, even if we were to exclude the sunlight and the hot car, our notoriously fickle network reception is enough to heat up our phones. But that’s an aside.

What I feel that a lot of people overlook is the fact that unlike our human body, smartphones have no active cooling system. So it’s going to get hotter and hotter if it’s in a hot environment.

I mean even humans with an active cooling system, from our skin, to our cardiovascular system and body fluids still struggle in hot conditions. So why should we expect that our phones should be different?

So now that we understand ambient temperature, let’s go on to talk about the effects.

The Effects of Ambient Temperatures On Smartphones

Now there are three main things that  affects in a smartphone:

  1. The battery
  2. The display
  3. The build (body, casing etc.)

1. Battery

Let’s kick off with the battery. The battery is always the first casualty of heating. Heat causes the electrolyte paste in the battery to deteriorate. This disrupts the electrons that flow to provide current from the battery. This article on how smartphone batteries work should better explain what I mean.

So once a battery’s internal chemistry has been disrupted and the electrons are scattered or worse, lost. The battery capacity plummets and battery life is gone.

2. Display

The second victim is the smartphone display, especially AMOLED displays. LCDs can tolerate heat better than AMOLEDs. But eventually, they both meet the same effects over time. First of, the pixels that light up display begins to deteriorate which leads to frequent episodes of screen burn.

The heating doesn’t stop there. It slowly separates the display from the phone by heating the glue used to hold it and causes the glass to be more brittle. Such that it could crack at the slightest provocation or fall out of the phone’s frame with very little warning.

3. The Phone’s Build (Body)

Finally the body, most smartphone are held with screws but these screws aren’t always used for all areas. That’s where glue comes in. Heating melts this glue and soon several parts of the phone soon start to fall apart. This is usually worsened once the battery begins to swell due to the heating.

Bonus effects

In the meantime, your phone slows down as the SoC (system on a chip) thermal throttles it’s own performance, so as not to add to the heating. This results in a really slow phone. However this isn’t really an issue as it goes away when the phone cools.

But there have been extreme cases of thermal runaway where an SoC fails to maintain it’s own temperature and heats itself to death. Melting the motherboard and burning the phone. So yeah, that’s that.

How To Prevent The Effects of Ambient Temperatures On Smartphones

Let’s look at prevention of these effects.

  1. Take note of ambient temperature and protect your phone. If the weather is hot, you should be mindful of what you’re doing with the device.
  2. Avoid charging in hot temperatures.
  3. Avoid gaming in hot temperatures.
  4. Do not let direct sunlight fall on your phone for extended periods of time. Especially during midday.
  5. Keep your phone in a cool dry spot (not in the fridge, never in the fridge) when it’s not in your pocket.
  6. Use a phone cooler if you can.

I’m sure there’s others but my brain has run out of ideas. So feel free to add them in the comments.


It’s always hot here these days. True. It’s roughly 33°C in my location and it’s manageable. I would say the danger region is from possibly 35/36°C and above. Always make sure that you keep your devices protected from the effects of ambient temperatures. So that’s it from me. Cheers.

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