Why and how to keep your iOS devices from getting too hot

iphone too hot - needs to cool down message

If you’re not careful with how you treat your iOS devices, your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad could overheat. Without internal fans to cool the device off, iOS is instead programmed to regulate heat on its own by means of lowering performance.

In this piece, we’ll discuss what happens when your iOS device gets too hot, and what kinds of conditions may cause it to happen.

Why iOS devices overheat

There are many reasons why an iOS device may get too hot. As we just mentioned, there are no fans inside of your iOS devices, and this is because they’re too thin to have any. Instead, it’s up to the hardware inside of the device, such as the system on a chip, wireless radios, battery, and other heat-producing equipment to regulate their own temperature.

An iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad may overheat if:

  • You leave it in a car too long when it’s too hot outside
  • You leave it in direct sunlight for too long
  • You use hardware-intensive features for too long, such as a graphics-intensive game or GPS
  • Any combination of the above

Heat is transferred from one heat-emitting source to another in one of three ways – conduction, convection, or radiation.

In terms of a warm car, where heat is being transferred by warm air swirling around the device for long periods of time, convection takes effect and warms up the metals and circuitry in the device. When in direct sunlight, the radiation of light from the Sun is what heats up the external and internal metals.

Finally, when talking about hardware-intensive features causing the heat, high amounts of electricity transfer from the battery to other hardware components in the device is a form of conduction, and this also produces high amounts of heat.

An iOS device shouldn’t be allowed to operate in temperatures lower than 0º Fahrenheit (-17º C) or higher than 92º Fahrenheit (33º C), and shouldn’t be stored in locations with temperatures lower than -4º Fahrenheit (-20º C) or higher than 113º Fahrenheit (45º). Doing so may cause decreased performance or dangers to those handling the device.

What happens when an iOS device overheats?

Now that we’ve just discussed why an iOS device might overheat, you should have a pretty good idea of what to avoid doing with your iOS device(s). But, let’s say the situation is unavoidable, and your device overheats; what’s going to happen now?

When a device overheats, your device’s hardware will begin to regulate, or basically throttle itself, such that it doesn’t work too hard and less heat is produced. In this ‘safety’ mode, iOS may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • The battery may not charge to prevent generation of excess heat
  • The display may dim or shut off completely, making it hard to use your device
  • While using navigation, the iPhone’s screen will show an alert, then the display will shut off, but audible navigation will continue
  • Your device’s wireless radios will enter a lower-power state and wireless performance may suffer
  • The rear-facing LED flash may be unusable until the device cools down

These symptoms will vary depending on the severity of the overheating of your device. For iPhone users, where emergency calls may be a life or death scenario, the Lock screen will still allow you to slide to make an emergency call, but you’ll get an alert that says the iPhone needs to cool down before you can use it to its full potential.

It’s normal for a device to get warm during heavy use or charging, but for it to exceed the thresholds that iOS will start throttling performance to cool down isn’t particularly good for the device.

Why and how to prevent overheating

You can easily prevent overheating your iOS devices by storing them properly.

If you just took a road trip and it’s a hot day outside, you might consider putting the iOS device in a shady, cool place rather than in direct sunlight. Consider using the car’s trunk, or underneath a seat. Avoid putting it on your dash, or on top of a seat, or near a heat source like the transmission tunnel or glove box where heat from the transmission or engine could impact its working condition.

An even better solution would be to put it in your purse or pocket instead of leaving it in the car, as this would allow fresh air to get to the device to help keep it cool, and it would also keep it out of direct sunlight. Moreover, if you work outside, or are at the beach tanning and having a ball, try to store the device underneath towels or inside your packing bag, rather than in direct sunlight.

If the overheating is most likely to be caused by heavy-duty gaming or GPS navigation, you should take steps to reduce overheating of your device, such as giving it frequent breaks, keeping screen brightness at comfortable level that isn’t too bright, and avoiding keeping it plugged into a power source while you use it.

You should prevent overheating as much as possible because damage to your device’s hardware can occur. The reason iOS throttles your usage when your device gets too hot is to keep your hardware safe, and that alone should be a clue that it’s bad for it.

An overheated device can be dangerous, and if it’s not dealt with carefully, you could face dangers such as battery swelling or battery explosions.

Wrapping up

You should avoid letting your device overheat at all, but sometimes it’ll just happen without much warning through regular use of the device. If it happens to you, the best thing to do is power the device off and set it in a cool place for a few minutes so it can cool back down. Afterwards, you can get right back to using it.

Have any of your iOS devices ever overheated? If so, what were you doing with it? Share in the comments!