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Why Is My Phone Not Working? 6 Common Issues and Fixes

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If you own a mobile phone, the odds are pretty good that your phone has stopped working 100% perfectly at some point or another. Phones are complicated gadgets, so a lot can go wrong with them – the screen becomes unexpectedly frozen, an app won’t work, the phone battery suddenly drains. If you’ve experienced one or more of those problems, you know how annoying it can be – and how quickly you want to find a fix.

While the biggest problems with your phone will need to be fixed by a manufacturer, retailer, or reputable repair shop, you can DIY a fix for many of the most common problems. And don’t worry – while “turn it off and back on again” does feature in this article, we’ll go a little further beyond that basic advice, too. 

If all else fails or a fix turns out to be impossible or too expensive, it may be time for a new phone. Check out our Phone Deal Finder below for the best phone deals for you.

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Some of the most common phone issues include:

  • Slow performance
  • Apps crashing or not working as expected
  • Battery draining too quickly
  • No service
  • Not charging
  • Physical damage
  • Not turning on
  • WiFi not working
  • Sound not working
  • Screen not responding

Try your best to determine the exact way your phone is malfunctioning – the more specific you get, the easier it will be to find the information you need to try fixing that specific problem. In the meantime, here are some generic fixes you can try, and then specific fixes depending on what your phone issue might be.

How Do I Fix My Phone?

The simplest fixes can often correct common phone issues. Try these first (in order of difficulty).

  1. Toggle airplane mode.
  2. Turn the phone off and back on.
  3. Charge the battery with a functional charger. Do this only if you are 100% sure the issue is not water damage. If you have a water issue, read our guide on getting water out of your phone.
  4. Perform a soft reset to clear working memory. Press and hold the volume down and power buttons on Android phones until the phone restarts. On iPhones, quickly press the volume up followed by the volume down button, and then press and hold the sleep/wake button until the phone restarts.
  5. Update the phone's operating system. Connect the phone to power and a WiFi network, then check for an update in the settings app.
  6. Remove apps, photos, or files taking up a lot of storage to free up memory. Overfull phone storage can adversely affect performance. Wondering how many GB you need on your phone? Our guide provides a quick answer.
  7. Factory reset your phone. Do this only if you have done a full data backup of your phone, as this will restore your phone to factory settings with no other data. Look for this option in settings. You may have to enter your device password. 

If you’ve tried all those and your phone’s issue is persisting, let’s get more specific. We’ll break down six common issues in greater depth and walk through how to troubleshoot that problem.

Why Is My Internet Not Working On My Phone?

Maybe your YouTube video isn’t loading, you’re not able to upload an image to Instagram, or you’re seeing that offline Chrome dinosaur. If that’s you, then the Internet isn’t working on your phone. This problem can have a wide range of causes, so here are some troubleshooting tips:

  • Are you connected to WiFi? If you can't reach the Internet on your phone, check that you're connected to a working WiFi network.
  • Is your mobile data turned on? If no WiFi network is available, ensure that you have mobile data enabled on your phone's settings.
  • Toggle mobile data and WiFi. If WiFi and mobile data are enabled, turn data access off and back on again. The easiest way to do this is to activate and deactivate airplane mode.
  • Are there problems with your SIM card? If you have a physical SIM card, eject it and put it back in.
  • Do you need to reset your network settings? Reset your network settings. You will have to reenter WiFi passwords afterward.
  • Have you tried restarting your phone? Sometimes, a restart can fix software glitches that might be causing your Internet connection problems.
  • Are your phone's updates complete? Update your phone's operating system.

Sometimes, you're just in an area with a weak signal. If your Internet connection is weak or nonexistent, we have a great guide on how to boost cell signal. We also have a complete guide here to walk you through why your phone says no service and how to fix it.

Why Is My WiFi Not Working on My Phone?

More specifically, sometimes your mobile data works but your phone is stubbornly not connecting to a nearby WiFi network, whether at home or on public WiFi. Here are a few quick fixes for this common problem:

  • Turn your phone's WiFi access off and back on using airplane mode or the individual WiFi setting.
  • Press “Forget” on the current network and enter the password again to reconnect.

If those tips don't work and you're at home, reboot your router. This can help resolve any software issues that might be causing your phone to not connect to that WiFi network.

Why Do I Have No Bars?

Your phone has two kinds of connection: connection to cellular data, and connection to mobile service. Data allows you to access the Internet on your phone, while mobile service lets you make texts and calls. No bars mean you can’t make or receive texts or calls on your cell phone.

No bars on your phone can result from any number of issues, including airplane mode being accidentally turned on or even carrier issues that have nothing to do with you.

First, to pinpoint the source of trouble, check the obvious: have you accidentally turned on your phone's airplane mode? This will stop you from connecting to either mobile data or phone service. Just check your device settings and toggle Airplane mode back off if you switched it on by mistake.

Next, try restarting your phone. On occasion, your phone can get "stuck" on a tower that's farther away or has a weaker signal.  Restarting your phone can force your phone to re-establish a connection to your carrier’s closest cell tower, which will provide a stronger signal.

If you have a physical SIM card, try ejecting and reinserting it. This accomplishes a few things. First, when you remove and then reinsert the SIM card, your phone is forced to re-register with the cellular network. Forcing this re-registration essentially resets your phone's connection with the cellular network, making the device actively seek out the best available signal. Furthermore, cellular networks occasionally update their settings. Removing and reinserting the SIM card can prompt your phone to search for and apply these updates, which might include improvements to connectivity and performance.

Finally, sometimes it’s not you, it’s your carrier. Check your carrier's website or a problem-reporting site like Downdectector for service outages to see if many people are reporting no bars with a particular carrier. 

Why Is My Phone Screen Not Working?

The black screen of death is something you may be all too familiar with. If your phone’s screen is unresponsive or not turning on, several common issues can be the culprit, including water or dirt, touch sensitivity set too low, or software that needs updating. Here are a few things to try first:

  • Restart your phone. If a temporary issue with your battery, an app, or something else is causing it, this will fix your problem. 
  • If you have a screen protector, remove it.
  • Clean the phone’s screen using a soft, lint-free cloth to remove any dirt or moisture. These obstacles can confuse your phone’s touch sensor, rendering it unresponsive to your touch.
  • Increase your phone's touch sensitivity in settings.

If those don't resolve your phone screen not working, you can go a little deeper by rebooting your phone in either "Safe Mode" or "Recovery Mode." Le'ts break it down by phone type:

Android Phones

Android users can restart in Safe Mode to rule out any problematic apps interfering with screen functioning. When you start your Android device in Safe Mode, it loads only the system's core applications and services. This means any third-party app or service won't start automatically. This environment is ideal for diagnosing issues because it ensures that any malfunctions are not due to third-party software.

To put your phone in Safe Mode, hold the power button until a logo appears, then press and hold the volume down button. If this makes your screen work as expected, then you know the issue is with an app.

Android phones also feature something called “Recovery Mode” which is especially useful for an unresponsive screen. When you boot your phone up in Recovery Mode, the touchscreen functionality will be disabled entirely anyway – you will be able to use the volume rockers to move between the menu options of your phone. 

In Recovery Mode, you can reboot your system using buttons, manually apply software updates, delete all the cache files, and more. In more desperate cases, you can also do a Factory Reset on your phone from Recovery Mode, which wipes all the data from your phone, reverting it to how it was when it came out of the manufacturer’s factory. If you suspect that you phone is missing a software update and you can't use your touchscreen to apply it, or if too many cached files are stopping your screen from working, Recovery Mode can resolve a nonfunctional screen.

This is a scorched earth tactic and a last resort if nothing else has worked – and definitely make sure to have backed up your phone beforehand. 

To put your phone in Recovery Mode, hold down the power key and select power off, or long-press the power button until your phone turns off. Press and hold the power key and the volume down key. After your device turns back on, you’ll see some diagnostic info about your Android phone, as well as a “Start” option at the top of the screen.

Apple iPhones

If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll be able to boot up your phone in what iOS also calls Recovery Mode – Apple’s Recovery Mode allows you to force update the iOS version on your iPhone or restore the device to its factory settings. Both of these can resolve a touch screen that isn't working.

Again, restoring to factory settings is not a move to be made lightly. But if you’re out of other options and have backed up your phone data, it may be worth a try to fix an unresponsive iPhone screen.

It’s simple to force restart your iPhone in Recovery Mode. Just press and release the volume up button, press and release the volume down button, and finally press and hold the side button. After that, you will see the Recovery Mode screen show up.

Why Is YouTube Not Working on My Phone? (Or Google, CashApp, Facebook, or Any Other App)

Apps can freeze, crash, or misbehave. Follow these troubleshooting steps to get your malfunctioning apps back in line.

  • Clear the cache on the app that isn't working. Look for storage clearing options for individual apps in settings.
  • Delete and re-install an app to clear its memory and update it to the latest version.
  • Check for operating system updates. An app might need the latest version of your phone's operating system to work as expected.

Many times, an app may not be working due to one of the issues we already listed above. For example, if your battery is too low, it can cause your phone to force apps to stop working as expected to conserve battery life. If you have no Internet, an app that requires an Internet connection – which most do, nowadays – won’t work as expected. 

If you skipped to this issue and the basic steps we listed here didn’t fix your app problem, we recommend going back to try some of the troubleshooting steps we mentioned concerning other problems.

Why Is the Sound on My Phone Not Working?

This can manifest as having no sound at all, having garbled sound, or sound that is lower than it should be based on how high the volume is in your settings. Follow these steps to troubleshoot your sound issues.

  • Check the phone volume. Yes, it’s obvious, but we have to say it. Make sure your volume is turned up and that, if you have an iPhone, the physical silent switch is not switched on.
  • Ensure that the do not disturb mode is switched off. DND mode can result in calls, messages, and apps making noiseless notifications, or not getting any notifications depending on your settings. However, it should not mute sounds from music, videos, games, or other media.
  • Check that there's nothing physically obstructing the phone speaker. If you just got a new case, that could be the culprit.
  • Turn off Bluetooth. Your phone may be connected to wireless headphones that are active in another room.

You may also want to determine where the sound issue stems from. Test a video with headphones—either Bluetooth or wired—to see if the issue is your phone speaker or something else. If your phone can play sound on headphones but not speakers, that suggests a different problem such as obstruction, or a mechanical issue with your phone’s speakers. If there’s no sound coming from your phone or any headphones, which could indicate a settings or software bug.

The Bottom Line 

We've covered a wide range of possible issues here, but as we mentioned, phones can run into problems beyond the scope of this article.

If these fixes didn't resolve your problem, or if you're dealing with a more advanced issue, your next step should be to take your phone to a licensed repair shop, your phone’s manufacturer, or the carrier to diagnose and resolve it.

Of course, if your phone is too far gone for repairs, or the repair cost is too steep, you might want to consider getting a new phone.

Our free, unbiased Phone Deal Finder can help you find the best phone deals you qualify for in seconds. Just give us a few details, like your zip code, your current carrier, and what phone you’re looking for, and we’ll quickly search through thousands of phone deal options to bring you the best ones for your circumstances.

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