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What Causes Your Phone To Get Hot?

a cellphone on fire

Ever wondered, “Why is my phone hot and losing battery?” This question comes up a lot and the answer is that there are many factors that can affect the performance and temperature of your mobile device.

Every smartphone has a variety of internal components, applications, and software programs running at the same time. With this in mind, your phone could be overheating for several reasons simultaneously, or there could be just one culprit responsible for putting your phone in overdrive.

Here, we break down eight of the most common reasons why your phone might be overheating and how you can cool things down.

What Causes Your Phone To Get Hot?

Excessive heat and a fast-draining battery can be caused by many things, including resource-intensive apps, software glitches, background processes, or even the surrounding environment. Pinpointing the cause is the first step in resolving the issue and getting your phone running smoothly at a normal temperature without overheating again.

1. Streaming Media or Playing Games

For starters, your phone might be too hot because you are streaming media or playing very energy-intensive games. Streaming videos, including movies on Netflix and YouTube channels, takes a huge toll on your phone’s processor, CPU, and RAM. The same goes for playing video games that tax the CPU—this is particularly true for games that have multiplayer components.

However, your Android or iPhone should only get hot if you do these activities for several hours on end. If your phone is getting hot after a few minutes of streaming or gaming, there’s probably another issue at play. 

Regardless, if you find your phone heating while playing games, consider uninstalling those apps or upgrading your phone to a newer model. Newer phones will have better chipsets that can handle complex games and stream movies more efficiently. You can use Navi’s free, unbiased Phone Deal Finder to find the best deals on the latest phones based on your criteria.

2. Running Too Many Apps at the Same Time

Running too many apps at once can tax your phone’s resources, particularly the CPU and the RAM. Overuse can increase your phone’s temperature, requiring you to break out the charging cable more and more often, as well as lead to other processing power issues.

Unfortunately, many people run a lot of apps at the same time by accident. For example, when you open Facebook or your web browser, going back to your phone’s home screen doesn’t close those apps. The apps stay open until you manually close them.

This is a bad thing for your phone’s battery and its overall longevity. The more apps running simultaneously, the more things your phone has to do. Not only does this make your phone heat up quickly, but it also makes it more likely that other apps and web pages will load slowly.

Be sure to close any app you aren’t actively using when you are done with it. Depending on your phone’s model, you may be able to do this by swiping up when you go to the app selection screen, or you may be able to tap an “X” icon at the top of each app window. Regardless of your device, closing out of your unused apps is a good habit.

As a bonus, you’ll find that your phone’s battery will have a longer lifespan as soon as you close apps — and remember to shut down your mobile phone at night!

3. Your Screen Is Too Bright

Did you know the brightness of your phone’s screen can directly affect its battery life and how hot it gets?

If you max out your phone screen’s brightness, or if you have a lot of widgets or 3-D wallpapers that beam light out, your phone is actively producing more heat than it normally would. You should be able to tell that your screen brightness is the root cause of your phone overheating by holding it in your palm after turning the screen on.

On the bright side, there's an easy way to fix this problem — turn down your phone's screen brightness and pick a simpler wallpaper without a lot of bright elements. If you find that your phone isn't bright enough to use in darker surroundings, consider turning on adaptive brightness in your phone's settings. This will cause the screen to automatically become brighter and darker as needed based on your environment.

Staring at an overly bright screen for too long isn’t only bad for your phone, it can strain your eyes, which means that turning down your brightness is a win-win. It’s good for your phone and your eyes!

4. Being in a Place With No Signal

Have you ever taken a hike in the wilderness or gone camping only to find that your phone has no cell signal and the battery is getting low? That’s because most phones are programmed or set to continually look for a cell signal when they don’t have one.

If you are in a place with no or low signal, your phone’s battery might deplete quickly, and your phone might heat up as it keeps searching for an elusive cell or radio signal. The only way to solve this is to turn on airplane mode.

When you switch your phone to airplane mode, you’re basically telling it to stop searching for a cell signal or radio tower. Instead, your phone provides all of the regular functions it does when not connected to Wi-Fi.

This can be a tough habit to keep in mind, but it’s an important one if you spend a lot of time in remote areas with spotty cell towers. If you fail to do this, you could find yourself off-the-beaten-path somewhere only to find that your phone doesn’t have enough battery to get you back on the grid.

5. Using Your Phone Outdoors

Using your phone outdoors can also cause your phone to get hot. Nothing warms up your phone faster than being in direct sunlight. You might have noticed this if you’ve ever left your phone on a windowsill or car dashboard with the sun beating down on it. 

To prevent your phone from heating up quickly, consider minimizing your phone use outdoors in high temperatures and avoid leaving it in direct sunlight for extended periods of time. If you have to use your phone outside, do so in a shaded area, or tilt your phone at an angle so that most of your phone’s screen isn’t in the sun’s direct path.

6. Malware Infections

Malware, also called malicious software, can infect your phone from time to time, particularly if you have an Android device

Malware and viruses can cause your phone to overheat by essentially stealing phone resources for various reasons:

  • Forcing pop-ups to appear on your internet browser
  • Stealing data from your phone and its memory
  • Recording your phone usage, such as recording what you tap on, what you type, etc.

Any type of malware or virus has the potential to overheat your phone, even if it’s an iPhone (though it’s rarer to have malware on Apple phones than on the devices of Android users). In any case, your best bet is to install some form of antivirus software on your phone as soon as possible and hope it catches the virus that has infected your device.

You’ll also want to continue to use pop-up blockers or antivirus software as you surf the web. That’s the best way to make sure you don’t get new malware infections later.

7. Software Updates

Even though software updates are supposed to make your phone run better or give it more features, they can also cause your phone to heat up.

Software updates are intensive installations of new software packages from your phone’s primary developer or operating system creator. For example, if you have an iPhone, Apple will regularly send your phone software updates for several years (assuming you’ve purchased a relatively recent handset).

When your phone is plugged in and updating, you may find that it heats up. The CPU runs until the update is done, and your phone’s battery might also be working in overdrive to keep itself charged continually.

Even worse, some software updates can introduce bugs into your phone’s software or operating system, causing more overheating issues. Fortunately, most software updates stop your phone from overheating once they are complete. You can unplug your phone and feel it cool down in your hand.

If your phone doesn’t cool down after a software update, something might have gone wrong. Consider completing a factory reset and reinstalling the software update packages available. Every phone receives regular software updates, but you can’t usually upgrade hardware without some significant effort. As your phone gets older, it receives new apps and software packages that demand more and more of its existing hardware capabilities. In short, your phone has to do more powerful operations with limited hardware, which causes battery drain as it works overtime to keep up. 

8. Your Phone Is Old

Lastly, you might find that your phone overheats more often just because it’s older and it’s time for an upgrade. If that's the case, be sure to try Navi’s Phone Deal Finder below to help you find the best cell phone deals on the latest phones based on your personal needs.

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The Bottom Line

All mobile devices get hot once in a while, but if yours is several years old, overheats on a regular basis, and the tips in this article don’t help, odds are it’s time to start looking for a new phone. Eventually, you may even find that your charger no longer works and your phone gets hot just sitting in its phone case.

If you're ready for a new phone, our Phone Deal Finder can sort through thousands of phone deals in seconds to find you the best cell phone deals for your needs.

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