That’s why cell phone batteries discharge when it’s cold – digitally


Smartphones don’t like summer heat or the current freezing temperatures. Some devices even switch themselves off when it gets too icy for them, even though the battery is not actually empty. Lithium-ion batteries are built into the mobile phones. They work best at temperatures of ten to 25 degrees Celsius. For example, Apple specifies an operating temperature of zero to 35 degrees Celsius for its iPhones.

Lithium-ion accumulators are batteries in which lithium-ions transport the electrical charge in an electrolyte fluid between the cathode and anode. They have been installed in electronic devices since the early 1990s. The Japanese technology group Sony has developed it for the market.

Cold slows down the electrochemical processes

However, if the ambient temperature is too low or too high, the battery wears out much faster than usual. Because cold slows down the electrochemical processes because the electrolyte liquid becomes more viscous. And that in turn increases the internal resistance. If the cell phone now needs a lot of electricity, the voltage of the battery drops and it comes to a deep discharge, which damages the battery. The precautionary self-shutdown wants to prevent that.

The phenomenon can particularly affect older devices with frequently recharged power storage systems. Lithium-ion batteries can handle between 1000 and 3000 charging cycles without any loss of performance. However, the batteries age. Damage to the structure then ensures that the electrical voltage drops abruptly when it is cold. If, on the other hand, it is very hot, this accelerates the processes in the lithium-ion battery. Temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius make it age up to three times faster.

So if you take your smartphone outside when it’s below freezing, it’s best to carry it close to your body and make calls with a headset.

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