Americans are totally addicted to their cell phones. According to the 2015 Bank of America Consumer Mobility Report, more than 70 percent of people sleep with their phones either on a nightstand or in their beds with with them. Our smartphones greet us in the morning, with more than 30 percent of Americans claiming they reach for their phones immediately after waking up. This always-on technology is difficult for some folks to step away from.
With so many people using their phones every hour of every day, it’s not surprising that people sometimes charge their phones in bed. However, there are risks to keeping your cell close while you snooze. The year 2016 was full of stories about cell phones catching on fire. Samsung made the news when customers began reporting the Galaxy Note 7 kept overheating or even exploding. Of the 92 reports of batteries overheating, 26 included phones caused burns, and 55 caused property damage.
While news outlets have given the Galaxy Note 7 a lot of airtime because of its issue, other phones also create serious fire risks. In June 2017, the Newton, New Hampshire Fire Department posted a photo of a pillow and bed with singe marks caused by a charging phone. The photo was originally posted by Charlotte Fergie, the mother of a 16-year-old named Chloe. Chloe had been charging her phone under her pillow, against her mother’s wishes, when the battery overheated and almost caught on fire. Luckily, Chloe noticed the singe marks before anything serious happened. Everyone was fine, although we can’t say the same for the pillow case. Both Fergie’s and the Newton Fire Department’s posts were shared thousands of times, in a shared effort to make people aware of the seriousness of charging electronics in bed.
We have physics to thank for the fact that our phones heat up when they charge. One property of physics states that movement generates heat, therefore the movement of electrons through the wires of your charger to your device causes it to warm up. While the generation of heat is unavoidable, some circumstances can make it downright dangerous.
In addition to leaving your phone on a nightstand while charging, there are ways to minimize overheating. Don’t use cheap or off-brand chargers—these are more likely to be lower quality, which raises the risk of a burning battery. Another cause of overheating is working a device too hard. Make sure there aren’t any unnecessary apps running in the background of your phone. Background apps are an extra stress on the hardware and will drain your battery. It’s also a good idea to give your phone a break every so often. Take it easy on your phone, and you shouldn’t have any problems, but no matter what you do, don’t charge the thing when it’s under your pillow.