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Why Does My Phone Say No Service? 7 Tips for Troubleshooting

a hand holding a phone with a red x on the screen

While using your cell phone to call someone may not be the preferred method of contact these days, there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to make an important phone call only to learn that your phone has no signal.

Today’s cellular networks are more robust and expansive than ever, giving people worldwide access to consistent talk, text messages, and data on their smartphones. So when you have signal issues, the question is why? It could be the cell tower or a coverage area problem. It could also be time for a new phone, and if that’s the case, our free, unbiased Phone Deal Finder can show you the best deals on the right phone based on your needs. If you think it’s a coverage issue with your current wireless provider, our Plan Finder can help you compare plans from other carriers.

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In this article, we’ll go over why your phone might be saying no signal and provide troubleshooting tips to free yourself of this annoying type of outage and service issue.

Why Don’t I Have Cellular Service?

There are a variety of reasons that your phone might not be able to make a network connection. In order to find the right fix, you need to understand what is wrong in the first place. Here are some common causes of signal strength issues.

You Are in a Dead Zone

One possible reason for no service is that you could be in a cellular data or Wi-Fi network dead zone. While big cell carriers have spent a lot of money on infrastructure over the past decade on cell towers and technology to improve coverage areas, there will always be gaps in coverage at one point or another. 

Thankfully, most network providers in the United States have free domestic data roaming options that let you tell your phone to automatically switch to whatever network is active if your native carrier is not working in that region. 

However, there are rural parts of the country where no wireless carrier has an established cellular presence. Whether the reason for this is lower population (a matter of supply and demand) or issues with the terrain, the result can be limited or no service. This is often the case in mountainous areas where it is not possible to get network coverage. 

If you are in a dead zone, the only real way to get a connection is to leave the dead zone, which is an important thing to keep in mind.

SIM Card Malfunction

The tech behind both iOS and Android phones has evolved a lot over the last 20 years, but SIM cards have been a constant. SIM cards are the hardware that your phone uses to interface with your mobile carrier.

Your SIM card stores your personal information, such as your phone number, and it allows you to connect with the mobile network you are paying for. In older phones, this was always a physical card. And if the SIM card was not properly inserted, it might cause you to lose your network connection.

These days, SIM cards are typically integrated into the phone in a way that makes them impossible to remove. In this case, there may be a hardware or software error causing the SIM card to malfunction. 

Your Battery Is Low

When you let your phone battery drain too low, all sorts of problems can occur. You might find your phone slowing down or even losing connection to the internet entirely. Modern smartphones allocate energy as best they can to the components that need it, and if energy is low, it is not uncommon for network connection to be an early casualty. 

Software Glitch

Sometimes, at the end of the day, it is just a glitch in your system that is causing your phone’s connection problems. Multiple reported glitches in both Android and Apple phones can cause your phone to go offline entirely.

These glitches sometimes come as a result of new software updates or changes. Alternatively, a hardware issue could conflict with the software you are running. Regardless of the problem, simple glitches in your system are common reasons for your phone to lose service and cause network connection issues.

How Do I Fix No Service? Troubleshooting Tips

Luckily, no service issues are usually pretty routine and easy to resolve. Often, you can fix your network connection with a few simple steps and a little bit of patience.

1. Turn the Phone Off and On

As with many other forms of technology, sometimes the best thing to do is just turn the device off and on again. We have our phones undergo a lot of complex processes, often simultaneously.

As a result, phones need to keep up with a lot of temporarily stored data. The longer we keep our phone on without resetting it, the more this data piles up. 

Sometimes, issues with this temporary data can cause our phone to malfunction, so hitting the power button for a quick reboot can do the trick. More often than not, giving your phone the chance to reset in this way is an effective method for fixing software issues like failed network connections.

You can also try to reset network settings on the phone, which will set your phone back to the default cellular data options and mobile network settings.

2. Turn Airplane Mode On and Off

This serves the same purpose as just pushing the power button, but specifically resets your network connection. The purpose of airplane mode is to prevent outside signals from reaching your phone and thus cut off your phone from sending any signals as well.

When you turn on airplane mode, it turns off your network and mobile data capabilities, allowing it to reset fully. Sometimes your phone’s network and cellular settings just need the opportunity to restart their connections in order to start working again. 

3. Check Your SIM Card

If your phone is experiencing a SIM card malfunction, you can remove the SIM card and reinsert it to make sure it is properly installed. This is possible on older phones and some new models that have retained the same removable SIM card.

If you have a more modern phone with a new SIM card that cannot be removed, sometimes you can manually select your carrier via your SIM card virtually. Smartphones often have a settings tab where you can select your carrier. If you have data roaming on, this will usually be set to auto-select. You can try resetting this by having your SIM card specifically access your carrier. 

4. Reset to Factory Settings

Sometimes the only way to fix no-service issues is to reset your cell phone to factory settings altogether. This completely wipes your phone of all personal data, including photos, passwords, and apps. On the other hand, it will also remove any software glitches that came up while you had the phone. Essentially, it’s a fresh start for your iPhone or Android device.

Before you do this, it is important to back up your data. Most phones and carriers have cloud storage options that let you instantly restore the mobile data on your phone after you do the reset.

This is usually a last resort, as it can take hours for the process to be completed depending on your phone and how much data you had to begin with. 

All phones will work differently, but they all have the option to do a factory reset in the phone’s settings tab. The phone will usually confirm that you are ready to erase everything on your phone to make sure you do not accidentally select this option.

5. Water Damage or Physical Damage

Could the problem be water damage from exposure during a recent rainstorm or from streaming music while you shower? Have you dropped your phone one too many times? These are just a few examples of how your phone might have incurred water damage or physical damage that can lead to service problems. The best way to assess this situation is with the help of your carrier or manufacturer.

6. Get in Touch with Your Carrier or Manufacturer

If you’ve tried some of the easier steps above without success, it makes sense to reach out to customer support for your carrier or manufacturer, such as Apple support. Asking for help from a representative can help you figure out the best course of action and streamline the troubleshooting for you. They’ve probably seen their share of network connection problems, so they’re likely to point you in the right direction. 

7. Take the Phone in for Repairs

If all else fails, you may have to take or send your phone in for a repair. Your carrier will usually have local stores that you can go to put in a repair order, or you can call or go online to find instructions on how to initiate a repair with your wireless carrier by mail. Alternatively, you may be eligible for a repair from the phone’s manufacturer—it may even be under warranty depending on the age of your device and whether you added a protection plan at the time of your purchase.

The Bottom Line

Almost anyone who owns a smartphone will experience a no-service issue at one time or another. Moving to a more active area, turning your device off and on again, or doing a full factory reset can restore your network connection.

If troubleshooting suggests it’s time for a new phone, Navi’s Phone Deal Finder can help you find the best phone deals available from your current carrier and other carriers. If coverage is the source of the problem, our Plan Finder can help you compare cell phone plans from top providers to find right fit in no time.

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