Every smartphone on this planet is run by a small chip called the processor which is responsible for calculating all the system’s bits. They make sure that you get the experience you want. While these calculations generate heat, heating up the CPU and the phone along with it, cooling tech in phones has always been simple. It is only recently companies have started implementing more sophisticated cooling technology in their devices. The new POCO X3 NFC, for example, has new liquid cooling technology to keep the device at stable temperatures. While it indeed does make a difference to the core temperature of a smartphone, is liquid cooling in smartphones required in our current age of devices?
Do we need Liquid Cooling in Smartphones?
Firstly, we need to understand why computer processors mandatorily require cooling fans, while in smartphones cooling tech is an option and not a necessity. The processors used in smaller devices are based on ARM architecture. This consumes less energy and has better heat dissipation. Computations in processors are done by microscopic transistors that switch states. This process generates heat. Considering that a single chip contains billions of these transistors, the heat starts to pile up. To combat this, computer chips use fan cooling since it’s critical for them to stabilize performance and sustain the use of the chip. ARM architecture requires fewer transistors. This obviously means they won’t be as strong as PC chips, but it also means they consume less power and let out lesser heat.
Another point is the compact design which allows for heat to dissipate at a fast rate. Most of the back of the device acts as a heat sink, allowing the chip to cool rapidly. The components used in a phone are heat resistant as well. It won’t exactly harm the device if it runs hot.
What you might need liquid cooling for is an extreme level of performance. Processors in mobile phones have a specific limit that governs how much they can overload the chip. This controls heat generation as well. At the maximum level of procession speed, the device doesn’t allow it to go beyond its limit. In this state, the heat generated is the most. To cool the device, the CPU dynamically switches to lower power states when the workload is easy. When you do CPU intensive tasks like gaming, the device can’t stay at peak processing speed continuously. The heat piled up would fry the chip. So the CPU switches to a lower power state to reduce the heat. The chip ‘throttles-down’ to avoid frying itself. This is precisely why, a lot of times, our gaming experience isn’t super seamless. It chokes here and there, sometimes even turning extremely laggy.
You might’ve noticed that whenever your device starts running extremely hot, the performance starts to drop after a few minutes and the phone might start to hang. A way to combat this would be cooling technology to bring down the heat levels in the processor, allowing it to peak processing speed without having to throttle.
Though currently, it’s more of a trend in the industry rather than for functionality, it may be useful. If manufacturers are trying to provide a perfectly seamless and hang-free experience, especially when gaming or watching media for an extended period of time, then liquid cooling smartphones would be a viable option.
Air cooling is the most common form of cooling technology found in just about every smartphone on the market. Basically, a metal plate is placed in contact with the CPU. The type of metal is based on its heat absorption properties. This metal is then connected to the body of your phone. The metal plate absorbs the heat, which then passes to the body of the phone and naturally dissipates. This is why the back of our phones run hot when we use it for longer periods of time. While this is adequate for most devices now and even in the future, this type of cooling can’t help throttling. Additionally, it has its own limitations when it comes to effectiveness.
Now comes the epitome of cooling technology, liquid cooling. If you want to reduce the amount your device throttles and want a prolonged max-performance state, then this is it. Liquid cooling technology has gotten to a state where we can even over-clock mobile CPUs with this form of cooling. The ASUS ROG phone, which has an overclocked CPU uses this form of cooling. POCO X3 has always been known for using liquid cooling technology. A lot of their flagships phones like the POCO X2 and the newer POCO X3 boast this technology. They can keep the phones up to 6 degrees cooler.
Phones use a thermal heat pipe to distribute the heat and move it away from the CPU. The liquid in the pipes absorb the heat and turn into vapor. This vapor moves to the other end of the pipe, where it condenses since that area is considerably cooler. The heat is, thus, moved away from the CPU. The condensed liquid passes the heat to the body of the device. This helps reduce heat in specific areas and it also does it much faster. But this comes at the cost of a lot of additional hardware.
With devices getting thinner, the smartphone market will probably phase-out of this cooling craze. Although we cannot deny its effectiveness, the form factor will eventually take precedence. All it might take is a single new trend of ultra-slim phones for manufacturers to forget all about liquid cooling. But there might also be a different market for these. As ASUS keeps trying to bring mobile gaming to the forefront with its repeated ROG phones, which are like mini handheld consoles, other companies may follow their lead. As gaming on phones becomes more and more normal, liquid cooling tech might as well.
Otherwise, with phones like LG’s Wing or the Microsoft Surface Duo, where form factor is the main selling point, it may be hard to incorporate additional hardware while trying to prioritize the shape and make of the phone. But if the technology improves, the hardware might become more compact. This will allow more freedom for manufacturers to play around with the form factor. If so, Liquid Cooling Smartphones may be very normal then. We might see a liquid cooling reality where most phones make use of the feature to provide a seamless smartphone experience. Talk about full immersion!