Why is my phone hot and losing battery? The settings changes to make, and how to know when to call in the experts

It’s probably a sign that your phone is working too hard

an iphone on a coffee table
(Image credit: Future)

A phone getting hot and losing battery are two different symptoms with one cause in common: your phone is working hard. If you want it to cool down and last longer, you should ease up on whatever you’re doing.

Of course, if you’re not doing much, there could be something more serious at play, especially if it happens frequently. In this instance, it’s time to get customer support involved.

But before we get to that point, here are some common intensive activities which could cause your handset to get excessively warm and drain the battery fast, and some iPhone tricks (or whatever handset you have), to help bring the temperature down. 

Possible reasons for phone battery drain

In short, anything that’s especially intensive for the phone can cause the internals to heat up, and drain the battery as they work harder. To make matters worse, extreme temperatures can also lead to problems with phone batteries, meaning you’ll not want to make a habit of letting your handset run hot. 

The two most likely offenders are screen brightness and apps. For the former, it’s very easy to accidentally override the default adaptive brightness and have it set searingly bright all of the time. You might also want to reduce the amount of time it takes for your phone to switch off the screen when not in use.

For apps, intensive games and streaming services are the big offenders in terms of heat generation as they require the mobile GPU for the former and an active internet connection for the latter. 

You can weed out big battery draining offending apps in your phone’s settings however. On iPhone, go to ‘Settings’ > ‘Battery’, and then scroll down to ‘Battery Usage by App’. On Android it varies mildly from manufacturer to manufacturer, but it will be something like Settings > Battery > Battery usage, where you can look for a section with a breakdown of app power hunger.

Once located, you can exit the offending apps. They shouldn’t be causing problems in the background, but some do and sometimes force closing them is the only way. On iPhone swipe up from the bottom of the screen and then flick upwards on the apps you want to close. On Android, go to ‘Settings’ > ‘Apps’ > [App name] > ‘Force stop’.

It’s also worth considering location. If you’re in a rural area with poor phone reception, the handset has to work doubly hard to check in and get signal. There’s not a great deal you can do here, other than relying on WiFi more or changing carriers to a company that offers better coverage.

There are a few other things to consider. Does your phone have a software update available? Overheating and battery drain might be a known issue that’s been patched so it’s worth checking. Additionally if you use a case, it may be worth removing it and seeing if the problem goes away. If it does, you might need something less bulky and more breathable.

As well as these pointers, sometimes a good old fashioned reset can do wonders. If your phone is running hot, turn it off completely, let it cool down and then turn it back on again. Hopefully everything will have returned to normal.

When to get customer support involved

If none of the above seem to help, or your phone is getting hot and losing battery even without any heavy-duty use, it’s likely time to get the manufacturer involved. Get in touch with them or your carrier and see what they can do for you, if you’re still under warranty.

Even if you’re not, it could just be that your battery is no longer holding a charge like it used to, and that can usually be replaced with a fee (it’s a service that Apple offers online and in its stores, for example).

If you’re on an older handset, it may make more sense to upgrade to a new model at this point. Be sure to check out reviews to ensure that your next model performs well without warming up too much!

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. He often writes for T3 and Tom's Guide. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.