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How to get iPhone out of SOS only mode

We count on our phones for almost everything, so when they aren’t working right, it’s normal to panic. Seeing "SOS Only" on your iPhone can be frustrating because your phone suddenly doesn’t seem to be doing anything you’re hoping to do, and it can quickly induce worry that you’ve triggered some sort of emergency alert. The good news is that iPhone SOS Only mode does not mean you’ve accidentally contacted emergency services or signaled an alarm. It’s generally an easy fix.

iPhone SOS Only mode does not mean you’ve accidentally contacted emergency services or signaled an alarm. It’s generally an easy fix.

Activating an SOS alert on your iPhone is another process, which is a safety feature that will contact emergency services and send your GPS location to emergency contacts. We explain exactly what the SOS in the iPhone status bar means, and how you can fix it.

Helpful tipsFrom taking advantage of the Action Button to some fancy Photoshop-like tools, you want to know how to use these iPhone 15 tips and tricks.
What does SOS on iPhone mean?
The purgatory between full service and no service
If the status bar of your iPhone displays "SOS" or "SOS Only" instead of your wireless carrier information, it means that your phone has lost its proper cellular connection. When you see SOS, you are not able to make regular calls to friends, businesses, family, etc., but you can make an SOS call to emergency services as long as you’re in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

On an iPhone 13 or earlier, SOS mode is essentially the purgatory between your normal cellular services and "No service." With "No service," you can’t even call 911, let alone send a normal text or call.

The iPhone 14 and iPhone 15 are equipped with Apple’s Emergency SOS via Satellite capability, so you’re not likely to ever see "No service" in the status bar (unless you’re in some sort of massive underground cave.) Instead, when there’s no service, and you try to place an emergency call, your phone will automatically begin to start the process of connecting to a satellite and walk you through the process to send a message to ask for help.

How do you fix SOS on iPhone?
Don’t panic, you can fix this.
Because SOS Only mode on iPhone typically occurs because you have lost a strong signal, the quickest solution for how to fix SOS on iPhone is simply to move around until you’re new to get a better signal. For example, if you are in the basement of a building, you might see SOS only in the iPhone status bar, but as soon as you return to ground level, your normal cellular service should be restored.

However, there are instances where you should have good service, yet the iPhone is stuck in SOS mode. It could be because there’s a network outage, or because your phone temporarily lost service, and then it doesn’t successfully reconnect to the cellular network. With our example of being in a basement, imagine the iPhone goes into SOS mode, but then you take the elevator to the third floor, yet you still see SOS on your iPhone’s status bar.

How to restart your cellular service
It takes a couple of swipes
The first troubleshooting step you should try is to turn your cellular service off and then back on and to force your phone to reconnect to the network. Here’s how to do just that:

Swipe down from the upper-right corner of your display to view Control Center. (Note that for some versions of the iPhone, such as the iPhone SE, you may need to swipe up from the bottom to bring up your network options.) Find and select the green Cellular Data icon to turn off your connection. Wait a few seconds. Tap the same icon again to turn it back on. Wait a few seconds while your iPhone attempts to reconnect to your cellular provider and see if the SOS message goes away. If it doesn’t, you may need to restart or soft reset your iPhone.

To be clear, soft resetting your phone doesn’t cause you to lose any data or information.

Here is how to restart your iPhone
It’s a routine process
Press and hold the side button (the one that turns the screen on and off) along with the volume down button at the same. After about three seconds, you should see a screen come up that has Slide to power off and at the top of the screen. Drag your finger to the right along the top power slider to power off the iPhone. Once the screen turns off, wait about 30 seconds for it to turn completely off. Press and hold the side button for 2 to 3 seconds to turn on the iPhone. Once your phone turns back on, you should see your network connection restored in the status bar once the bootup process is complete.
If this still doesn’t work, I have sometimes had luck powering off the iPhone for an hour or so while it charges. Basically, just turn off your phone, plug it in for an hour, and then try turning it back on. You can tap the green Cellular Data icon off and on again, and hopefully, your iPhone will reconnect to the cellular network.

RelatedNeed to catch up on what’s new in iOS 17? We have your back. Here’s everything you need to know about your iPhone’s latest software update.

Other troubleshooting steps you can try
Carrier settings updates, resetting network settings are also options
If none of the above troubleshooting steps fix your SOS issues, Apple suggests checking for a carrier settings update or resetting your network settings as additional methods.

To check for a carrier settings update, open the Settings app, then select General > About. If an update is available, you’ll see an option to update your carrier settings.

Resetting your iPhone’s network settings is a bit more involved, since it deletes all of your saved Wi-Fi networks, cellular, and any VPN/APN settings. To reset network settings, go to Settings > General > Transfer or Reset [Device] > Reset > Reset Network Settings.

However, if you repeatedly find your iPhone goes into SOS mode or SOS only mode, or you cannot fix SOS Only on iPhone with the above steps, its possible you have a faulty or damaged SIM card or a faulty SIM card slot — assuming you’re not using an eSIM, or have an eSIM only iPhone. If you’re SIM card is to blame, you will need to go to the Apple Store or visit your carrier to get a SIM card replacement or your iPhone SIM card slot looked at.

And, of course, the other problem could you’re in a remote area with no coverage from your cellular provider. If you’ve recently moved, you may need to switch providers or ask others in your area to figure out what cellular provider has the best service where you are located to prevent this frustrating default to iPhone SOS Only mode.

RelatedSIM cards are important to connect your phone to its network. Here’s how to remove and insert SIM cards on your smartphone.


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