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 only downloading attachments, apps, and other data from trusted sources and official app stores. I’d also recommend installing a quality mobile antivirus like Norton or TotalAV. There’s a great range of quality antivirus providers with plans to suit all needs and budgets — and most come with a ton of useful extra tools that will improve your mobile’s performance as well as your online safety. Check out our recommendations for the best antivirus software for Android and the best antivirus programs for iOS in 2023.
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. Or at the very least, turn off all the settings you don’t currently need — such as GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc.
If you’re in an area with poor signal, this could also be the issue as your phone will be working extra hard trying to find a signal. Turning on airplane mode will put it out of its misery for a while, and hopefully it will cool down.
On most phones, the airplane mode 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.
Update your OS and all your apps.
Bugs and vulnerabilities in your phone’s operating system (OS) or installed apps can cause it to overheat by putting too much pressure on your device’s processor.
Every time an app or OS releases an update it will be a better, more streamlined version that will most likely use fewer resources on your device. This means your phone should perform better and overheat less often.
Your phone will have a setting to allow automatic updates, but some mobile antivirus products, such as Norton, also include useful tools that alert you to apps that need updating or are using more battery than normal.
Reduce screen brightness.
Higher screen brightness forces your phone to work harder, which creates more heat.
Try reducing your screen brightness, or turn on your phone’s auto-brightness setting (both Android and iPhone have this) which automatically adjusts your phone’s brightness to your surroundings — this will reduce the likelihood of your phone working too hard and overheating.
Turn on battery saver mode.
Reduce the stress on your battery immediately by turning on the in-built battery saver setting.
Check your charging cable.
Non-manufacturer-approved charging cables can sometimes cause more harm than good. If your phone is excessively overheating while charging, try using another charging cable to see if the problem persists. If it does — and if the overheating only occurs when charging — your charging port or battery may be the issue, so you should take your phone to a professional to get it checked out.
Also make sure you’re charging your phone on a hard, flat surface. Soft, insulating surfaces like a bed or couch make it harder for a phone to stay cool during the already heat-inducing process of charging.
Run a malware scan.
If none of the above helps your phone cool down, there could be a malware issue burning out your processor.
The best way to check if there’s any malware on your device is to install a quality antivirus program. Most antiviruses are designed with PCs in mind first, but there are a lot of great mobile antivirus apps out there too. Norton is my favorite, but Bitdefender, TotalAV, and Avira are all good options too.
Install the antivirus of your choice, and find out if there’s any malicious software eating away at your processing power. All of the top antivirus providers offer money-back guarantees so you can try them out risk free. And some, like Avira, offer great free plans too.
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.
Some mobile antivirus apps like TotalAV include device cleaning tools that make it easy to delete junk and duplicate files.
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.
The best antivirus apps for mobile, such as Norton, TotalAV, and Bitdefender, can make it much easier for you to maintain your phone’s health by preventing any malware from infecting your device as well as helping keep your phone’s performance optimized, with minimal input required from yourself. They all offer a range of competitively priced plans, and come with money-back guarantees so you can try them out without having to commit long-term.