Smartphone overheating? Here are 3 ways to cool it down fast (and what not to do)

A heat wave is coming and, along with you, your smartphone is in line for a baking. Here's how to keep it cool.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
Thermal image of an iPhone 14 Pro Max
Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

The central and northeastern United States are in the grips of a heatwave, with decades-old temperature records being broken and some 80 million people sweating under heat advisories or excessive heat warnings. While we have to put ourselves first, spare a thought for your constant digital companion -- your smartphone.

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Clad in rubber cases, carried in pockets or bags, and left in cradles on car dashboards to cook, it's very easy for smartphones to hit the point where they start to overheat. Once smartphones hit around 95° F/35° C, most devices will throw up overheating warnings, and it's time to cool things down to prevent damage, especially to the battery.

So how do you cool things down fast? Here are three ways to do that.

1. Turn off your smartphone

Shutting down your phone completely stops all running processes, applications, and background services. The upside is that this is the most effective way to cool down your phone quickly because it stops the smartphone from generating more heat. The downside is that you can't use your smartphone while it's off.

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Smartphones have a maximum operating temperature of about 95°F/35°C, whereas their maximum non-operating temperature can be as high as 113°F/45°C.

2. Remove the case

Many phone cases, especially those made of rubber or plastic, can trap heat generated by the device and limit its ability to dissipate that heat into the surrounding air. Cases made of black or darker materials can actually absorb heat, making the problem even worse.

Smartphone engineers design the chassis of devices to dissipate heat, and removing any case allows air to flow more freely around the phone, letting it cool as intended.

This simple action can significantly reduce the temperature of a smartphone very quickly.

3. Move it to a cooler spot

Move your phone to a room with a lower ambient temperature. Air-conditioned rooms are ideal because they allow the phone to dissipate heat more efficiently.

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Another trick I use is to place your phone on a cool surface, like a wooden table or a cool metal surface. If you have a fan handy, position it to direct a steady flow of cool air to further aid in the cooling process. If you're in a car with AC, place the phone near a cooling vent.

Do not place your phone in the refrigerator or freezer. Rapid temperature changes can cause condensation inside the phone, potentially leading to damaging short circuits or other issues.

Other tips

  • Limit usage: While cooling down your phone, avoid using it for intensive tasks like gaming or video streaming.
  • Unplug from charger: Charging -- wired or wireless -- generates additional heat, so unplugging it can help reduce the temperature.
  • Don't waste your time on cooling cases: I've tested dozens and there's nothing that I feel is worth recommending. Some even made overheating problems worse.
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