We’ve all been there; you’re using your iPhone or Android, when suddenly, you notice that it’s getting a little warm. A little warm soon transitions to a little hot, then very hot, to a concerning degree. You might think, “Should my phone be so hot it hurts to use?” No, it should not. Here’s what to do if your phone is overheating — and how to stop it from doing so in the first place.
Why do smartphones heat up?
Your smartphone, like all computers, generates heat as it works. That’s usually fine; the problem comes when there’s too much heat in the picture. To avoid damaging the internal components of your device, the system is designed to take preventative measures when overheating to cool itself down.
This involves reducing the maximum display brightness (which is why you see your phone start to dim as it overheats); slowing down the processor, so your phone feels more sluggish; and, if it comes to it, locking itself up. In that case, you’ll see a message warning you that your phone is too hot, and it needs to cool down before you can continue to use it.
Because there’s a built-in system for cooling down your phone, you don’t need to worry about overheating issues leading to anything catastrophic, like an exploding battery. But frequent overheating is annoying and not normal. Let’s explore some situations where your phone might overheat, and what you can do about it.
Take it out of the sun
One of the most common reasons that your phone heats up is the same reason you heat up while lying out on the beach: the sun. Direct sunlight is terrible for your phone’s temperature management. The black mirror that is your phone’s display takes in all that direct sunlight, and rapidly heats up. The whole device becomes very hot to the touch, the display gets very dim, and, pretty soon, the OS will lock you out.
The only solution here is to simply not use your phone in direct sunlight — or even in a hot environment, if you can help it. If you’re in the middle of an overheating situation, get your phone to some shade. Fun fact: Most phones are designed to function properly in environments of 32 and 95°F.
Be careful where you place it when charging
When charging your phone, you shouldn’t do so haphazardly. Plugging your phone into power generates heat, especially if the power adaptor is large. Normally, this heat shouldn’t be enough to overheat your phone; it only becomes a problem when you couple it with other factors, like where you’re charging it.
Don’t allow your phone to charge while under blankets or other soft materials. Those fabrics can allow heat to build up inside your device, just as they do for you. Instead, the device should be on a flat, cool surface, like a table or counter. That material will allow heat from charging to dissipate much easier.
Use the right charger for your device
The charger you use for your phone matters as well. Sometimes, we plug our devices into whatever port is available, but that might end up heating your phone up too much.
Consider this: Some phones have giant batteries that require more power to charge than, say, an iPhone SE. If you’re plugging those types of devices into power adapters with a small amount of wattage (think about Apple’s 5W power adapters), it’s going to take a lot longer for the battery to charge than it should. If the phone is trying to do something intensive while charging, that’s going to generate a lot of heat.
On the flip side, the charger that seems right might be causing problems. If your device is capable of quick charging, that’s going to heat up the battery much faster than a traditional charger would. You might want to consider downgrading the size of your power adaptor in that case, if it’s sufficient for your device.
Check with your device’s manufacturer to see what wattage its battery is designed for.
Cut back on the apps for a bit
Your phone’s internal components generate heat as they work. Well, what makes those components work harder than apps? If you’re putting in some serious hours in a graphically intense game, or live streaming yourself from your phone’s camera, those tasks can turn up the heat pretty fast, especially if you’re charging your phone while doing so.
If things feel too hot, and if you can afford it, give your phone a brief break from the power-hungry apps. You should also check your phone’s battery usage settings to see if any apps are overworking your phone in the background. If they are, and you don’t need them to be, turn off their background usage.
Don’t leave it on in your pocket
This tip’s an easy one to understand, but can be tricky to follow. Most of us don’t mean to walk around with our phone turned on in our pockets, but it happens all the time. Maybe we accidentally activated the camera from the Lock Screen, or we thought we pressed the power button when we really didn’t.
In any case, if your phone is active, especially if it’s doing something intense, it’s going to heat up in your pocket. It’s the same principle as not letting your phone charge under a blanket; in the fabric of your pocket, the heat has nowhere to go.
Mind the case
Your smartphone’s case might be trapping heat, as well. If you deal with overheating a lot, and are having trouble with a solution, consider swapping the case for something that deals with heat better (silicone or plastic are ideal). Better yet, to truly troubleshoot, use your phone without the case for a while, to see if it stops the phone from heating up as much. Just be extra careful with it, for obvious reasons.
Power it down
If you need a hot phone to cool down in a pinch, shut the whole thing down. This will allow the device to close down any intense processes or functions that are causing it to heat up, and allow the heat to leave the device faster than if it was still powered on. Just give it a minute to cool down before booting the thing back up.