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Arctic Challenge: Cold-Weather Testing the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+

If you’ve been keeping up with the Wanderful world, you may have seen our founder and CEO, Beth Santos, trekking through Oregon as part of the Corning® Gorilla® Glass 4 team. Their purpose was to capture the beauty of the region with Samsung Galaxy S6 devices, while simultaneously testing the durability of the Gorilla Glass 4 cover glass.

Spoiler alert: The Gorilla Glass 4 did great, surviving drops in the desert and Beth’s first UTV ride, proving its mettle in temperate climes.

But what about in harsher conditions? Like, say, the Canadian Arctic?

To answer that question, Wanderful teamed up with Corning to bring a Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ to my neck of the woods…or, would-be woods, if we had any trees.

I live in Iqaluit, Nunavut (population: 7,700), a remote community in Canada’s newest and largest territory. Located just below the Arctic Circle, we are well beyond the tree line and experience temperatures below freezing 9 out of 12 months of the year. And by below freezing, I mean just last week it felt like -50F outside.

I used the Samsung phone while shooting on location in Igloolik, Nunavut (population: 2,500) with photographer Mark Aspland. I chose this week because I would be spending long hours outdoors in a scenic place — perfect for photos and cold-weather testing. I also brought the device out with me on a few adventures in Iqaluit, including my first snowmobile ride of the season.

There are certain particularities to using electronics in extreme cold weather — I’ve focused on them in this review. I will quickly add here that the camera on this phone is fantastic, as noted and demonstrated beautifully by Beth, and all the photos in this post, aside from the header, were shot with the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+.

Check out my Instagram page for more photos.

Tough Drops

There are a few particulars of subzero temperatures that have an effect on the resilience of mobile phones. First, extreme cold weather affects the molecular structure of most materials, making them more brittle and therefore more susceptible to breaking or shattering.

Add to that the fact that in very cold temperatures, humans tend to wear big, bulky jackets with pockets and thick gloves to protect their paws. What this means is

  1. We Arctic dwellers tend to stuff our goods in parka pockets.
  2. We handle those items with not-so-dexterous mitted digits.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a smartphone fall out of an unzipped pocket or from numb fingers. And not always, but sometimes, those frozen phones hitting the frozen ground don’t fare too well in the resilience department.

I am happy to report, however, that the Gorilla Glass 4 has so far held up its claim to dramatically improve protection against drops. Just two days ago, I witnessed my Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ slipping from an unintentionally open pocket, falling three feet to the cold, hard gravel that wraps around the Iqaluit Airport.

Barring some sheepish looks and apologies, both the phone and its clumsy owner walked away unscathed. The latter quickly tucked the device into a deeper pouch, which was ceremoniously sealed. Not bad for glass molecules with brittle bonds under fracture stress!

Touchscreen Sensitivity

As stated above, a sartorial staple of freezing climes is a nice warm pair of mitts or gloves. This, of course, can reduce one’s ability to use the hallmark feature of a smartphone: the touchscreen. The cold also reduces conductivity in general — which is how non-capacitive touchscreen devices work — meaning sending Snapchats at negative temperatures is no easy feat (I still do it, though; add me for icy snaps by username an00ba).

In an attempt to retain full functioning of my fingers and my screen, I have tried and tested a variety of smart-glove/smartphone combinations. And you know what? The Gorilla Glass 4 screen is by far the most responsive to my cloth-wrapped touch, even at very, very cold temperatures.

In the below photo I’m wearing a pair of tech gloves that I had all about given up on because they just did not work with my other phone. But with the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+, I was able to type and swipe away. (As an aside, if you want amazing digigloves, get these.)

Samsung-Galaxy-S6-edge+

Image from my Snapchat: anOOba.

Battery Life

So you get it by now, right? Cold + electricity = bad.

Some of the best examples of this fact come from cell phone batteries. How many times have I tried to capture the tundra with a camera phone, only to have the device shut down within seconds of exposure to the cold? How often have I attempted to nurse a dead battery back to life by placing cold metal to my skin, hoping that the dissipating heat from my shivering body would give the components just enough warmth to reboot? I’ve taken to plugging my phone into a massive external battery, to keep its internal circuit working. That works, but it more than doubles my tech weight and space needs.

Now, this is not a review of the phone’s battery life overall, but merely its performance in cold weather. Anecdotally, I had the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ with me outside for up to two hours, and I never once had to plug the phone into my battery pack. I was impressed.

Cold-Weather Approved

Samsung’s Galaxy S6 phones are well-known for being durable and sturdy, thanks to the use of Gorilla Glass 4 in the product line. Now, Samsung and Corning can add extreme cold-weather functionality to the reasons why Gorilla Glass 4 makes the toughest cover glass yet — even in one of the harshest climates on Earth.

Have you tried to use your mobile phone in extreme cold weather? Let me know how it fared and what tricks you use to keep your tech on track in the comments!

Featured image by Mark Aspland.

Anubha Momin
Anubha is the creator of Finding True North, an award-winning blog about life in Iqaluit, Nunavut, a remote town of 8,000 people in the Canadian Arctic, where she lived for the last four and a half years. Since she started Finding True North, which garners 10,000+ unique visitors per month, Anubha has transitioned from writing to film and television jobs, working on- and off-screen on various projects with The CBC, VICE, and Netflix. Anubha's words and photos have appeared in VICE, The Huffington Post, The CBC, Canadian Geographic, Up Here Magazine, Briarpatch, Chatelaine, and more. She was named one of 50 Outstanding Canadians by the Huffington Post in 2016, joined The Walrus Talks national tour as a speaker this year, and is a member of the Polaris Prize Jury. Anubha currently works as an Associate Producer at VICE.

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5 Comments

  1. Such a great post and AWESOME pictures!! Glad to hear it survived!

  2. Happy to see ur post.. I used my iPhone 6 in China, -23C and it died in just a few minutes. But my friend’s iPhone 6 did not have a problem. Her Samsung smart phone worked really well tho..
    I hope to hear from this thread soon on what phone to get this year. Thanks

  3. I have Galaxy S4, as does my son, and once the temps fall below freezing, our phones will sit down and restart, continuously until the battery is dead. It happens even quicker if there is a wind blowing. I emailed Samsung about the problem and they told me their phones have a range from 32 to 120 degrees. It really sucks when you’re skiing or snowshoeingand want to take a picture. ….God forbid we would be stranded and need or phone in the winter. …totally disappointed.

  4. This is a great article! I’ve been noticing that my iPhone actually turns off when it gets too cold! I live in Ottawa which isn’t even the coldest place in our country! It’s such a pain because I’ll be checking my phone for a bus, or texting someone and it just shuts off without warning! The only way to turn it back on is to find someplace warm and wait for it to start back up again.
    Looks like ill be switching to Android!

  5. I am unhappy to report the my Galaxy Note 4 turned off repeatedly on boot up in only minus 2 celcius. Very poor performance for anyone wanting to take snow pix. Yesterday in 0 celcius I had no problems. Today….ugh.

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