A Winter Wonderland of Tech Tips!

by on February 6, 2013 · 48 comments

With winter in full force in the Northern Hemisphere, you may be bundling yourself up with coats, hats and gloves, but be sure to take care of your tech too. Cold weather can be detrimental to your smartphones, laptops and tablets. Winter can also make life for difficult for you. Follow these tech tips to prepare for winter weather and make life easier for you and your tech.

You may realize that leaving your tech in a hot car in the summer isn’t good, but cold can have an impact on your tech as well. Also, check out apps that help you deal with wintry weather. Find out how you and your tech can help each other survive and thrive in the cold!

The Impact of Cold Weather on Phones

Severe cold can take a toll on your electronics. A study done by PC World in Finland tested mobile phones at temperatures below 32°F/0°C. The study, conducted last year, tested 15 different cell phones, including the iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy SII.

The iPhone started showing signs of trouble at 23°F/-5°C, failing to recognize the SIM card. At 14°F/-10°C, the iPhone battery drained to zero and the phone shut down completely.

Most phones had problems by -4°F/-20°C. The Samsung Galaxy SII was the best of the bunch, functioning down to -31°F/-35°C.

You can read the full report on the study at PC World Sub-Zero Weather: Can Your Smartphone Stand The Cold?

What You Can Do to Protect Your Phone

Cold temperatures can cause your cell phone battery to drain more quickly. As shown in the PC World study, the lower the temperature, the more quickly cell phone batteries will drain. If you’ll be traveling in cold weather, keep your phone battery charged with a car charger. Keep a spare phone battery handy in case you get stranded.

Cold weather can make your screen more brittle and prone to cracking. Keeping your phone warm and covering it with a case and screen protector can help protect your screen.

Keep your phone as warm as possible. Don’t leave your phone in your car overnight. Carry your phone in an inner coat pocket and use a Bluetooth headset to talk on the phone.

By keeping your cell phone warm, you’ll help make sure that your phone is available to use when you need it.

Apps to Help You Deal with Winter

Keeping your phone warm will help keep it safe and usable. These apps help you deal with cold weather, helping to minimize disruptions to your life.

Winter Wake-Up

When the weather is bad you may need to wake up early to shovel your driveway or clear ice from your windshield. Winter Wake-Up is a free app that will wake you up when the winter weather hits. You can program the app to wake you up at the normal time if the weather is good and at an earlier time, up to 60 minutes earlier, if the weather is bad.

The app allows you to have separate wake up times for frost and snow. The app even has a setting that turns off the alarm so you can sleep in if the weather is too bad. Note that “too bad” probably depends greatly on your latitude. “Too bad” might be different in Alaska than in Alabama.

The app uses your Internet connection to check the local weather report. Your phone must be on for the app to work.

Winter Wake-Up is currently unavailable.

Winter Survival Kit

Winter can present unique dangers and the Winter Survival Kit is designed to help keep you safe. This free app is designed to help you survive in severe weather conditions. The app provides advice on what to do if you’re stranded in your car in the snow. You can set up the app to alert friends and family if you’re stuck. The app uses GPS to determine your location and call emergency services.

The app also has a gas calculator to estimate how long you can run your car before you run out of fuel. Every thirty minutes the app reminds you to check your tailpipe to make sure it isn’t clogged with snow so you can avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

Winter Survival Kit is free in the iTunes App Store for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and at Google Play for Android devices. Note that the calling feature will only work with the iPhone and that Internet connection is required for many of the features to work.

SkyMotion

SkyMotion is an app that will let you know the chance of precipitation within the next few hours. I first reviewed SkyMotion back in October, SkyMotion – Never Get Caught in the Rain Again! but now that winter is upon us, SkyMotion’s ability to predict the weather locally becomes even more important. If you’re looking for information about when a storm will hit or when snow will stop falling, SkyMotion may be your best source for that data.

SkyMotion gives you real-time hyper local weather predictions telling you what is going to happen within the next two hours. This app is securely nestled on my iPhone home screen and has been extremely accurate in predicting the local weather in my area.

This video shows you SkyMotion in action:

SkyMotion is available as a free app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch at the iTunes App Store and for Android devices at Google Play. The app is now available for Windows Phones at the Windows Phone Store. SkyMotion is also available free online through the SkyMotion website.

Bottom Line

Winter weather can be tough on your and your electronics. Protect your devices and make the most of winter with these tech tips!

Do you live in a climate that is cold in the winter? Do you protect your tech from cold weather? Do you use apps to deal with winter weather? Do you have any winter weather tech tips? Let us know in the Comments section below!

* Snow image by Luigi Torreggiani

Comments on this entry are closed.

Amal Rafeeq February 6, 2013 at 8:24 am

Thanks a lot :-)
I was a bit confused about SkyMotion.
You made it simple and informative.
Cheers.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 6, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Hi Amal, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! I’m so glad you found this helpful.
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Mike Maynard
Twitter:
February 6, 2013 at 11:20 am

Hi Carolyn,

Electronics generally speaking like the cold. We spray parts with a liquid that freezes them to find faults like overheating. If wiring and terminals are cold, then moisture will condense on them and cause short circuits; especially with connections so close together. Battery voltages drop a lot. My camera batteries have failed a couple of times this winter. You can warm them up, but new batteries are less likely to fail at low temperatures. Tech devices left in cars will get very cold and fail. Car batteries lose voltage and condensation can interfere with wiring on your car too.

We are past the half way point of winter in the UK. Only 43 days now to the Spring equinox! :-) Pancake Day and Valentine’s Day next week!
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 6, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Hi Mike, That’s what I thought! I used to put my old iPhone in the freezer because it would overheat due to one app that didn’t work very well. I thought I was doing my phone a favor but no, I wasn’t. I learned a lot from researching this article.

Winter has been very cold here but no record snowfalls yet. We have a storm headed here on Friday!
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Mike February 6, 2013 at 11:48 am

I wasn’t aware of how cold weather could have such a negative effect on a cell phone until now. Considering that it can get as low as 30ish°F here where I live, I’ll be sure to keep my cell phone nice and warm in my pockets! Thanks for the warnings and info.

Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 6, 2013 at 6:28 pm

Hi Mike, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! Yes, you may not have a problem at 30+°F but why take a risk with your phone? Keep it warm and then you don’t have to worry.
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Carol B
Twitter:
February 6, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Hi Carolyn, thanks for the tips! I didn’t know cold weather could be so harsh on our devices – guess I’m glad I’m not in Minnesota anymore! But I am going north in a month for skiing, and in previous times, I’ve taken my phone with me, in an outer pocket. Guess I should rethink where I put my phone the next time I’m on a ski slope.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 6, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Hi Carol, I learned a lot from this researching this article. If you have an inner pocket in your coat, keep your phone there when you’re in cold weather.

Have a great trip!
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Sandy Jenney February 6, 2013 at 12:54 pm

So glad you posted this. My husband has the notion that cold isn’t a problem for tech devices. He’ll leave his computer in his car in the winter etc. (not a smart move on his part.. I know.. even if it wasn’t for the cold). But now I have a source I can use to prove my point. lol Thanks
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 6, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Hi Sandy, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! You’re right, cold weather is bad for electronics. I’m glad you are able to use this article as confirmation! And you’re right, your husband shouldn’t leave his phone in the car for other reasons as well.
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Samantha February 6, 2013 at 1:25 pm

good to know how the cold will effect your techy stuff

Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 6, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Hi Samantha, I’m so glad you found this article to be helpful. Stay warm this winter!
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Craig McBreen
Twitter:
February 6, 2013 at 11:07 pm

I always wondered how the Scandinavians made out with their gadgets. Hey, where’s that Jens fellow? ;-) … He must have a phone sock, huh?

I don’t need a winter wake-up because in Seattle I always wake up to 50 degrees and cloudy (with just a slight drizzle). We get used to it.

Winter Survival Kit is a great idea. Will have to check that out before my next trip to the slopes.

SkyMotion:
Well, it’s obvious why I don’t need that one … Rain again in the PNW?

Thanks, Carolyn!
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 7, 2013 at 7:03 am

Hi Craig, Great point, I probably should have had Jens write a guest post for this topic!

Your weather sounds very similar to the weather in London. When I lived there my friends from Seattle felt right at home. My friends from Southern California often struggled, missing the sunshine.

Living in London taught me well not to cancel plans because of rain. Keep Calm and Carry On! I imagine the spirit is similar in the Pacific Northwest?
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Craig McBreen
Twitter:
February 7, 2013 at 10:18 am

Ha, yes. We are a hardened lot out here on this foggy outpost :-)
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 7, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Yes, I imagine you would have to be, but at least you don’t have to worry about keeping your phone warm! :-)
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Manickam Vijayabanu February 6, 2013 at 11:51 pm

Carolyn,
We live at Iowa and terrible cold since Jan till now. Many days, night time it had gone below -10F and very bad. Just waiting for the warm summer. :-)

I like the Sky motion app and really a useful one for this winter season. :-)

Thanks for sharing the info.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 7, 2013 at 7:05 am

Hi Manickam, Wow, that certainly is cold! I imagine keeping yourself warm is a challenge in addition to keeping your tech warm.

41 days till spring arrives!
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Jens P. Berget
Twitter:
February 7, 2013 at 8:18 am

I have been using my iPhone in -20°C, but it’s always inside my jacket and inside the sleeve I bought from Colcasac. So, it’s probably not that cold for the phone :-)

I have ruined one iPhone, but that was when I was in Denmark and it was raining cats and dogs, it was the worst rain in close to 100 years. The iPhone was inside my rain coat, but that didn’t help at all. When I got back to the hotel, the phone was broken and I couldn’t fix it.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 7, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Hi Jens, Yes, wet weather isn’t good for phones either. Actually, wet in general isn’t good for phones. I have drowned a phone before. It isn’t fun.

Keep your iPhone as warm as possible, Jens. It sounds as if you’re doing a very good job of that!
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Sarah Park February 7, 2013 at 10:12 am

Interesting facts! I never realized climate can affect a phone’s performance. The apps you recommended are also amazing.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 7, 2013 at 8:11 pm

Hi Sarah, Thank you very much. I’m glad you like these tips and apps. Stay warm this winter!
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Justin February 7, 2013 at 11:08 am

Hello,

Luckily, I am in South Florida. No cold winters for me ;-)
Although, I do not think I would mind a few cold days after a 100 degree day here…..
Great info, in case I go back to NY…
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 7, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Hi Justin, Yes, Florida doesn’t experience much weather that would require you to worry about keeping your phone toasty warm. But 100 degree weather isn’t great for phones either!
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Justin February 8, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Yes your right, I have had a time or two that the screen got pretty hot. But for the most part I keep it in my pocket when I am out….
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 8, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Excellent. Safety first!
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Adrienne
Twitter:
February 7, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Sorry Carolyn but I had to laugh at this one because we never have this issue here in Texas. You could probably leave your phones outside and never worry about it. Our weather has been reasonably warm this week alone but I know that’s not the case where you live.

See, I never think about things like this because it just doesn’t affect me but that doesn’t mean it’s not a real issue.

I’m sure people are extremely delighted you shared this information. I can see where it could be a real issue.

~Adrienne
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 8, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Hi Adrienne, Yes, if you live below a certain latitude, this article really won’t be of much help, unless you’re tempted to store your phone in the freeze. Don’t do it, Adrienne! Just say NO to putting your phone in the freezer! ;-)
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Amberr Meadows
Twitter:
February 7, 2013 at 10:41 pm

I downloaded Skymotion sometime back on your advice and love it. I also love the fact I live in GA and rarely have to deal with extremely cold temperatures, but the heat can be a bit brutal in summer.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 8, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Hi Amberr, I’m so glad you’re enjoying SkyMotion. That’s one of those apps I wonder how I lived without it. You don’t have to deal with snow where you are, but knowing when the snow will start and stop is very important up here in Pennsylvania!
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James D. February 7, 2013 at 11:55 pm

Thanks for sharing this article. We should protect ourselves from bad weathers that are upon us. Its a good thing that we now have smartphones that could give us warnings about the weather but it is of no use if batteries are drained, thanks for the tips about cold weather drains battery quickly. Now I will try look up for the Skymotion app you have mentioned here.

Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 8, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Hi James, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech!

So true. Bad weather can really cause problems for us and our electronics. I hope you stay warm and dry this winter, James!
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Tim Bonner February 8, 2013 at 4:27 am

Hi Carolyn

It’s interesting that the iPhone doesn’t fare so well below -5°C.

We haven’t had any really cold spells in Edinburgh but it’s been below 0°C many times in the past couple of months.

I must remember to keep my phone nice and toasty now that I know! I didn’t cross my mind that it might not like the cold.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 8, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Hi Tim, Yes, I was surprised that the iPhone was the most fragile of all the phones that were tested. That’s the phone I use so I really have to make sure that I keep my phone warm. I keep my phone in my purse so I have to make sure that my purse stays warm. It can get quite cold here in Pennsylvania.

You are lucky that you don’t have to worry about this issue very often, Tim!
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Khaja moin February 8, 2013 at 5:07 am

When I was child my mother used to tell me about taking care in Winter and now I see winter tips for phones!
Must say these droid almost entered into our veins.
Anyway very helpful tips, to save my phone from Winter.

~@Khajamoin1
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 8, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Hi Khaja, Your mother is a brilliant woman. Good thing you listened to her. Follow her tips to help keep yourself and your phone safe and warm! :-bd
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jsncruz February 8, 2013 at 8:32 am

I’ve got the exact opposite of this problem from my side of the world. Humidity and heat are the main enemies of electronics here, and I’ve busted a couple of phones just from sheer humidity :-(
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 8, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Wow, Jason! That’s pretty intense humidity to destroy phones. Do you do anything to protect your phones from humidity?
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Praveen Rajarao February 8, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Carolyn – I didnt know about the low temperatures affecting phone performances.

I loved the Winter WakeUp app, that is really useful now, we are having frost almost every other day this past 2 weeks and it is a pain to remove it before heading off to work. It takes a good 30mins for both my cars to be clean. This app should avoid any surprises now :-)

Thanks for sharing.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 8, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Hi Praveen, Honestly, I didn’t either until I started researching this article. But once I found out, I wanted to be sure that Wonder of Tech readers knew of the dangers of cold weather for their electronics.

The Winter WakeUp app is very well thought out. They seem to have anticipated all the circumstances for weather. What I would like to see from that app is for it to coordinate with your kids’ schools so if the schools are closed you can sleep in. If the schools were opening late, the app would figure out when you needed to wake up to get to the school bus stop on time. Is that too much to ask? ;-)
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Praveen Rajarao February 8, 2013 at 3:04 pm

That would be a great idea…i bet there will be a lot of takers for that. My daughter is also starting school in september this year, and I have to keep an eye out for school timings…
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 8, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Well, the app doesn’t do that but I wish it would. You will probably feel the same way when your daughter starts school. Instead, we get a phone call at 5:00 am saying school is closed. Generally the kids are so excited that they won’t go back to sleep. Of course, it might be different in your house!
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Josh February 8, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Since I have never lived in a cold climate it never occurred to me to think about what it might do to my electronics.

Battery life on the phone is short enough without help. ;-)
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 8, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Hi Josh, You’re right, not everyone lives in a climate where cold weather is an issue. But if you ever visit a cold weather climate, you will now know to keep your phone safe and warm! :-bd
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Aaron Brinker February 8, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Carolyn,

I learned something new today. I knew that hot weather “could” be bad for electronics but I had never given much thought to cold weather (considering it was 70 degrees here yesterday go figure) We do have cold weather here and bitter wind chills at times. I will definitely take this to heart with my cell phone in the future.

Aaron Brinker aka DadBlunders
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 9, 2013 at 7:51 am

Hi Aaron, Yes, this information was new to me too. I didn’t realize the impact that cold weather could have on electronics before I started doing the research for this article.

I hope you and your electronics say safe and warm this winter, Aaron!
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Jeannette Paladino February 9, 2013 at 1:29 am

Hi Carolyn,

Great tips about protecting your smart phone in the cold weather. I wasn’t aware of this problem. I left you a reply on Sherryl Perry’s blog which is how I came to be on your site!
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 9, 2013 at 8:00 am

Hi Jeanette, So glad you have you here at The Wonder of Tech! Sherry’s blog is incredibly helpful, she’s a favorite blogger of mine.

Stay safe and warm this winter, Jeanette!
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