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iGBHow-to11 Ways to fix "SOS Only" on iPhone

11 Ways to fix “SOS Only” on iPhone

Imagine a day when we cannot use our iPhones’ most basic functions, such as making calls or surfing the internet. No, I’m not talking about an apocalypse. This is something that can happen now with the SOS Only issue on iPhone. 

Many iPhone users face this issue. In this article, I’ll help you understand what SOS Only means on your iPhone and how to fix the error.

What does “SOS Only” mean on iPhone

It’s human instinct to question something you’ve never met before. When your iPhone shows SOS Only, you won’t be able to make regular calls, send SMS texts, or use cellular data – blocking all your network services. The SOS Only status appears in the top-right corner of the control center in iOS 17/16 and the top left corner in previous versions. 

You can still use Emergency SOS to call concerned authorities. However, as of publishing, this service is only available in the United States, Europe, Canada, and Australia. 

These are the main reasons why your iPhone displays the SOS Only error:

  • You are outside the carrier coverage area
  • You have a bad network reception
  • You’re using an old device
  • You don’t have an active cellular plan

Apart from that, we have a dedicated guide for no-service issues on iPhone if you are facing that instead of SOS Only on iOS 17/16.

How to fix “SOS Only” on iPhone

Now that you know what SOS Only means on your iPhone and the reasons it may appear, let’s examine how to get rid of the issue. 

1. Enable roaming on iPhone

When preparing to travel outside the town, state, or even internationally, turn on roaming on your iPhone.

  1. Launch the Settings app → Go to Cellular/Mobile Data.
  2. Tap Celluar/Mobile Data Options → Toggle on Data Roaming.

    Enable roaming on iPhone

With data roaming enabled, your network provider can deliver a cellular connection and help you turn off SOS Only on your iPhone. However, keep in mind that some cellular service providers might charge you extra for roaming. 

2. Update carrier settings on iPhone

Cellular carriers occasionally provide updates to improve cellular connectivity and overall network performance. While this usually takes place automatically, you can still check and update carrier settings on your iPhone manually. This fix has a good chance of bringing back 5G on your iPhone

3. Turn on/off Cellular Data

We’re sure you’ve heard the old tech adage, “Just turn it off and on again.” Well, sometimes, that really is all it takes. 

If a SIM card is inserted into your iPhone, and no cellular service is available, there might be a slight issue with your device. You can try to turn Cellular Data off and turn it on again to see if the issue is still there. Here are the steps: 

Open the Control Center and tap the Cellular Data icon to turn it off. Wait for a few seconds, then tap on it again to re-enable data. 

Apart from that, you can also do the following:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap Cellular/Mobile Data → Toggle off Cellular/Mobile Data.
  3. Wait for some seconds, and then Toggle on.

    Turn on or off Cellular Data

4. Switch to 4G or LTE

Are you enjoying 5G on your iPhone? Well, that might be why your new iPhone says there is no service after activation.  

5G is relatively new, and cellular companies are still optimizing their infrastructure; hence, staying in 4G or Auto mode is still the better option until 5G is widely available. If your network carrier has trouble with 5G, this could be a solution to the SOS Only status on your iPhone. 

5. Turn on/off Airplane Mode

This method lets you quickly restart your wireless connection apart from Bluetooth, which may help you fix the SOS Only issue on your iPhone.

  • Open Control Center → tap the Airplane icon.
    After some time, toggle it off and see if the issue is still there.
  • Alternatively, you can also do the same by going to SettingsAirplane Mode.

    Refresh-cellular-network-using-Airplane-mode

6. Disable or enable automatic Network Selection

This setting helps your SIM connect to the right network. However, it might not find the correct one instantly. 

To solve this, you can switch off and turn on Automatic Network Selection on your iPhone, which will re-establish the connection and possibly fix the SOS Only issue. 

  1. Open Settings → Choose Cellular/Mobile Data.
  2. Select Network Selection → Toggle off Automatic.

    Disable and enable automatic Network Selection
  3. Wait for a few seconds and toggle it on.

7. Re-insert SIM card

Although rare, network connectivity can also be caused by a physical SIM card error. In such cases, you can take the SIM out, put it back inside, and see if that helps. However, if you are using eSIM on your iPhone, don’t reset it unless your carrier advises you to do so. 

8. Reset network settings on iPhone

Since none of the methods helped you to turn off SOS Only on your iPhone, let’s erase all the connections it has made in the past. 

Performing the following steps will completely erase all the saved data related to connected Bluetooth devices, Wi-Fi passwords, VPN configurations, and all other network settings, including SOS Only (hopefully).

  1. Open Settings → tap General.
  2. Scroll down and select Transfer or Reset iPhone.

    Reset Network Settings
  3. Select Reset → choose Reset Network Settings.
  4. Enter the passcode.
  5. Now, choose Reset Network Settings.

    Select Reset, choose Reset Network Settings, and Reset Network Settings

9. If you’re on a 3G network 

With the arrival of 5G and the improvements in the 4G network, many cellular service providers have started to shut down their 3G mobile services and use those resources elsewhere. Hence, the following devices might see SOS Only as a result:

  • iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, or earlier
  • iPad 2 Wi-Fi + Cellular or earlier

If you own an iPhone 6 or an iPad (3rd generation) or later and haven’t updated yet, it’s time to update your device. If that doesn’t work, you may need to search for an upgrade. 

10. Check for an outage

Like Wi-Fi service providers, cellular service providers occasionally experience outages due to planned maintenance, damaged cell towers, network congestion, or several other potential factors. 

If your provider is experiencing an outage, your iPhone may show the SOS Only status. Unfortunately, there’s no specific fix available, and you’ll just have to wait for service to be re-enabled. However, if you contact your provider or search for an update on their website or social media accounts, you’ll have your answer. 

11. Other common fixes

If you cannot get rid of SOS Only on iPhone, here are some last-resort options:

  • Update iPhone: With every new iOS version, Apple attempts to iron out all the known bugs and optimize the OS. So if you see SOS Only on your status bar, give updating your iPhone or iPad a try. 
  • Restart iPhone: Everyone deserves a restart, even your iPhone. So restart your iPhone, and if it’s stuck, you can also try to Force restart your iPhone
  • Reset iPhone: While this can be considered as a last resort option, you can also try to reset your iPhone and see if the issue is fixed. 
  • Contact Apple Support: Since none of the issues are working for you, the only option is to visit Apple Support and see if you can help get rid of SOS only on iPhone.

Contact carrier

Since none of these solutions have proved fruitful, the final option is to contact the carrier provider and ask for help. They can help you by replacing your current SIM or through other measures.

Video: How to fix SOS only on iPhone

Solve SOS Only issue on iPhone!

Living without cellular service is a nightmare we don’t wish on our worst enemy. With this guide, we hope that we were able to help you get rid of SOS Only on your iPhone. However, if you still have any suggestions or queries, do let us know in the comments.

You might want to refer to these posts as well:

  • Anoop

    Anoop loves to find solutions for all your doubts on Tech. When he's not on his quest, you can find him on Twitter talking about what's in his mind.

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