Unlike your computer, your smartphone doesn’t have fans or any other active way to keep itself cool. Instead, to keep them working within acceptable temperatures, smartphone manufacturers count on passive cooling methods and the fact that most people don’t do too many super intensive tasks with their phones.

Most phones also have safety measures built in. If it does start to get hot, your phone might turn off some features—like the camera flash—and limit processing power until things return to normal. That said, it’s still possible for your smartphone to get hot; maybe even too hot. Here’s what to do in some of the most common scenarios where your phone starts to feel very hot.

If The Battery Is Swollen…

If the battery appears to be swelling, cracks are appearing around the edge of the device, or your phone is getting incredibly hot, then there could be a fault with the lithium-ion battery, which has the possibility to catch fire or explode.

RELATED: Why Do Lithium-Ion Batteries Explode?

In short, if you notice a swollen battery:

  • Turn off the phone.
  • Don’t use it or charge it.
  • Contact the manufacturer about a replacement, if it’s under warranty.
  • Dispose of the battery at an authorized recycling center, if it’s time to get rid of the phone.

Swollen batteries are pretty rare, but they do happen. If your phone is merely hot, it probably isn’t a battery issue. But if there’s any appearance of swelling or the phone starts to feel like a hot plate, don’t take any chances.

If the Phone Is Charging…

When you charge your phone, it should generate a small amount of heat. This is just a side effect of the chemical reaction that charges the battery. However, if your phone feels much hotter than normal, there might be an issue with the charger.

Here’s what to do:

  • Unplug your phone and allow it to cool down.
  • Try charging it again with an official (or high-quality third party) charger, or try a different charger than the one you’re using now.
  • If the phone still gets too hot, contact the manufacturer.

If the Phone Is Sitting in the Sun…

The simplest way to get your smartphone to overheat is to leave it sitting out in the sun (or in a car on a hot day). Most smartphones are black chunks of plastic or metal that are very good at absorbing heat. I’ve managed to get my iPhone to overheat on a sunny day in Ireland just by leaving it beside me on a table outside!

Here’s what to do:

  • Turn your phone off and put it in a cooler place.
  • Don’t leave your phone exposed to the sun when you’re outside.

Really, you just need to give the phone time to cool. With the safety mechanisms in place, your phone should shut down and stop you using it before the sun is likely to do any real damage, unless you’re in the Sahara desert or somewhere equally ridiculous.

If the Phone Is Under Heavy Load…

If you’re playing 3D games, editing video, or doing other intensive tasks, it’s totally normal for your phone to get hot. The worst things that are going to happen are your battery life is going to drain really quickly and, if the tasks are too intensive, your phone might slow down to stop itself from overheating.

Every new generation of phone is more powerful than the last. This means new games and apps require more power to use. While they might still officially “run” on older hardware, the older devices might not have the power to run them for extended periods of time without encountering problems.

If you’re constantly hitting problems because your phone can’t run the apps you want it to, you probably need to upgrade.

If You’ve Recently Upgraded…

RELATED: How to Add Names to the "Recognized Faces" List in the iOS 10 Photos App

When you upgrade the software in your phone, especially to a major version, it often has to do a lot of background processing. For example, in iOS 10, Apple added automatic photo tagging to the Photos app. It now recognizes faces and objects.

Every new photo you take is automatically tagged, but what about the thousands of photos already in your Camera Roll? Well, over the few days after you upgraded your phone (when you weren’t using it), that’s when it went through all those all photos and tagged them. Neat, eh? The trouble is that tagging that many photos is processor-intensive experience, so it’s completely normal that your phone would run a little hotter for a few days.

It’s the same with most OS upgrades. For a few days afterwards, background tasks may cause your phone to run hot and use a bit more battery. If things don’t return to normal after a week or so, then there may be a bigger problem, but for the most part, it’s temporary.

While most of the times your phone feels hot, it’s just the CPU working hard, this doesn’t mean you should take chances. If you have any reason to suspect that it’s the battery that’s overheating, don’t take any chances. If you’re in doubt, contact the manufacturer or an authorized repair center.

Image Credit: 2p2play/Shutterstock

Profile Photo for Harry Guinness Harry Guinness
Harry Guinness is a photography expert and writer with nearly a decade of experience. His work has been published in newspapers like The New York Times and on a variety of other websites, from Lifehacker to Popular Science and Medium's OneZero.
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