We love our iPhones here at Macworld, but an iPhone without the internet is an iPod. And that isn't what we signed up for. In this article we explain what to do when your iPhone won't connect to the internet, either via cellular data or Wi-Fi (or both). Follow the advice as it is written, as the steps get slowly more involved and almost always the first steps will fix your iPhone (or it wasn't actually broken and just needed a kick up the behind). For more iPhone tips read our article on maximising space on your iPhone, follow our tips to get more iPhone capacity when you need it.
If you know of any other tips I would be delighted if you let me know in the comments below. I really hope this story helps you get your iPhone back online. You can find more iPhone tips here, as well as help in our Apple help forum.
iPhone isn't connecting to internet via 3G or 4G: first steps
Without wishing to sound like an extra from the IT Crowd, often all of the issues we tackle below can be solved by simply rebooting your iPhone. If you can't get online for any reason, that should be your first port of call. And in terms of cellular connectivity, check that it isn't simply the case that you are in a deadspot, or you are out of data. You would be amazed at how often that is the cause of a tech support call.
Should you find that such expert advice fails to solve your iPhone internet problem, move on to our more nuanced tips. (See also: How to retrieve deleted text messages on iPhone.)
iPhone isn't connecting to internet via 3G or 4G: Settings to check
First of all lets check your settings. If you can't connect to a cellular network, make sure cellular data is set to on by going to Settings > Cellular, and making sure the slider is in the right place. Are you on a trip? If you're traveling internationally your iPhone needs to be set up for data roaming. Go to Settings > Cellular > Data Roaming, and check that you are set to on.
iPhone isn't connecting to internet via 3G or 4G: you have a problem - what now?
That is all the basic stuff checked out. Now we need to dig a little deeper.
First, check your SIM. Use the provided SIM-tray tool to take out your SIM, then try to reinsert it. It's possible that will solve the problem. More likely, you might find that the SIM itself is somehow out of shape or broken. If that is the case you should contact your carrier.
The next thing to try is to check that your carrier settings are up to date. This is slightly troublesome as such updates are delivered over the internet, and your phone is offline. But it is more than likely that you got the update before your phone went offline. So go to Settings > General > About. If there is an update loaded to go you will be prompted to install it.
You can check what version of the carrier settings your phone is running by tapping Settings > General > About and looking next to "Carrier".
Still can't get cellular connectivity? There is only one other phone-side thing I would try at this stage, and that is ensuring that iOS is up to date. It is highly unlikely an old OS would stop you getting online, but it is worth a check. To see if you need to update, go to Settings > General > Software Update. (See How to get iOS 9 on your iPhone and iPad right now.)
If all of that has failed there are two options. First, call the carrier. Hopefully they know of a problem in your area, or a problem with your account.
If that doesn't work, we are almost out of ideas. The last thing to try is to back up and restore your iPhone. Connect your iPhone to your Mac using the cable that came with it, and select it when it appears in iTunes. Click Restore. But don't take this the wrong way - I hope you didn't get this far. Next we will look at Wi-Fi problems, but first take part in our iPhone 7 poll.
iPhone 7 poll
iPhone isn't connecting to internet via Wi-Fi: first steps
Broadly speaking, this is a similar but less complicated situation than that of an iPhone in which the 3G and 4G won't work. First we will check all the basics, then we will reboot.
So, go to Settings > Wi-Fi. Check that (a) the Wi-Fi slider is in the on position and (b) that you are connected to a network local to you that you recognise, and that has good connectivity. You shouldn't connect to unknown networks anyway, but if you are doing so now is a good time to unhook. (It is also a good time to make sure Airplane Mode is not enabled.)
If all of these things are working correctly, just sanity check the connection by connecting another device to it and opening up a web page. You don't want to think your iPhone is broken when it is just a dodgy network.
Still not able to get online? Forget the network, and reboot your phone. Once it is back up and running, go to Settings > Wi-Fi, and rejoin the network. (See also: How to tell if an iPhone is locked or unlocked.)
iPhone isn't connecting to internet via Wi-Fi: you have a problem - what now?
Okay. I'll be honest: I hoped this would be fixed by now. Now we really are trying to reset things in the hope that it kicks out a bug. As with cellular connectivity, I would first check that iOS is up to date. To see if you need to update, go to Settings > General > Software Update. Again, the last thing to try is to back up and restore your iPhone. Connect your iPhone to your Mac using the cable that came with it, and select it when it appears in iTunes. Click Restore.
Hopefully our problem is now solved. If all else fails, you need to find your nearest Apple Store or Apple Reseller, and get an expert to take a look. (See also: 33 tips to help boost iPhone battery life.)