It was to my surprise how many of us are unaware of the BIG effect the cold has on your smartphone, but after doing some research, even I was shocked to find how sensitive they can be at even "seasonably mild" temperatures for Minnesota winters. A study was conducted by Popular Mechanics in conjunction with Environ Laboratories right here in the metro on how the cold affects phones. Now this study was conducted back in 2009 when smartphones were just starting their rise in the market so the phones used in this experiment were actually the older versions like flip phones. These "older" version of phones handle the colder weather MUCH better than your new smart phones, mostly because of how the smartphones have to be built with the touch screen such a large part of the phone's sensitivity to extreme temperatures. During the study, 5 different types of phones were subject to cold temperatures and the graph below is what they concluded from their study.
But web research leads me to believe that smart phones have a far worse ability to handle the extreme cold. Separate studies completed by the Huffington Post and the Global News in Toronto Canada, show that many smart phones struggle in ANY temperatures below zero. So, that chart above, is even too conservative with some smartphones simply shutting down in even the 5 or 10 below zero range. For I-Phone users, apple says to just put the phone away when the temperatures dips to -4° or colder saying it becomes too unreliable and can actually cause permanent damage to the phone if you are trying to power it up in extreme conditions. There are several malfunctions that can happen to your phone even before it ultimately dies; it may stop sensing your touch, lose battery life 10 times faster than normal, and may not be able to make or receive phone calls. Now, there is NO current study that has actually tested a smartphones capability in extreme cold, other than manufacturer specs, so is no "standard" temperature that phones will start to experience problems. In many cases, results can vary wildly from phone to phone, much like buying a car… one can be a lemon while the same exact vehicle next to it can work perfectly.
In my very broad and unofficial research on the web, there seem to be the most complaints about the IPhone 4S than a lot of other newer smart phones and the least complaints about the Samsung Galaxy S4, but again, your results will vary. So ultimately, just remember that technology advancements are not always a good thing, and the fact that is it technology, so malfunctions can and will occur. The take away message?? ALWAYS be prepared when it's this cold by traveling with plenty of clothes and supplies because you can't rely on your phone to get you out of a jam.