The Freezing Point of an iPhone


I can be artsy

So it snowed in D.C. on Tuesday. GW cancelled school and Chloe and I made a grocery run while the weather was still reasonable. The snow started around 10 a.m., while we were on our way back from Trader Joe’s, and pretty much kept at it all day. Outside the window, the wind drove the snow horizontally (the Saudi Arabian embassy is across the street, and I’m sure it’s a rare sight to see a Saudi flag flapping in a snowstorm) and periodically you could hear the snowplows rumble by on the highway below.

Concern for fashion drops in conjunction with the temperature

Concern for fashion is directly proportionate to the temperature

Somewhere around 11 that night Chloe had finished studying for the day and we naturally decided that it was time to go play in the snow. Our plan was to make a snowman (cue Disney reference). I had a perfect carrot nose, an ironic trucker hat, and a pair of mirrored Walmart aviators in my pockets. I was also wearing a pair of neoprene scuba gloves, but that’s beside the point (it’s all I have, OK!). Our snowman would have been the coolest on the block (pun not intended, but also not begrudged).

I told her that people generally make snow angels with their face not in the snow

I told her that people generally make snow angels with their face *not* in the snow

Except the snow was too dry and powdery to pack effectively, and our snowman would have taken way too much effort to make. Plus my fingers would have frozen solid in the process. Instead we decided to walk to the National Mall to see the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument in all their dazzling, midnight, snow-laden glory.  Except the walk seems longer when the weather is arctic. By the time we got there we had slipped at least 5 times and as many extremities were threatening frostbite.

I brought along Flat Stanley (for those who don’t know) for what was sure to be an excellent photo op. That is, unless your camera lives in an iPhone like mine does. Because, fun fact, iPhones don’t like the cold. I snapped 7 pictures before mine went into hibernation. I think Chloe got 2. Our photo op ruined and our respective butts and toes frozen, we headed back soon after.

Flat Stanley didn't want to cooperate

Stanley didn’t want to cooperate, nor was he dressed for the occasion

Back in the apartment I googled why my phone died (aside from the obvious). Turns out some Finnish technogeeks (who else?) did a little research on this phenomenon. Phones freezing isn’t something I’ve been overly concerned with in the past, because: (A) I only recently got a smartphone; and (B) I make it a point to live well south of the Arctic Circle. But I imagine it’s a real problem for, like, the Inuit, or, you know, Finns. Anyway, Apple apparently won’t cover damages outside of the 32-95 degrees Fahrenheit range, and our Finnish friends found that the phone broke down at 14 degrees, making it the biggest sissy of all the phones they tested. They tested the 4s, though, and I can tell you that my 5 made it a little longer than Chloe’s 4, but not by much. The temperature was above 14, but the wind chill was below, so I guess phones feel wind chill, too. No harm, no foul, though: they perked right up when we connected them to their chargers.

The fruits of our Finnish friends’ labor

Anyway, moral of the story is don’t take your iPhone out in the snow. That was our arctic adventure and my public service announcement, and I can safely say that I’ve since had enough of the cold. I did manage to get at least one decent picture of Stanley, and a picture without him to prove we were there. We found out afterward that we were either too late or too far away to see the people kite-skiing around the monument (yeah, and yeah), which is, illegality aside, pretty cool.

Look, proof!

Midnight Monument, no kite-skiers in sight