How to fix iPhone network coverage and hotspot problems

Poor mobile signals and unreliable personal hotspot coverage on your iPhone are frustrating challenges — especially if you use the phone for work. Here is how to solve them.

Apple, iOS, iPhone, how to, Personal hotspot, AirPlane mode, carrier, cellular, probems

Bad mobile signals and unreliable hotspot coverage on your iPhone could well be two of the most frustrating challenges today’s enterprise professionals face (other than battery life). Here are some ways that may improve network coverage and hotspot reliability, making it easier to get work done while on the go.

How to improve your network signal

The first thing you’ll want to fix is a poor signal; without that, you’ll never get your personal hotspot coverage working at all.

While you can’t make your network provide coverage where it doesn’t, you can make certain it’s not your iPhone that’s contributing to your weak reception. With that in mind....

Toggle Airplane Mode

Swipe down from the top right of your screen to open your Control Center and tap the Airplane mode icon, which will turn orange to show it is on. Doing so will disable all your network, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth connections. Wait a minute and then switch Airplane mode off. This is sometimes all you need to do to get a better network signal.

Check carrier settings

This is such a simple thing to do, so you might as well try: Open Settings>General>About and if your carrier has updated its settings — but your device hasn’t yet updated to them — an alert will appear prompting you to install the carrier update. If it doesn’t appear, your carrier settings are up-to-date, and you can try the next approach.

Restart your iPhone

If switching the cellular radio off and on again with Airplane Mode didn’t improve your connection, try restarting your iPhone.

Restart an iPhone with a Home button: Hold down the sleep/wake button until the power slider appears and drag the slider to off. Leave it off for a moment and then press and hold the sleep/wake button to turn your device on again.

Restart a FaceID iPhone: Simultaneously press and hold the sleep/wake button and either the volume up or down buttons until the power slider appears. Wait for perhaps 30 seconds and then touch and hold the sleep/wake button to turn it on again.

Force reset the iPhone

To Force Reset a Face ID iPhone you must press the volume up, then press volume down and finally press and hold the side button. Keep pressing that button until an Apple logo appears after the display briefly goes black. An iPhone with a Home button will force reset when you hold down both the Home and power button at the same time until the Apple logo appears.

Remove and replace the SIM

Do you carry your Apple-supplied SIM removal tool with you on your key ring? I do, as the alternative tool (a paper clip) isn’t always going to be available when you need it. If you find you are suffering poor network coverage and none of the other attempts have improved anything, try removing and replacing your SIM. Just insert your SIM removal tool until the tray pops out, check the SIM to ensure it isn’t damaged and reinsert it.

Reset the network settings

This approach frequently fixes both network coverage and personal hotspot problems. The reason you shouldn’t try it first is that resetting these settings means you will need to reapply all your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth passwords, any custom APN settings, and VPN connections. Make sure you have the relevant information to re-enable those services at hand if you do choose to reset network settings.

Doing so is quite simple:

Open Settings>General>Transfer or Reset iPhone>Reset and choose Reset network settings. A warning message will appear, and you should tap Reset settings. Your iPhone will restart, and you may (or may not) be pleasantly surprised by better connectivity.

How to approach personal hotspot problems

If your carrier supports it, you can use personal hotspot on your iPhone to share your cellular connection with other devices. A lot of us use this to get Macs or SIM-free iPads online when we are working outside an office. The connection will be made available within the available Wi-Fi services to your other devices.

You’ll find personal hotspot in Settings>Personal Hotspot. It should be listed just under Cellular Data at the top of the first Settings page you see.

If you don’t see that option, then either your carrier doesn’t offer support for this, or you need to contact them to have the option added to your account. But if you know the personal hotspot should be working on your iPhone — and it isn’t — try the following steps:

Check the obvious Personal Hotspot settings

At the risk of being obvious, open Settings>Personal Hotspot and ensure the "Allow Others to Join" checkbox is enabled. If it isn’t, you’ve solved your problem and other devices should now see this network. While you’re checking obvious things, take a moment to open Control Center and double check that Airplane Mode isn’t active.

Check the less obvious Personal Hotspot setting

Open Settings>Personal Hotspot and look to the bottom of the page. You should find an item called Maximize Compatibility. Turning this on will sometimes help your devices make use of the connection.

[Also read: 8+ useful iPhone tips for better productivity]

Turn Wi-Fi off and on again

If your Personal Hotspot isn’t appearing as an option to the device(s) you want to bring online, try switching Wi-Fi off on that device and switching it on again. This sometimes gives your Wi-Fi a little extra encouragement to find your hotspot.

Restart all your devices

That restart sequence I mentioned earlier? If you’ve come this far and Personal Hotspot still isn’t working, try restarting your iPhone, and then restart all the devices you are attempting to bring online using it.

Try using a different connection

You can connect with your personal hotspot in three ways:

  • Using Wi-Fi.
  • Using Bluetooth.
  • Using a USB cable.

In most cases you’ve probably been using Wi-Fi. If this is not working well, try using one of the other connection methods. You may need to install iTunes and login using your Apple ID if using a Windows PC.

Reset the network settings

As mentioned above, the nuclear option is to reset network settings. It is possible your iPhone’s network settings need to be reset as they may have become corrupted during normal use, so a reset should make your device act more like new. As previously warned, doing so means you’ll need to reapply all your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth passwords, any custom APN settings, and VPN connections you may use. Just follow the instruction as provided above.  

What if none of this works?

I’m sorry if you’ve read this far and had no success. Assuming your carrier’s network isn’t at fault, your account is in order, your carrier supports the services you need where you are, and the local infrastructure is working properly, then you may have a problem with your SIM card or with your device. At this point, contact your carrier to discuss your problem and begin the troubleshooting process.

Want more tips? Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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