Cellular data, mobile data, whatever you want to call it, is one of those things that only becomes a life necessity once you acquire your first smartphone. It’s only when you lose connectivity that you realize you don’t know how to get anywhere without Google Maps, don’t have anything to read without Flipboard, and don’t know how to communicate with people through any medium other than WhatsApp.
When mobile data stops working on Android, it’s world-shattering, in other words. Here are some tips on how to get it back.
Clear Phone Cache from Recovery
On your phone, there’s a fair portion of your device’s memory dedicated to the cache – where data for various apps and processes is stored “on the backburner”, activating automatically so that these apps and processes boot up more quickly on your device.
But sometimes, as reported by certain Galaxy S10 and other Android users, errors can occur in the cache which lead crucial processes – in this case your data connection – to stop working. To fix this, you need to clear the system cache partition, which is accessed from your phone’s recovery screen (XDA Developers has a handy list of how to boot to recovery from different Android devices).
Once you’re in recovery, use the volume buttons on your phone to select “wipe cache partition” or “wipe cache”, then select the option using the power button.
The process should only take a few seconds. Once it’s done, reboot your phone.
Reset Your Phone’s Network Connection
A simple and powerful fix for data not working on your Android device is to enter an SCRTN (Special Code to Reset the Network). Note that this fix will only work for phones using CDMA networks. In the US as of 2019, these networks are Sprint, Verizon and US Cellular.
Assuming you’re with a CDMA network, go to your phone dial pad and enter the following code, depending on your device:
- Google Pixel, Moto G4: *#*#72786#*#*
- Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Moto G5: #*#*72786#*#*
- Other Android phones: ##72786#
Note that phone carriers are slowly trying to phase out CDMA networks as they seek to move wholly onto the faster, more recent LTE standard, so this particular fix may not exist for that much longer.
Enable the Right Network Mode
Starting with the simplest solution, it’s possible that during an update, or simply in the phone’s default settings, the network mode (3G, 4G, etc.) of your phone is set to one that doesn’t offer optimal coverage.
If you have a 4G phone, for example, you should always make sure 4G is selected in your network modes to catch those sweet 4G rays. Or if your phone isn’t 4G but you’re running on an OS that features it as a network mode (by rooting, for example), your phone may be trying to connect to 4G signals that it’s not capable of.
Changing this is simple. Go to “Settings -> Mobile data -> Network mode,” then switch to the one that best suits your phone. As my phone is a 4G, I go for 2G/3G/4G Auto so that it always tries to connect to the best signal available.
Remove and Re-Insert Your SIM Card
Some will scoff at the very mention of suggestions like “reboot your phone” and “remove and reinsert your SIM card,” but these should always be the first port of call when trying to fix mobile data issues. Another option is to test your phone with another SIM card to see if the issue originates in the phone or the card.
There’s also an extra little trick to rebooting your phone that could help:
- Before rebooting, turn on Airplane Mode
- Wait for 30 seconds, then turn Airplane Mode off
- If you still don’t have data, turn airplane mode back on, turn your phone off, wait for a minute, turn your phone back on, turn airplane mode off, wait for thirty seconds, then turn mobile data on.
If this fails, then try the following fixes.
Reset Your APNs
Access Point Names (APNs) are the means by which your mobile network provider connects your phone to the mobile Internet. It sets your phone up with all the crucial settings like IP addresses and gateways to (hopefully) get you connected. However, this process can sometimes go wrong and require a reset. The following shows how to do it.
1. Go to “Settings -> Mobile Data/Wireless Controls/Wireless & Networks.”
2. Tap “Mobile Networks -> Access point names.”
3. You should see a list of APNs (potentially with only one network on them). Tap the menu icon at the top-right, then “Reset to default.”
Set APN Protocol to iPv4/IPv6
This option doesn’t exist in the APN settings of all phones, but some devices (like the OnePlus 3) give you the option of leaving the APN Protocol field blank. If that’s the case in your network’s APN settings, make sure it says IPv4/IPv6 instead. Likewise, with other devices make sure it says this rather than just one of the two.
Enter Your APN Settings Manually
It’s a sad but not uncommon occurrence for your APN settings to get out of whack after an Android software update, and if a standard reset doesn’t fix the problem, then you may need to enter your APN address manually.
1. Go to your APN list using the method in the previous tip.
2. Tap the “+” icon or the three-dot menu button, then “New APN.”
4. Save your new APN settings, then select them from the APN list on your device.
Do You Have a Mobile Data Limit?
Every Android phone lets you set your own mobile data limits and warnings for when you’re about to reach your limit. These aren’t usually switched on by default, but maybe you set a limit previously, have since upgraded your tariff, and have forgotten to update your mobile data limit accordingly. To check this:
1. Go to “Settings -> Mobile Data/Data Usage” (depending on your device).
2. You’ll see a graph showing your data usage along with a whole bunch of settings. Make sure your data limits in the graph correspond with what your network allows by dragging the limit up or down in the graph.
3. Alternatively, you can turn off all data limits by unticking the “Limit mobile data usage” box.
There it is — the key to getting you back online just when you thought you’d have to start resorting to paper maps and pigeon mail to communicate with people.
Of course, it’d be ideal if there was a universal, single fix for issues with your mobile data, but the tech world just isn’t that simple anymore. If you’ve tried all the above but you still can’t connect, then you should contact your mobile provider for a new SIM card.
This article was published in October 2016 and was updated in November 2019.