Some iPhone users may find that cellular data is suddenly not working. The inability to transmit cellular data can seemingly happen spontaneously, and while you can typically still make or receive a phone call when this happens, you just can’t send or receive any data transmission for things like using the web, imessage, social media, or use online apps.
Obviously a cellphone is most useful when it has the capability of connecting to and using a cellular network, so if you’re experiencing an inability to use cellular data you’d be understandably perturbed.
The good news is that the vast majority of cellular data connection problems on an iPhone are easy to fix, and most incidents are just the result of accidentally toggling a setting or two (or someone else accidentally doing so, like a kid fidgeting with a parents iPhone). Let’s jump right to it and troubleshoot non-functioning iPhone cellular data.
Fixing Cellular Data Not Working on iPhone
We’re covering six main tips to get an iPhone cellular data connection working as intended. The first steps are going to apply to most people, particularly if all of a sudden the iPhone doesn’t seem to transmit cellular data.
1: Make Sure iPhone Cellular Data is Enabled
The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure that Cellular Data is enabled on the iPhone. This may sound odd and even annoying as a recommendation, but disabling cellular data or toggling AirPlane Mode on happens more often than you’d think. This is particularly true now with how the Cellular Data toggle is presented in the customizable Control Center of newer iOS releases, where it is fairly easy to hit the toggles and not realize it.
First let’s check Cellular Data:
- Swipe open Control Center on the iPhone
- Check to make sure the Cellular Data button is toggled on (it will be green if enabled)
Don’t be surprised if you open Control Center to discover the cellular data logo is grey rather than green, meaning that cellular data was turned off.
1b: And don’t miss checking AirPlane Mode too…
Wait! While you’re in Control Center you’ll also want to make sure that AirPlane Mode is not enabled. AirPlane Mode will disable all networking capabilities on an iPhone, including cellular data, and so if you have no data access as well as an inability to make or receive phone calls on an iPhone then AirPlane mode is the likely culprit and a good place to look. If AirPlane Mode is enabled, turn it off.
You can also check that Cellular Data is enabled through the iOS Settings app on iPhone, and check that AirPlane Mode is off too.
- Open the Settings app
- Look for “AirPlane Mode” and make sure that switch is OFF
- Next, choose the “Cellular” settings option
- Make sure the switch next to “Cellular Data” is enabled in the ON position
- Optional but recommended, scroll down in the Cellular settings to make sure cellular data is enabled for the app(s) you are using regularly
These two settings are the most common reason why an iPhone is not able to connect to a cellular network, transmit any cellular data, not use any networking, or if you end up with an iPhone that can make and receive phone calls but won’t use data when you’re out and about. So check for AirPlane Mode and Cellular Data settings, for the vast majority of iPhone cellular connection issues one or the other is the reason why.
The optional but recommended step above is also important for not only making sure apps you do want are able to use cellular data, but also apps you may not want. Denying some apps cellular data access can be a way to reduce iPhone cell data usage, but of course you wouldn’t want to turn that access off for apps you do want connecting to the internet.
2: Reset Network Settings & Reboot
Some network related issues can be resolved by resetting iOS network settings and rebooting. The primary downside to this is that you will lose custom network settings (like DNS entries) and wi-fi networks, meaning you’ll have to enter wifi network passwords and any network customizations again.
- Open the Settings app
- Go to “General” and then select “Reset”
- Tap on “Reset Network Settings” and confirm you want to reset the devices network settings
- Leave Settings and now reboot the iPhone
Once the iPhone has booted back up again, open an app like Safari and try to use cellular data again. It should work, assuming cellular data is turned on anyway.
3: Check iPhone for Available Cellular Carrier Updates
Cell network providers will occasionally offer carrier updates, and though it’s unlikely that avoiding these updates would cause a network issue, it won’t hurt to check and install any carrier updates if they’re available.
- Open Settings app and go to “General”
- Select “About”, if a carrier setting update is available a popup on screen will appear and you can install it
4: Update iPhone System Software to the Latest Version
A generic but worthwhile troubleshooting step is to check for an install any iOS system software updates if they’re available for the iPhone. When you update iOS there are various system maintenance tasks performed under the hood, and sometimes that can resolve quirky issues. And it’s good practice to install the latest iOS release on most iPhone models anyway:
- Back up your iPhone to iCloud or to iTunes, or to both
- Open the “Settings” app and go to “General”
- Choose “Software Update” and if you see an update to iOS available, install it
Alway be sure to backup an iPhone before installing any iOS software update.
5: Contact Your Cellular Provider
If you have tried all the trouble shooting steps possible but the iPhone is still not able to connect to a cellular network, you may have an issue with your cellular provider. Maybe the network is down, maybe you forgot to pay the bill, maybe some other issue is preventing your iPhone from joining the cell network.