How to Fix Cellular Data Not Working on iPhone and iPad

There are a few general steps you can take to fix "cellular data not working" bugs on your iPhone.

Fix Cellular Data Featured

Sometimes your cellular data will stop working on your iPhone or iPad. Assuming you are not just in a poor coverage area, there are a few general steps you can take that will fix many “cellular data not working” bugs on your iPhone.

The Obvious Stuff

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If you contact the Genius Bar or your cell carrier regarding your troubles, the first thing you’ll hear is, “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” Restarting is troubleshooting 101 because it works so well, so make sure you give it a shot first.

Restart iPhone X, 11, 12 or 13

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Press and hold the volume down and side buttons until you see the “Slide to Power Off” screen. Drag the slider to power off the phone and wait 30 seconds before powering back on. This is true for every iPhone since the iPhone X and above.

Restart iPhone SE (2nd gen), 8, 7, or 6

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Press and hold the power button on the right side until the “Slide to Power Off” screen appears. Drag the slider to the right, then wait 30 seconds before powering the device back on.

Also, go to “Settings -> Cellular” and make sure your cellular data is switched on. Again, it’s obvious stuff, but it’s good to cover all your bases.

Restart iPad Air, Pro and Mini 6

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Press and hold either the up or down volume button along with the top button until you see the “Power Off” Slider appear. Drag the slider, wait at least 30 seconds, then turn it back on. You will know the iPad is turning on once you see the Apple logo appear on the screen.

Restart iPads with Home Button

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Press and hold the top button until you see the “Power Off” slider appear. As with the steps above, drag the slider so the iPad turns off and wait 30 seconds to one minute before powering the device back on. Press and hold the top button until you see the Apple logo appear to know the iPad is turning back on.

Isolating the Problem

If you’re taking matters into your own hands, it’s important to establish that your data connection is definitely the source of your issues. Note that all of the steps below generally apply to all recent iOS and iPadOS updates.

  • Look at the top-left corner of your screen. If you don’t see the familiar 4G/LTE or 5G icons appearing where they should, then your mobile data isn’t working (which could be related to your location or an internal problem on your device). Sometimes the 4G or 5G logo can appear, but your data still won’t work. If this happens, read on for our list of fixes.
  • If it’s only a specific app, like Safari or WhatsApp, not connecting to the Internet, you could try reinstalling the app. With Safari, we actually have a list of fixes for Safari not working, which could help you. Your data connection won’t have an effect on individual apps but your device as a whole, so this list may no be that much help to you.
  • Make sure there is no carrier outage in your area. While infrequent, they can occur, especially during times of bad weather. Check your carrier’s social media pages, or downdetector, to learn whether there are any outages in your area.

1. Turn Off Wi-Fi Calling

Wi-Fi calling is a great feature, automatically switching a regular phone call to a Wi-Fi network if your phone detects that you can get a better signal that way.

That said, in some cases, Wi-Fi calling can interfere with a cellular connection. As a quick fix, try switching off Wi-Fi calling if you’re on a cellular connection already. You can do this one of two ways:

  1. Go to “Settings -> Phone -> Wi-Fi Calling,” then tap the slider for Wi-Fi calling so that it’s grey.
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  1. Go to “Settings -> Cellular -> Wi-Fi Calling,” and tap on the toggle so that it’s in the off position.
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Using either of these methods, see if disabling Wi-Fi calling is the solution to any of your cellular troubles. If it doesn’t help, turn Wi-Fi calling back on and move through the next step on this list.

2. Reinsert SIM Card

One of the first things you should try is removing and reinserting your SIM card. While it’s unlikely the card got dirty or dusty while in your phone, reinserting forces your phone to re-read the card and can jolt your cellular data back to life.

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Follow these steps:

  1. Power off your iPhone.
  2. Remove the SIM card. (You will need a safety pin or something small to remove the SIM card tray.)
    • On the iPhone 12 and 13 models, the SIM card tray is on the left.
    • On the iPhone 11 and earlier, the SIM card tray is on the right.
  3. Reinsert the SIM card by sliding it back in.
  4. Power your phone back on.

3. Reset Network Settings

If cellular data stubbornly refuses to cooperate, we may need to reset the network settings completely. This will wipe out any saved Wi-Fi networks while resetting your cellular data settings to the defaults. This means resetting your network settings can also fix any Wi-Fi problems.

  1. Open the Settings app, tap on the “General” menu option, then scroll down to find the “Reset” menu option.
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  1. As soon as you open this menu, “Transfer or Reset” will be located toward the bottom of the screen, assuming you are on iOS 15. You may be prompted to enter your iPhone password to allow any reset to take place.
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  1. To start the reset, tap “Reset Network Settings” so that the iPhone can restart. After the restart, all of your network settings will be reset. You can try cellular data again to see if the problem has been resolved.
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4. Toggle Airplane Mode

If, for some reason, your iPhone or iPad has gotten confused, toggling cellular data on and off can “reset” the connection and solve the problem. You can quickly do this one of two ways, depending on which iPhone model you have. For iPhone owners with the iPhone X or later using iOS 15, follow these quick steps:

Fix Cellular Data Airplane Mode
  1. Open Control Center on your iPhone by swiping down from the top-right corner of your screen.
  2. Locate the “airplane” icon and toggle it on. Leave it on for a few seconds, then toggle it off. Wait and see whether your cellular data resets and returns.

For users of the iPhone SE, iPhone 8 or earlier and iPod Touch, follow these directions:

  1. Start by swiping up from the bottom edge of the screen to bring up Control Center.
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  1. Press the “Airplane mode” icon and wait a few moments for the iPhone radios to turn off. Tap the airplane icon again to disable Airplane Mode and wait for your device to reconnect to cellular data.
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5. Check for Carrier Updates

If you’re suffering from a genuine bug, you may find relief in a carrier update. These are issued infrequently, but you’ll need to be on the latest version to troubleshoot properly. There is a good chance that an update will benefit your connectivity, if not completely resolve any recent network issues.

  1. Open the Settings app and go to “General -> About,” then scroll down and tap the “General” menu option.
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  1. Tap the “About” menu option and wait to see whether you receive a pop-up titled “Carrier Settings Update.” If you do, tap on “Update” and wait for the update to take place.
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6. Check for iOS Updates

If there’s no carrier update, there might be an updated version of iOS. We can check for that in roughly the same place. Many cellular issues can also be resolved via a software update. Apple works closely with its carrier partners to identify network connection issues, and you often see these fixes appearing in new iOS software update notes.

  1. Open the Settings app, scroll down and tap the “General” menu option.
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  1. Under “General,” tap “Software Update.”
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If an update is available, install the update. Your phone will restart during this process. Once the device restarts, see if your network connection issue is resolved. If not, keep working through the rest of the steps on this list.

7. Turn Off VPN

If you are using or are subscribed to a VPN on your iPhone, in some rare cases, it can also block your cellular signal from connecting. Having a VPN can be used for things like staying safe on public Wi-Fi or bypassing geographical viewing restrictions. Should you find that you are having trouble connecting to your cellular signal, disable your VPN temporarily and see if that helps resolve the connection issue.

Fix Cellular Data Vpn Management

It might also help to disable the VPN by going into the VPN settings and toggling your app of choice to “off,” then doing a forced restart. With the forced restart, you can be sure that you are completely disconnected. Now see if the cellular signal returns, and if not, continue to the next step.

8. Perform an iCloud Backup and Factory Reset

For the most stubborn problems, sometimes you need to start from the very beginning. In this case, which is admittedly the most drastic and should be your last resort, you can restore your device to factory settings. Before undertaking any such action, you will want to make sure your iPhone is backed up.

iCloud Backup

  1. Open the Settings app, and if you are on a recent iOS update, you should see your iCloud menu at the very top of the menu. Tap on your name.
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  1. Look for the “iCloud” option, which should be right underneath the first set of menu settings for your name, password, etc. When you locate this setting, tap on it.
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  1. When the next screen opens, scroll down and look for the “iCloud Backup” option. Tap on it so you jump to the next screen.
Fix Cellular Data Icloud Backup
  1. Tap on “Back Up Now” to perform an iCloud backup.
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Factory Reset

With your iCloud backup done, that means all of your most important data like apps, contacts, calendar, etc. are backed up. You can factory reset your device to see whether it helps resolve your cellular data issue.

  1. Begin your factory reset by going to your Settings app and tapping on “General.”
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  1. In the General menu screen, scroll down until you find the “Transfer or Reset iPhone” option and tap on that as well.
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  1. In the “Reset” menu, make sure you are on a screen that says “Erase This iPhone.” To confirm the reset, press “Continue” and wait for your iPhone to start back up. When it does, you should choose from one of two options:
  • Restore your device with the iCloud backup. That will ensure that your device will look and feel exactly as it did before your factory reset. The caveat here is that by doing so, you may not have removed whatever app or software issue is the root cause of your cellular connection trouble. However, by going this route, you won’t have to reinstall everything, reenter usernames and passwords on your apps, etc.
  • You can also restore your iPhone to a “like new” state. This option, while more tedious due to the need to manually restore all of your previous apps and data, may have the benefit of removing any app or service that was causing your cellular data to not connect properly.

9. Ask Apple for Help

Fix Cellular Data Ios Apple Store

The absolute final step should none of the above work is to reach out to Apple. Whether it’s a phone call or a genius bar appointment in the store, explaining your issue to Apple may be your last resort. The issue with your cellular data may be a hardware issue and not software, meaning none of the above steps will help. Apple can help replace your device if it’s still under warranty or provide you with some options for upgrading (so can your carrier) to see if that fixes your cellular data issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Should you contact your wireless provider before contacting Apple?

Sure. It’s good to know if the problem is as simple as an outage or issue in your area. They can also assist you in making sure you have the right cellular settings enabled should something get changed. If they are unable to help, they will send you on to Apple for additional assistance.

2. Will similar problems exist on an Android device?

Absolutely! Cellular connectivity issues are by no means exclusive to Apple. As indicated in a few of the steps above, some of the issues that could be causing your signal issue may not be related to Apple at all. It could be an app that is interfering, a bad carrier settings update, etc. Android devices have a similar set of steps to go through should you need to troubleshoot connectivity.

3. What happens if I see “No Service” or “Searching”?

These are fairly common messages that can indicate there is an issue with your cellular connection. Should one of these pop up, as opposed to not being able to make calls, load a website, etc. you should follow the same steps as above. Separately, you should also ensure you are in a proper coverage area for your carrier or whether you need to work with them to ensure roaming is set up on your account.

David Joz
David Joz

David is a freelance tech writer with over 15 years of experience in the tech industry. He loves all things Nintendo.

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