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Cold facts
Tips for protecting mobile devices
•Use an earbud or Bluetooth device so you can leave the device in your pocket when talking outside.
•Don’t use devices outside in extremely cold weather.
•Don’t leave devices in unheated areas, cars or trucks for extended periods of time.
•Keep devices in protective cases.
•If a device has been exposed to cold temperatures for an extended period of time, turn it off and let it warm up before turning it back on.
•When using the device outside, use touch-screen gloves to protect hands.
Source: AT&T, Indianapolis
Photo illustration by Michelle Davies | The Journa

Electronics not made to weather bitter cold

Cesar Ruiz can tell you what not to do if you leave your cellphone overnight in subzero temperatures and it’s frozen silent.

“I had a customer put his phone in the microwave,” the owner of Wayne PC Tech in Fort Wayne said, laughing.

Nope. Won’t work.

Most people know not to leave a pet or child in a car during extreme weather, but it turns out there are other beloved items that shouldn’t be left in vehicles when it’s 10 below zero – electronic devices.

Extremely cold weather might drain the batteries or crack the screens, especially if the screens are already nicked or made of glass, according to AT&T spokeswoman Tammy Radar.

In freezing temperatures, condensation may form on the inside of the screen. If that happens, turn the device off and let it warm up before turning it back on, she said.

Severely cold weather also increases the potential for permanent damage if the device is left in sleep mode for an extended period of time. If the device must be kept in the car, turn it off before leaving it there.

A frozen phone is nothing new to Ruiz, who fixes cellphones and computers at his business on South Calhoun Street. He has been getting at least one or two a week to repair.

“Oh, yeah. As a matter of fact, I got two today,” he said Thursday morning. The customer’s tale of woe goes something like: “ ‘I get out of the house and went to the car, and it wouldn’t turn on no more.’ ” Ruiz said.

“Come on. Don’t leave the phone in the car.”

Depending on the temperatures the phone was subjected to, it can be salvageable. Ruiz has heard about people leaving frozen phones in rice to extract moisture. But that doesn’t get moisture hidden in the mechanics inside, he said.

iPads and iPhones operate best at 32 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, but if shut off, they can withstand temperatures of minus 4 to 113 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Apple support website.

Another way to protect a device is with a case or container. There are several types of cases to protect devices in inclement weather, including shockproof, snowproof and waterproof varieties.

If outside for an extended period of time, place the device in a pocket so it can be warmed by body heat.

Because touch screens require contact with something that can conduct electricity, such as your fingers, gloved fingers will not work on touch screens. There are a couple of solutions, including using a hand-held stylus or wearing touch-screen gloves, according to AT&T.

The inexpensive gloves have special conductive threads that allow users to keep their hands warm and still operate a touch screen, Radar said.

“I was using my touch-screen gloves,” she said. “They work well.”

The cost of fixing a frozen phone can run from $35 to $75 or so, Ruiz said. But it could be worse.

“It’s not as bad as some people who dump their phone in the toilet,” he said.