There have been sporadic reports going back to late October — only weeks after Apple’s newest iPhones were landing in users’ hands — of at least some users experiencing mysteriously dropped cellular connections, but now as the weeks have unfolded it seems that the problem is becoming even more widespread without a reliable fix in sight.
As 9to5Mac notes, the issue was first reported on Apple’s Discussion Forums back on October 28th, and in the intervening weeks, hundreds more users have indicated that they’re having similar problems, both in the original Apple Discussion forums thread, which now spans well over 100 posts across 13 pages, plus over 600 users indicating that they also have the same question, plus a Reddit thread that’s grown to over 400 comments as of this writing.
The user who first reported the problem in October noted that he had simply discovered that his iPhone had not only begun showing “No Service” but also began displaying the message “Your iPhone is not Activated” in a grey box in the middle of the screen. Although toggling Airplane Mode ON for a few seconds and then back off restored connectivity, the problem kept repeating itself.
According to the report, none of the obvious troubleshooting steps helped, either, including switching between 5G and LTE, resetting network settings, or even setting up the iPhone 12 as an entirely new iPhone, as opposed to restoring from a previous backup.
Why Is My iPhone 12 Losing Service?
It’s unclear exactly what the problem is, but now that we have a critical mass of hundreds of reports, it seems most likely that it’s a problem with how the iPhone 12 is handling the connection when it needs to switch from one cellular tower to another as users are moving around, since for the vast majority of users it only seems to occur while driving.
I drove my car and found the exact location where the phone lost the network. If the phone lost the network it means I reach the end of the coverage area from a certain antenna. It looks like something happened with the phone when I reach a zone covered by a new antenna.User ‘joxesCA’ on Apple Discussion forums
Although some users have reported having the problem when standing still, a few of these have pointed to it only occurring in areas where reception is already poor, in which case the iPhone 12 could still be trying to hand off between towers as the signal fluctuates.
The problem also seems to be unique to the iPhone 12, as many users who are experiencing it upgraded from various iPhone 11 models, none of which ever exhibited the problem, even on the same carriers and same service plans.
While most of the users who are reporting problems appear to be on Verizon and AT&T, there’s no evidence that the problem is unique to those networks, as a few readers have also reported seeing the issue on T-Mobile.
Notably, all three networks use different 5G technologies and frequencies, and there doesn’t seem to be any distinction between higher-frequently mmWave 5G connections or more typical sub-6GHz 5G, and even old-school 4G/LTE service is affected, as users experience these connection losses even when 5G is disabled entirely.
That said, it’s possible the problem is occurring primarily on mmWave-capable iPhone 12 models, which are sold exclusively in the U.S. right now, as, despite hundreds of posts, the threads appear to include few if any reports of users having these problems consistently outside of the U.S.
When Will It Be Fixed?
According to several comments on Reddit, Verizon has confirmed that it is aware of the problem and working closely with Apple on a fix.
In fact, one poster noted receiving a call from Verizon’s executive relations team, suggesting that it’s being worked on at the highest levels, however that was weeks ago, and the fact that the problem continues to plague users, even after iOS 14.2 updates and carrier settings updates suggests that Apple is struggling to find a reliable fix.
Interestingly, Professional_Title, the Reddit user who originally started the thread in r/verizon indicated that after speaking with Verizon’s executive relations, and later getting a response on Nov. 15th that they were “continuing to work on it,” the problem mysteriously almost went away entirely, despite taking no action on their part and there being no obvious OS updates, carrier updates, or changes to the settings that could account for it. While their signal was previously dropping up to 15 times a day, it suddenly began occurring only once every few days, although other users are still reporting the problem occurring with a much greater frequency.
While hope still remains that this is entirely a software issue that can be fixed by Apple, or even simply a technical problem that could be addressed by the carriers, we won’t know for sure until either Apple releases a fix or it simply continues to mysteriously disappear as Verizon and other carriers fine-tune their networks.
On the other hand, in the unlikely event the problem is hardware related, Apple will likely need to issue a recall or service program of some kind, as it did a few years ago when iPhone 7 users were experiencing a similar problem.
In the meantime, if you’re encountering this issue, it seems that all you can do is be aware of it and be prepared to toggle Airplane Mode on and off to restore normal connectivity.
It’s a frustrating and cumbersome solution, but it beats being without coverage at all, although of course it also means you’ll have to keep an eye on your iPhone to make sure it hasn’t lost coverage, since if you’re unaware you could find yourself cut off for hours on a long road trip.