iPhone Bug: Can't connect to cellular data network

If you've ever picked up your iPhone, seen 4 or 5 bars, then tried to go on the web or check mail only to get the popup "Can't connect to cellular data network" you've been bitten by this bug.

Sometimes the cell network really is down but sometimes it isn't and that's what makes this such a frustrating issue to trouble shoot. Details after the break.

Data and voice are separate services on your iPhone so you might easily be able to make phone calls and send/receive SMS but when it comes to using anything like Safari, Mail, or apps that need the internet -- you're dead. (And seeing those full bars and being dead is especially frustrating, like when you're Wi-Fi router is working but your internet connection is down!)


This one is easy!

  • You can't access the internet: no Safari, no Mail, etc.


Here's how you can try and fix it, least painful methods first:

  • Check to see if your carrier is having a data outage. If so, wait until it's resolved. (Carriers will often lie, so check TiPb, Twitter, etc. and see if anyone else is complaining about an outage.)

If you're sure it's not your carrier:

  • Tap Settings, toggle Airplane Mode off, wait 5 seconds, toggle it back on
  • Do a soft reset
  • Do a hard reset
  • Tap Settings, tap General, scroll down to Reset, tap Reset Network Settings (you'll have to re-enter all Wi-Fi passwords, etc. after this)

Reset Network Settings

Also frustrating is that this problem can be temporary -- carrier outage, too many people on the tower, error on your iPhone -- and it can fix itself on its own after a little while. It can also be a problem on your iPhone that doesn't fix itself and drives you crazy. Those are the fixes we've tried, if you're experiencing the problem let us know, and let us know what fixes have worked for you!

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.