How to Fix Cellular Data Not Working on iPhone and iPad

Fix Cellular Data Ios 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 generalized steps you can take that will fix many cellular-data-not-working bugs on your iPhone.

The Obvious Stuff

Fix Cellular Data Ios Iphone

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 or 12:

Press and hold the volume down button and the side button until you see the “Slide to Power Off” screen. Now drag the slider to power off the phone and then wait 30 seconds before powering back on.

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

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. Like we said, it’s obvious stuff, but it’s good to cover all your bases.

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.

  • 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 be, 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 doesn’t work. If this is the case, 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 can 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 if 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.

Fix Cellular Data Ios Phone Wifi

2. Go to “Settings -> Cellular -> Wi-Fi Calling” and tap on the toggle so that it’s in the off position.

Fix Cellular Data Ios Cellular Wifi

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, go ahead and 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.

Fix Cellular Data Ios Iphone Sim

Follow these steps:

  • Power off your iPhone.
  • Remove the SIM card. (You will need a safety pin or something small to remove the SIM card tray.)
    • On the iPhone 12, the SIM card tray is on the left
    • On the iPhone 11 and earlier, the SIM card tray is on the right
  • Reinsert the SIM card by sliding it back in
  • 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 their defaults. This means resetting your network settings can also fix any Wi-Fi problems.

Fix Cellular Data Ios Reset Network

1. Open the Settings app, tap on the “General” menu option, then scroll down to find the “Reset” menu option.

2. As soon as you open this menu, “Reset Network Settings” will be located in the middle of the screen. You may be prompted to enter your iPhone password to allow any reset to take place.

3. 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.

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, follow these quick steps:

Fix Cellular Data Ios Airplane Mode Iphone12

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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2. 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 here will benefit your connectivity, if not completely resolving 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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2. 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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2. 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, go ahead and 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 geo-restricted 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 Ios Vpn

It might also help to disable the VPN by going into the VPN settings and toggling your app of choice to “off” and 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 will 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.

Fix Cellular Data Ios Settings Icloud

2. 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.

Fix Cellular Data Ios Settings Icloud Tap

3. When the next screen opens, scroll down and look for the “iCloud Backup” option in the section labeled “Apps Using iCloud.” Tap on it, and on the following screen, tap on “Back Up Now” to perform an iCloud backup.

Fix Cellular Data Ios Settings Icloud Backup

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 go ahead and factory reset your device and see if it helps resolve your cellular data issue.

Fix Cellular Data Ios Factory Reset

1. Begin your factory reset by going to your Settings app and tapping on “General.”

2. In the General menu screen, scroll down until you find the “Reset” option and tap on that as well.

3. In the “Reset” menu, look for “Erase All Content and Settings” and tap on it. If you have a passcode on your iPhone, you will be prompted to enter it to verify the factory reset. Wait for your iPhone to start back up. When it does, you have 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. If you choose to go 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 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. If the same issue persists, you can do a factory reset again and restore your most recent iCloud backup to get all of your existing apps and data back.

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 foxes your cellular data issues.

Closing Thoughts

Now that you have fixed the cellular data not working issue on your iPhone, why not tidy things up on your device? A great place to start is with our tips on organizing your iPhone apps. We also have a list of Siri shortcuts that can streamline your phone use.

David David

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

2 comments

  1. Hah! It was the VPN that caused all my problems! Thank you for preventing me from having to do a hard reset!

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