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back to article Apple refuses frozen iPhone repair

Apple has refused to repair an iPhone 4 on the grounds that it was used in an ambient temperature below zero, in breach of the specifications. Norwegian rag Bergens Tidende reports it was -12 outside as Lenin Kristin Løvvik connected her iPhone to the car stereo for the provision of musical accompaniment on the way in to work. …

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-12 ?

It was -15 in Worcestershire in December.

Anyway, I always thought electrical items performed better at lower temperatures or has Mr Jobs re-written the laws of physics?

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Probably condensation

The problem will almost certainly be condensation. If the iPhone was at a sub-zero temperature and was put in a warm car then it's very possible condensation will form internally and that does electronics no good at all. I've known it happen to laptops left in a car boot overnight and turned on in a warm office.

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Welcome

Delivery Notes

I have seen many time on the delivery notes of computers/electricals and small print of paperwork that items should allowed to return to room temperature before use after being delivered, so if that is the cause for once Apple aren't alone in saying so!

I for one welcome our new frostbitten overlord, silencing a few of the iTwats around London won't be a bad thing!

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Common

Amuses me that I've read that you should not unpack and use electronic equipment immediately upon delivery given the risk from condensation. Which kind of conflicts with the advice that you must unpack it straight away and check for damage otherwise the courier will accept no responsibility for any damage.

So if you unpack it and plug it in and the condensation in the PSU blows it up it's your fault, but if you don't unpack it and plug it in and it turns out the screen was damaged by a high G shock in transit then that's your fault too. Damned if you do...

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Condensation - NOT!

Get a grip. The lady is starting out for work in a car that's been parked outside all night, so how on earth is she going to start out at an ambient temp of +20?! If she had some kind of car heater, the air would be bone dry.

Starting out at an ambient temperature of -12 inside the car, the air will be very dry. Also, the device being brought into the car from the woman's pocket or home environment will likely be much warmer. Adding to that, as the environment inside the car gradually warms up, you're actually heating the dry outside air, resulting in a further drop in the relative humidity.

So, from the above plus my own extensive experience in similar environments: condensation is definitely NOT a problem!

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Condensation - NOT!

Nope. The lady is starting out for work in a car that's been parked outside all night, so how on earth is she going to start out at an ambient temp of +20?! Even if she had some kind of car heater, the air would be bone dry.

Starting out at an ambient temperature of -12 inside the car, the air will be very dry. Also, the device being brought into the car from the woman's pocket or home environment will likely be much warmer. Adding to that, as the environment inside the car gradually warms up, you're actually heating the dry outside air, resulting in a further drop in the relative humidity.

So, from the above plus my own extensive experience in similar environments: condensation is definitely NOT a problem!

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Anonymous Coward

@erox

Most condensation in a warming up car would be through human breath.

I think Apple are taking the piss here but condensation is certainly possible.

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Boffin

@erox

Have you never got into a car in Winter then?? As a meat-bag, you are the primary cause of moisture in the air (your breath for example, or bringing in general moisture from the ground - not uncommon in Winter), which will condense on any cold surface. Usually this is the windscreens as they're in touch with the external conditions - it's why you have to stick the heaters full on and aim them at the windscreen. All other cold materials in the car (iPhone) will take the role of condensing your breath.

Also - the only way Apple would be refusing a repair, is if the moisture indicators had been activated (pink things in the earphone socket and 20-pin connector).

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Flame

Are you forgetting?

Scandinavians are used to long, hard winters. Most cars over there are left plugged in to the mains overnight to provide power to engine coolant pre-heaters. When the car is started, the coolant is already warm, so the heater works immediately. Many also have timed internal heaters, so that your car is roasty-toasty inside by the time you unlock it to go to work.

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Condensation - GOT

If the device had been inside the house for long, particularly overnight, the warm, humid air inside it would have released condensation when the lady brought it out to the cold car. Apple ought not to build its products so poorly -- this problem is commonly and easily dealt with in many other electronic products -- but a badly designed device could indeed be susceptible to condensation under the conditions described.

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Cold car in winter anyone?

Indeed, I'm getting into a cold winter car almost daily. Before Xmas we had a period with daily temperatures down to -20, but at the moment we're experiencing a balmy 0. That's in the lowlands. At our family's mountain resort, it's not uncommon to start out with a temp of -30 inside the car (it pains me to hear the cold engine turn over ... ).

And yes, I've never experienced a problem with condensation.

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cold car...

If she is claiming that she didnt connect the phone up until the inside of the car reached 20 degrees she is talking rubbish. When it was -12 last month, the inside of my car didn't ever reach 20 degrees. It peaked at about +3 after about 15 minutes (i have an external AND internal thermometer in my car). I am not surprised that the thing froze, just surprised that she thinks it didn't.

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She would have been better to connect it before

Its own heat would have gone at least some way towards preventing condensate from forming in it. If you are bringing something from -12 into a humid environment you either take the plunge and turn it on straight away so it warms up before condensate forms or you wait until it is properly nice warm and dry..

By the way, it could have died even if she did not "turn it on". There is more than enough "on" bits in an "off" phone to short itself out from condensate after a 30C temperature change. The fact that you cannot chuck the battery out and wait until it warms up (as I have done a couple of times with my Nokia after sub -10C temperatures) does not help either.

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Anonymous Coward

cold car...

Oh, so because your car is incapable of getting higher than +3, then that means that there are no cars in the world that can do that.

Using your logic, based on my sample size of 1, all posters to this forum are stupid.

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Anonymous Coward

Huh?

Your car didn't get above 3 therefore no car can?

D'uh!

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cold car?!

@SuperTim, you must have pretty cruddy heater on your car.

And those of us who live in the Nordic regions actually _expect_ that our things work even in sub-zero temperatures.

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Lousy Heaters

The heater in my old 1999 F1150 will bring the interior to 50F+ in the wilds of Canada and outside temp there was -10F at its lowest. But then I made sure the thermostat was working properly and it had the proper mix of engine coolant. Oh frakkin' sorry ... that's -23c and 10c respectively.

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Then Tim...

...you have shit climate control....or none.

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Coat

@AC cold car...

"Using your logic, based on my sample size of 1, all posters to this forum are stupid."

Since I'm sure that you do not have access to the person you replied to, the 1 person you could test was yourself? Is your post an admission to the world? Is that why it was AC?

Where is the "sticks out tongue and blows a raspberry" icon? Nurse is it time for my meds?

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Sample size of 1

Yes, 1

Yes, i have a crap heater

Yes i did actually know how warm the car was (instead of guessing it was warm because the air coming out of the vents was warm) and even with warm air out of the vents, the dashboard WAS STILL COLD!

If the lady in question was using a vent mouted holder, then the -12 air being blown over the phone at the start may have excaserbated the situation.

BTW Anyone care to tell me how they know how warm the inside of their car is? I am the only person i know with an inside thermometer, and stop banging on about "climate control" like it is standard in every car. most cars still need engine temperature to get the heaters warm, even with A/C, and it take time to get through the heater matrix.

Oh, and bravo to all of you who have the best cars in the world in Canada or Norway. I salute you for happening to be somewhere where it gets very cold on a regular basis. it doesnt drop to -12 in the UK very often.

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@SuperTim

I recently returned from Norway and, while I was there, I was a passenger in a car equipped with both internal and external thermometers -- the readings were 21C and -15C, respectively, on one outing.

Anecdotally, using my own body as a thermometer, I would say that a couple of taxis I took in Oslo while it was -22C (recorded round the corner from where I was) were at least 10C to 12C because I took of my jacket and felt as warm as inside a house recorded at 22C (I'm accounting for me being used to the cold and on a short journey).

So, there you have it, Norwegian cars do get over 3C inside when it's -12C.

On an unrelated note, I'm not sure that condensation is as obvious a cause as it seems -- one thing I noticed when it dropped below -10C was how dry the air was, even inside, meaning that even in a colder car window condensation wasn't as bad as it is in the UK in much higher temperatures.

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Boffin

Re: @SuperTim

"On an unrelated note, I'm not sure that condensation is as obvious a cause as it seems -- one thing I noticed when it dropped below -10C was how dry the air was, even inside, meaning that even in a colder car window condensation wasn't as bad as it is in the UK in much higher temperatures."

In Oslo, the humidity is a lot lower than in the UK, which makes the occasional dip towards -20C quite manageable once you know how to dress properly for the weather. However, it's a Bergen newspaper involved here, and if the woman concerned (Leni Kristin, not Lenin Kristin as the translation would have you believe!) lives on the west coast, I'd expect the humidity situation to be somewhat different.

But yes, just because someone in Britain can't get their car warm doesn't mean that everyone has the same problem. Buses in Oslo have the internal temperature on display, and they manage to get the temperature to levels where the driver doesn't need a full-on polar bear costume in order to drive the bus around town.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: warm cars in the UK

My car also has internal and external temperature readings. I accept they may not be entirely accurate but I suggest they are close enough for an experiment of this type.

Anyway, over December a couple of times I had my car read external temperature of -10C / -11C and the internal ambient temperature reading 23C, within 5-10 minutes of setting off. I grant you that my aluminium gear knob was still almost painfully cold to the touch, but the air temp was toasty.

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Well...

Whilst it's not an exact science I know roughly how warm my car is because a) I can drive in short sleves and without a coat - ergo it's probably more than +18, and b) because the Climate stops blasting air into the car once it reaches the pre-set temp (23 degrees).

I'm trying to remember that last time I sat in a car that refused to warm up (I would notice as I hate wearing a coat whilst driving). Even my old 1978 Fiesta and 1980 Spitfire coped perfectly with winter weather...

Get your car fixed - you may find it more pleasent to use in cold weather :)

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Jobs Halo

Apple is right

You use it AS WE TELL YOU. If you use it on your left hand, warranty is void. If signal drops, its users fault. It its cold, its your fault.

We love your money, not you, undertand?

St. Jobs is always right, and if you dont believe, read the previous line.

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Yes

Yes, yes, well done you. Very witty.

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Boffin

Sounds like condensate

If the description is right, it died from condensation, not from "being frozen". It worked after being brought in from cold when connected and barfed when the car warmed up to 20C. I would not be surprised if the car had the air recycle to on and was nicely steamed up by that time providing the necessary humidity.

There is no need for temperature to drop to -12 for this type of fault (though this helps).

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Silver badge

Check your physics

1: The object brought from the house into a cold car will have been warm

2: Air in a cold car is dry

3: If the temperature of an object is higher than ambient, no condensation forms, even at 100% relative humidity.

4: If you heat up a (cold) car the air becomes dryer.

And even IF condensation forms, electronic circuitry can easily be made robust against that, in particular low-voltage stuff. Actually, just a bit of insulating coating does the trick.

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FAIL

Oh dear, how sad

I was using my Nokia N8 to take photos outside at -28C over Christmas. And then coming inside it fogged up completely on the outside, but never had an issue.

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Hmmm

So if you use it in the rain and the little bit of water sensitive paper gets damp (inside the headphone jack) warranty is void, if you use it outside when it is below 0 warranty is void (which according to my climate data for the Scottish Borders is currently running at 5 months of the year where this is possible) if you use it inside you get reduced signal strength due to walls / metals etc.

This is rapidly reducing the available times you can actually use your iphone!

I wonder how long it will be until it can only be used on certain days of the week?

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Joke

Don't you know?

Most phones put in escape clauses (in molecular print only visible to electron microscopes) that their phones are only guaranteed to work between the hours of 7:55PM and 8:00PM on the last day of any month between January and March, exclusive (and only if the day is odd), during a hailstorm and a lunar eclipse.

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Jobs Horns

Californian conditions

If you aren't operating in Californian temperatures, Californian timezone and hemisphere for alarms etc then you are operating outside the expected operating range and test environment for half of Silicon Valley products.

It's like travelling to a new country and having at least half the Google UI (including on the iPhone) switch to another language because it doesn't recognise any of the parameters for browser or UI language.

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re: Californian conditions

hitmouse sez on 01.11.11 @11:59gmt:

"It's like travelling to a new country and having at least half the Google UI (including on the iPhone) switch to another language because it doesn't recognise any of the parameters for browser or UI language."

You, too, huh?

My wife and I spend a month in Puerto Vallarta every year, and getting connected/using the 'Net has become a real breeze, except for Google's insistence on coming up in Spanish -- even after I click the available link that allegedly serves it up for me in English. It reads my IP address and assumes I must be Mexican. I finally ended up having to nab the CustomizeGoogle add-on that forces it to display in English. Thanks for nothing, Sergey and Larry.

"If you aren't operating in Californian temperatures, Californian timezone and hemisphere for alarms etc then you are operating outside the expected operating range and test environment for half of Silicon Valley products."

Well-lll... yes and no. At least, I'd hope that manufacturers in the SV would have the sense to test their products under adverse conditions, either by creating artificial test environments or by shipping out prototypes to beta testers (or someone like them) who live in sub-optimal environments.

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FAIL

re: Californian conditions

It's off topic , but it makes almost throw up in anger every time a page tries to look smart and changes UI or language display based on location, even though I clearly indicated I want the default homepage. Google is probably one of the biggest offenders, but by no means the only one.

Given that I use a vpn that connects to servers in France and Germany, seemly at random, this is a big annoyance.

FAIL-that's what that behavior is.

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Megaphone

COASTAL Californian conditions

The famously mild climate that Silicon Valley enjoys is limited to a mere strip of California along the coast. Head east over the hills, and you reach the Central Valley, where temperatures over 35C are perfectly normal in summer. Head further east to the Sierras, and -12C is perfectly normal in winter. And you're still in California.

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Anonymous Coward

where's the problem?

... just try the following:

google.com/en gives you english

google.com/de = german

google.com/es = spanish

google.com/nl = netherlands

and it doesn't care what the IP address is.

There isn't much logic in this though, I thought 'be' would return something from Belgium but judging from the type face, it is probably Belarus

and 'uk' give you Ukraine

easy....

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FAIL

Google languages

There are many places where Google will just switch away from such language settings or present URLs with no language parameter whatseoever. I tried to download a Chrome developer build and it kept switching things to French, as it also does with Google Maps, Panoramia, Picasa, Calendar, Blogger and almost every other google service I can think of. Even when I am logged into my Google account with stated language and location preferences that duplicate all my browser and OS settings, it will always try to trump these with IP-based settings. If you're using an iPhone-based web-app then you won't even get a URL to play with - the buttons on the app will just turn to another language, you'll get unreadable EULAs etc.

I've watched people at computer terminals in hotels and airports start weeping with frustration when Google switches languages on them. Some European hotel chains run all their networks from a gateway in the country of their HQ which causes endless frustration. So Google not only doesn't give you your current language, but it's not even working in the language of the country you're physically in.

Lastly, consider the idiocy of localizing every language name in the search Options screen to the current language. This means if you can't find the word for English in another language or alphabet then you're hosed trying to switch back - especially if you're one of the 99% of people who couldn't edit a URL if their life depended on it.

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0-35 degrees?

That's a pretty tight range for usable temperature; I'm pretty sure there are several places where temperatures can range outside both ends of that range in a normal year. Certainly most locations will go outwith one end of that range during the year.

Also, selling a phone in Norway which doesn't work below zero degrees seems grossly negligent; in the UK it's only stupid rather than negligent.

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Boffin

Temp

0-35 is pretty much standard spec for any solid state electronics.

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Jobs Horns

Actually...

...it's pretty much the bare minimum spec for the cheapest and nastiest components you can get these days - you'd have to deliberately go out of your way to produce something with an even lower spec. So given how much the fruity one likes to sell its kit on the basis of superior design and build quality, is it unreasonable for its customers to then assume that said kit is built to at least slightly more than bargain-basement specs?

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er...

Fuck off.

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Anonymous Coward

Quality of components and internal construction maybe suspect.

True, however:

* Apple and their component suppliers may too cheap to adequately waterproof the parts or PCBs, thus condensation becomes a problem.

* Any components containing liquid e.g. Li-ion batteries and any electrolytic capacitors may not work properly when cold, if cheaper components were used.

Apple have been known to use lower quality components in their products!

Any mobile phone should be expected to be exposed to some humidity, condensation, and see a wider range of temperatures than domestic electronics, so should be appropriately temperature cycled and humidity tested as part of the QA testing, especially after any re-work; I bet they didn't do this adequately!

It really takes the P that there are obvious moisture sensors at all, in any mobile phone; IMHO this is a obvious indicator of inadequate industrial design, and thus the device is not fit for purpose!

Industrial design is not just about aesthetics and usability, it is should also be about suitability of a product to the environment it is used in!

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Alert

Brrrrr.

My Desire HD worked just fine at -9 in Manchester over the Christmas break. -11 really is not that cold for northern Europe or anyplace with a continental climate.

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You have to assume the iPhone normally works at -11

On the basis that they've sold millions of them over several years, yet this failure is newsworthy. As far as I'm concerned, the story is that Apple's customer support people are acting like asses.

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@ThomH

Yes - and that WAS the story, at least to my understanding...

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Newsworthy

"As far as I'm concerned, the story is that Apple's customer support people are acting like asses."

That's newsworthy?

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Anonymous Coward

Way to go!

Keep up the good work Apple.. sooner or later your little phone that couldn't will be a smelly heap in the ashes of yesteryear. I don't think even a hundred thousand Android/Symbian/whatever fans could do as much damage to your rep as you do yourselves..

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Yeah yeah

One customer with a problem out of how many sold?

Other manufacturers tell they customers with broken phones to sod off all the time, it's just not newsworthy to report about such companies as people expect that level of abuse from them.

People are buying Apple and expecting a premium level of service, but the reality is that no manufacturer is going to honour a warranty when the phone has been frozen, toasted or washed.

Maybe if you bought a phone off Mclaren and paid a few hundred thousand for it then they would fly an engineer out (like they do with their sports cars).

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Anonymous Coward

@Giles

Yeah, there's only one customer living in a cold country... no need to worry. Besides which, this is publicity damage, not customer damage .. far harder to recover from.

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Coat

Wait...

...I thought iphones were meant to be cool???

Yes, yes...that was truly 'coat-worthy'...i'm going...

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