Phones can get warm for a large number of reasons.
And it’s important to note:
- A “warm” phone is perfectly normal.
However, if your phone gets too hot (painful to touch) too often (more than after normal use), there may be reason for concern. Many things can cause your phone to overheat, and some of them can damage your device or shorten its lifespan.
In this guide, we’ll touch on the three main reasons phones overheat, what you can do to solve the problem, and how to prevent it from happening again.
Warm Is Normal
If your cell phone is simply a little bit warm after you’ve made a phone call or used an app, that’s nothing to be alarmed about.
All electronic devices produce heat when they’re working. And all of them have some sort of thermal regulation that prevents heat-related problems and malfunction.
Take computers for instance. Just like phones, computer processors, cameras, screens, batteries, and other components create excess heat. So to prevent overheating, computers have fans that cool them down.
But phones are too small to have fans. Instead, they use a special coating on the circuits inside to better diffuse heat — and this solution works most of the time.
So when your phone is working properly, it won’t give off too much heat and you’ll be able to hold it normally.
However, when your phone becomes hot to the touch, displays a heat warning, or stops working due to overheating, there’s something wrong that needs to be addressed.
How Warm Is Too Warm?
A warm phone is no big deal, but how can you tell when your device is getting too warm?
First of all, your phone’s temperature depends on usage and air temperature. When a phone is idle or when you’re using it for light activities like browsing, its temperature should be in the 30°C (86°F) range. But when you’re using your phone for high-intensity tasks like playing games, streaming videos, or taking lots of photos, the temperature can reach the low-to-mid 40°C (104°F) range — or even a bit higher if the air temperature is very high.
But since it’s not easy determining a phone’s temperature just by touching it, it’s important to keep an eye out for common signs of overheating.
- Getting a temperature warning message.
- Not being able to use your phone until it cools down.
- Charging slows down or stops completely.
- Display keeps dimming or goes black.
- Camera flash stops working.
- Apps don’t work properly or start crashing.
Some of these things don’t necessarily have to be the result of overheating. But if your phone gets hot several times a day and if it starts behaving abnormally when it’s hot, your device’s temperature is probably higher than normal.
Here are the most common reasons why phones overheat.
Reason #1: Warm Environment or Direct Sunlight
If you’ve ever left your phone on a towel at the beach, or sitting on a table in the bright sun, you know just how quickly those UV rays can overheat it.
One possible reason your phone feels hot is that it’s been exposed to direct sunlight or some other heat source for too long.
You may have left it in the car on a hot summer day, for example.
This kind of overheating can be a serious problem.
Direct heat like this can seriously damage your phone’s internal components, impact battery life and charge time, slow down performance, and even break your phone’s screen. Be careful where you leave your phone for long periods of time, particularly in hot weather.
When your phone gets too hot from the sun, find a cool, dark place to leave it while its temperature comes down.
Reason #2: Intense Use of Screen or Processing Power
If your phone hasn’t been in a hot environment or direct sun, but it’s badly overheating, there’s a good chance your phone has been asked to use too much processing power or emit too much light from its screen.
Here are a couple of the main culprits that could be causing your phone to get too hot:
- You have too many apps running.
- You’ve been gaming for too long.
- You’ve been watching Netflix, YouTube, or other streaming content.
- You’ve been browsing with the screen brightness cranked up too high.
- You’ve been connected to a Bluetooth device or Wi-Fi for too long.
- You’ve been taking too many pictures or long videos with the camera.
In these cases, there’s probably nothing seriously wrong — your phone just needs a bit of a break to cool down. It’ll be ready to use again before you know it.
Reason #3: Malware
If your phone seems to be getting too hot for no apparent reason, there might be something more serious wrong with it.
If your phone overheats while sitting idly in your pocket on a cool day, for example, it could mean that the processor is being pushed to its limit by malware.
Desktop computers and laptops can become infected with viruses that purposefully max out their processors until they’re forced to shut down.
The same thing can happen on your phone.
Similarly, a form of mobile malware could be continuously running apps, widgets, or harmful processes in the background that strain your phone’s processor and cause it to give off too much heat.
You can avoid getting malware on your phone by installing top-quality antivirus software for Android or one the top-rated iOS antivirus apps, as well as only downloading attachments, apps, and other data from trusted sources and official app stores.
What To Do if Your Phone Overheats
If your phone overheats, there are a few things you can try to get it working properly again.
First, give it a break.
Stop using your phone immediately (if it’s truly overheating, you may have no choice as most phones will lock up when they reach a certain temperature).
Find a cool, dark place to leave your phone for a while. Chances are, it just needs a break from use and/or direct sunlight and it will start working again in a few minutes.
While some websites advise people to place overheated phones in the fridge or freezer, never do this. Putting a hot phone in a very cold place like your fridge can cause irreparable damage.
Take the case off, if you have one.
Phone cases are fantastic for protecting our phones from physical damage, but most of them are terribly ventilated.
Cases can trap heat against the phone’s shell and prevent it from cooling down.
If your phone is having trouble cooling down, take the case off and give it a chance to breathe.
Turn on airplane mode.
If your phone still won’t cool down, turn on airplane/offline mode to shut down any Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections that could be straining its processor.
On most phones, this function is easy to find under the general settings menu.
Close all apps.
There could be too many apps and processes running in the background, causing your phone’s processor to burn out.
You’ll often be surprised how many apps and browser windows you have open, as most phones don’t automatically close them when you return to the home screen.
Close down everything non-essential, even the camera app, and give your phone a much-needed break.
You can also use an antivirus app with device optimization tools to make sure unnecessary apps aren’t running in the background. For instance, TotalAV identifies apps that are draining your phone’s resources and saves you both CPU and battery life.
Run a malware scan.
If none of the above helps your phone cool down, there could be a malware issue burning out your processor.
Most of our top-rated antivirus programs offer support and scans for mobile devices.
Scan yours and find out if there’s any malicious software eating away at your processing power.
Remove junk files.
To put less strain on your phone’s processor and battery, you should also get rid of any junk files.
You can delete photos and files you don’t need and remove apps that you don’t use.
Take it to a professional.
If you’ve determined that your phone isn’t overheating from malware, overuse, or a hot environment, there may be something mechanically wrong with it.
When phone usage or external factors are not the reasons for overheating, it’s possible that the battery or charging unit have malfunctioned.
Like all other phone parts, batteries can go bad too, and they can simply stop working properly when they reach the end of their functional life. If your phone’s battery is faulty, you just need to replace it with a new one and your phone won’t overheat anymore.
And if your charging unit is causing the problem, you either need to get a new charger or charging cable.
Either way, you’ll want to take your phone to a professional service technician to diagnose and fix.
Prevent Overheating in the First Place
Severe overheating can irreversibly damage your phone. So, if your phone is getting hot, it’s important to first identify and fix the problem and then take steps to prevent overheating in the future.
Most of the tips above are general best-practices that you should follow even when your phone works perfectly fine. By taking good care of your phone, you’ll avoid overheating and a wide range of other problems.
So, always monitor your processor usage and close unneeded apps, avoid leaving your phone in the sun, and be extra-diligent about keeping your phone malware-free. And if you want to automate things, the best antivirus apps for mobile can make it much easier for you to maintain your phone’s health — and prolong its lifespan too.