How to Keep Your iPhone From "Bricking" in Cold Weather

iStock
iStock

You’ve just built the perfect snowman: top hat, carrot nose, corncob pipe, the works. You whip your iPhone out to snap a photo for your Instagram feed, but the screen won't come on. It was fully charged when you left the house, so what happened? Did the cold weather kill your phone?

While this scenario is bleak—the dead-as-a-brick phone, not your empty Instagram feed—there's no reason to panic, says Matt McCormick, owner of Jet City Device Repair in Chicago and Seattle.

“In the winter, especially on iPhones, it’s easy to see your phone simply die if you’re standing out in freezing weather,” he says. “I personally had this happen a few years ago when I was hiking with some friends in Wisconsin. The cold weather made the phone unusable as long as I was outside.”

In fact, “bricked” phones aren’t as common as you may fear. In the traditional software sense, a phone “bricks” when “the hardware is perfectly fine but the software has the phone locked up and unusable,” McCormick says. The most common causes of that are when someone tries to jailbreak his or her phone—hack it to access its master files or install third party apps—or if someone stops an update partway through the process. Neither of those are weather dependent. (While a bug on the new iPhone X did cause the phone’s screen to freeze when exposed to cold weather, Apple has since released a software fix to solve the problem. Other times, catastrophic hardware failures can permanently brick phones.)

“However, we do frequently see phones that appear dead,” McCormick says. Some common causes of that include water damage, a broken or blocked charging port, and the occasional software glitch that prevents the screen from coming on. But the most destructive and widespread is a bad battery.

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, the kind used in iPhones, are vulnerable and volatile. According to Apple’s guidelines, iPhones should be used between 32°F and 95°F. Some tests suggest that the phones’ batteries can stop discharging electricity altogether when in frigid temperatures.

“Low- or high-temperature conditions might cause the device to change its behavior to regulate its temperate,” Apple says. “Using an iOS device in very cold conditions outside of its operating range might temporarily shorten battery life and could cause the device to turn off. Battery life will return to normal when you bring the device back to higher ambient temperatures.”

If your phone dies while you are in the cold weather, the solution is to keep your phone warm or warm it back up. That’s how McCormick ultimately revived his seemingly dead iPhone: He hiked inside.

To prevent this from happening when you’re outside, keep your phone in a sturdy case and store it close to your body—in a pants pocket, for example, instead of in a coat pocket. And while force-closing apps isn’t recommended for saving battery, it’s still a good idea to look at what’s using your power both onscreen and in the background. (You can check to see how much power your apps are using by following these instructions.)

If your phone screen still goes black, wait until you’re back inside and the phone has warmed up before trying to turn it on. Also, go easy on the charging while the phone is still cold—Battery University says never to charge consumer grade lithium-ion batteries in temperatures below freezing, which can cause permanent damage.

The FCC's New Scam Glossary Will Help You Identify Fraudulent Calls

Tero Vesalainen/iStock via Getty Images
Tero Vesalainen/iStock via Getty Images

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) knows that robocalls have gotten worse in recent years, and it's finally doing something about it. In June 2019, the FCC voted to give phone carriers the freedom to block spam calls without waiting for customers to opt in. The change is a good first step, but it won't end the robocall scourge completely. For the unwanted calls that sneak past your phone's defenses, the FCC also published a scam glossary on its website, Popular Science reports.

The glossary lists some of the most common (as well as some uncommon) strategies used by criminals, giving you an idea of what to be on the lookout for next time you get a suspicious call. The "Health Insurance Scam," for example, involves callers selling fake health care coverage for a cheap price. There's also the "One Ring Scam," where the scammer will hang up quickly after the first ring without giving you time to answer the call. Their goal is to trick you into calling them back and paying for international call fees.

The glossary includes more general terms that relate to phone scams as well. Spoofing is defined as calls made through fake caller IDs that appear trustworthy, either by matching your home area code or that of a legitimate organization. Slamming happens when a phone company moves you from your existing service provider to theirs without your consent.

Familiarizing yourself with popular scams is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself from falling for fraudulent calls. Another way is to install robocall-blocking apps on your phone. Here are some options to check out.

[h/t Popular Science]

Fish Tube: How the 'Salmon Cannon' Works and Why It's Important

PerfectStills/iStock via Getty Images
PerfectStills/iStock via Getty Images

If you’ve been on the internet at any point in the past week, you’ve certainly come across footage of wildlife conservationists stuffing salmon into a giant plastic tube and shuttling them over obstacles. It’s so bizarre—even by the already loose standards of the web—that it briefly ignited discussions over fish welfare, its purpose, and the seeming desire of people to be similarly transported through a pneumatic tunnel into a new life.

Naturally, the “salmon cannon” has a mission beyond amusing the internet. The system was created by Whooshh Innovations, a company that essentially adopted the same kind of transportation system featuring pressurized tubing that's used in banking. Initially, the system was intended to transport fruit over long distances without bruising. At some point, engineers figured they could do the same for fish.

The fish payload is secured at the entrance of the tube—acceptable species can weigh up to 34 pounds—and moves through a smooth, soft plastic tube that conforms to their body shape. Air pressure behind them keeps them moving. The fish are jettisoned between 16 and 26 feet per second to a new location, where they emerge relatively unscathed. Because there’s no need for a water column, the tubing can cover most terrain at virtually any height.

The tubing solution is a human answer to a human problem: dams. With fish largely confined to still bodies of water thanks to dams and facing obstacles swimming upstream to migrate and spawn, fish need some kind of assistance. In the past, “fish ladders” have helped fish move upstream by providing ascending steps they can flop on, but not all fish can navigate such terrain. Another system, trapping and hauling fish like cargo, results in disoriented fish who can even forget how to swim. The Whooshh system, which has been in used in Washington state for at least five years, allows for expedient fish export with an injury rate as little as 3 percent, although study results have varied.

The video features manual insertion of the fish. In the wild, Whooshh counts on fish making semi-voluntary entries into the tubing. Once they swim into an enclosure, they’re curious enough about the tube to go inside.

If all goes well, the system could help salmon be reintroduced to the Upper Columbia River in Washington, where the population has been depleted by dams. Testing of the device there is awaiting approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

[h/t Popular Mechanics]

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