Cellular networks have transformed the way we’re able to connect with people and information. You can check facts, get directions, or speak to anyone in the world using the device in your pocket without needing any wires. Well, all of that’s true unless your iPhone isn’t connecting to a cellular network.
iPhones and cellular iPads, use cell networks to access the internet, make phone calls, or send text messages. If your iPhone cellular data isn’t working then you won’t be able to get online. If your iPhone cellular network isn’t available then you also won’t be able to make or receive phone calls and text messages. When that happens your iPhone might say Searching or No Service in the status bar.
Either way, we’ve probably got the solution in this post. Read on to find out why your iPhone cellular data isn’t working and what you can do about it.
- 1 How do I get cellular data to work on my iPhone?
- 2 Why is cellular data not working on my iPhone?
- 3 What can I do while cellular data doesn’t work?
- 4 Troubleshooting iPhone cellular network or data problems
- 5 How do I fix cell carrier problems?
- 6 How do I fix iPhone software problems?
- 7 How do I fix iPhone hardware problems?
- iPhone Searching or No Service, how-to fix
- How do I know if my iPhone is unlocked?
- SIM Pin? Here’s what to do if you’re locked out of your SIM card
- iPhone: “Could not activate cellular data network”; fix
How do I get cellular data to work on my iPhone?
Normally, to use cellular data all you need is a working SIM with a data contract or credit in your iPhone. Make sure you haven’t used up your data allowance and turn on the cellular settings for your device at Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data. You can also turn on cellular data using the green button in Control Panel.
You can test whether your cellular data is working or not by turning off Wi-Fi and trying to load a webpage, social media stream, or online video. If nothing loads, follow our troubleshooting steps below to find out how to resolve it.
Why is cellular data not working on my iPhone?
There could be many different reasons why your iPhone cellular data is not working or why your iPhone is not connecting to a cellular network. We can group the potential causes into three categories: problems with your cell carrier, problems with your iPhone software, and problems with your iPhone hardware. We’ve explained how to troubleshoot each of these issues in the guide below.
What can I do while cellular data doesn’t work?
It can be time-consuming to troubleshoot iPhone cellular problems, and while you’re without a cellular network your iPhone, or cellular iPad, can’t get online or make and receive phone calls.
In the meantime, you can still get access to the internet by connecting to Wi-Fi at home or in many public spaces. Of course, you still can’t make or receive phone calls and send or receive texts, but Wi-Fi access will allow you to reach other people using internet services like iMessage, FaceTime, WhatsApp or Messenger.
Troubleshooting iPhone cellular network or data problems
Be sure to test your cellular data again after each step to find out if it’s working. And remember to let us know in the comments which fix works for you!
How do I fix cell carrier problems?
If your iPhone cellular network is not available, it’s possible that the problem lies with your cell carrier. Maybe they’ve got a cell tower down or there could be an issue with your account. Either way, you can find out find by following the steps below.
Check your cell coverage
No cell carrier offers worldwide coverage. If you’re abroad or using your iPhone in a new place, there’s a chance your carrier doesn’t offer service in that location. Visit their website and look for a coverage map to find out.
Of course, if you’ve used your iPhone in this location before without problems then skip this step and move to the next one.
Check your data allowance
For us mortals without unlimited data plans, it’s entirely possible you’ve used up your allowance. Log on to your account with your network provider’s app or website to check your remaining data. If it’s at zero, you’ll either need to pay extra or wait for the next contract month to start.
If you’re surprised at how much data has been used, you can see exactly where it’s been going in your iPhone settings.
- Go to Settings > Cellular.
- Scroll down to the Cellular Data section.
- The Current Period started on the date listed at the very bottom of the page.
- Scroll through the list to see how much cellular data each app, or system service, has used.
- Turn off any apps that are using too much data.
Make sure your device is unlocked
Not all iPhones are created equally. If your device was bought through a cell contract, it could be locked to that particular carrier. That means if you switch providers your new SIM card might not be compatible with your iPhone or cellular iPad.
Check out this post to find out if your iPhone is locked to a network and what you can do about if it is. Usually, you need to call your previous or current cell carrier to have them unlock it, sometimes at a cost.
Contact your carrier
Cell carriers might lock your account if there’s been a delay in payment or if they suspect you of breaking the contract Terms & Conditions. When this happens, you should receive a notification, however, if your iPhone is not connecting to a cellular network it makes sense that you might not get it!
Contact your carrier over their website or social media. Explain the issue to them and ask if they can check your account. You might find out that they’re experiencing widespread issues affecting multiple users. In which case, you should ask when they expect to resolve it.
How do I fix iPhone software problems?
Software issues come in a range of forms and have an equal range of potential solutions. Fortunately, you can usually fix them yourself from the comfort of your home. Follow our troubleshooting steps below to find out exactly what to do.
Toggle your cellular settings
Go to Settings > Cellular on your iPhone and toggle all the following settings on and off, testing your cellular network connection each time. Don’t worry if you find that any of the settings below are missing from your device, sometimes they’re network specific.
Turn off and on the following cellular settings on your iPhone:
- Cellular Data
- Cellular Data Options:
- Voice & Data
- Enable LTE
- Data Roaming
- Network Selection:
- Automatic (manually select your network if possible)
- Cellular Data for the specific apps you’re using
Close every app and restart your iPhone
Have you tried turning it off and on again? This is a classic troubleshooting step for good reason. When done correctly, a device restart, also known as a reboot, can resolve countless software issues.
Begin by swiping up from the bottom of the screen or double-clicking the home button to view your all open apps. Close everything by pushing it up off the screen. Then restart your device by holding the Sleep/Wake button until you’re prompted to slide to power off.
Leave your iPhone powered off for 30–60 seconds before switching it on and testing the cellular network connection again.
If that failed, try a force restart. On iPhone 8 or later, quickly press Volume Up, then Volume Down, then hold the Sleep/Wake button until you see the Apple logo. On iPhone 7 you will need to hold the Sleep/Wake and Volume Down buttons until the device restarts. And on older iPhone models, hold the Sleep/Wake button and the Home button.
Update your carrier settings
Carrier settings should update automatically, but in case your iPhone is lagging behind you can prompt an update yourself. Go to Settings > General > About and leave your iPhone on that page for a minute or so. It will check for Carrier Settings Updates in the background, and prompt you if it finds any.
Update to the latest iOS
iOS is the operating software for your iPhone or cellular iPad. It often picks up small bugs that get patched in new updates. So if you haven’t updated in a while, it could be the reason your iPhone is not connecting to a cellular network properly.
Go to Settings > General > Software Update to check for new updates. Be sure to download and install any that you find. Or if you don’t have Wi-Fi access, connect your iPhone to a computer running iTunes to update instead.
Reset your network settings
You can reset your network settings by going to Settings > Reset > Reset Network Settings. Doing so will delete all your saved Wi-Fi passwords, but it might also fix whatever was making your iPhone cellular network unavailable.
Backup and restore your iPhone
A full software restore will return your iPhone to factory settings and eliminate any chance of software problems. Before doing so, you should make a backup of all your data, otherwise you could lose photos, videos, notes, messages, and anything else that isn’t backed up.
Erase and restore your device by going to Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings. After a moment your iPhone will behave as though it’s fresh out the box, allowing you recover from a backup or set it up as new.
If you’re still experiencing cellular network issues after, try restoring again but don’t recover a backup. If that doesn’t work, you’ve probably got a hardware problem.
How do I fix iPhone hardware problems?
iPhone hardware problems could arise when your iPhone gets wet or is dropped. These accidents are often unavoidable, but sometimes they damage the antenna or other internal components of your device.
Re-insert your SIM card
Use a SIM pin, paperclip, or safety pin to eject the SIM tray on the side of your iPhone. Carefully remove your SIM card and examine it for damage or watermarks. If the SIM card looks damaged, contact your carrier for a replacement.
Take this opportunity to also look inside the SIM tray slot on your iPhone. You’re looking for a small round liquid indicator tab. It should be white, but if it’s come into contact with liquid it will turn pink, orange, or red.
If the tab is discolored there’s a good chance your device is liquid damaged and will need to be replaced.
Book in for a repair
Visit Apple’s Get Support website to speak to their customer advisors and book an appointment for repair. Save time by explaining all the troubleshooting steps you’ve already taken.
Apple authorized technicians can run diagnostics to determine if a hardware fault is the reason your iPhone cellular network is not working. Hopefully, they’ll be able to offer a repair or replacement under warranty.
We hope that helps and your iPhone cellular data is working now. Tell us your stories in the comments so we can share them with other readers!
Dan is a freelance writer based in South West England.
He spent two years supervising repairs as a Genius Admin for Apple Retail and uses that knowledge to keep our troubleshooting guides up-to-date.
Long before that, Dan turned to Apple products from a musical background. Having owned iPods for years, he bought a MacBook to learn sound recording and production. It was using those skills that he gained a first-class Bachelor of Science in Sound Technology.