iPhone 5 searching – won’t connect to cellular network at all

Last night my iPhone 5 started to lose my connection to AT&T. I am in downtown Pittsburgh on the 9th floor, so I’m in no fringe.. I turned off LTE when it started happening and it would switch to 4G, but that quickly stopped working, too, and it just shows “Searching…” Sometimes now it will show 4 bars for 10 seconds, then 1 bar, then Searching.

I read some discussion about the issue and:

  1. activated Airplane mode and deactivated
  2. turned off the phone and booted it back up, with no success
  3. did a Network Reset (Settings > General > Reset > Network Reset), but that did nothing other than delete all my wifi network passwords.
  4. did a hard reset by holding in the sleep and home buttons for a while
  5. popped out the SIM card with a paperclip (right side of phone) and pushed it back in
  6. swapped the SIM card

Here are some threads with similar issues:



Here’s what it looks like:



After visiting an AT&T store in Cranberry Twp, PA and swapping the SIM card with no change whatsoever, we have concluded that there is a problem with the iPhone 5 connecting to any SIM card. Thanks for the good experience there, Roger.

To check to see if this is your problem go to Settings > General > About and check to see if you have a ICCID line:

My ICCID line will appear if it shows AT&T in the top left, but disappears when it says “Searching..”

(If you have this happen, make sure to show the Apple Store tech as this is the smoking gun.) So, my iPhone 5 can’t read the SIM card. Now the question is whether this is isolated of will show itself like a timebomb. Is it SIMgate??

Next I went to the local Apple Store and Play Store Download Matt did some quick diagnostics and didn’t find any known issue, so he pulled out on the 16 specially-packed non-retail iPhone 5s in stock for this type of situation. He had me backup to iCloud, restore on the new one and off I went. Despite taking some time, AT&T and Apple really took care of this well.


[UPDATE 3/17/13] Here is a site with some good suggestions on what to do if you have this problem. If the ICCID is gone, I suspect replacement is your only cure.

81 replies
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  1. Travis says:

    Restore, hard reset, turning off LTE didn’t work. Also tried cycling airplane mode, turning off bluetooth. Turning off cell network search did seem to correct it. No more searching Thanks.

  2. John says:

    These kind of issues are devastating for someone like me. I work in a call center for a european mobile phone operator. This issue comes up a lot. I go through all these steps. Airplane mode on/off, reset net. settings, switch on/off, hard reset, turn on/off lte/3g, restore from backup on itunes, restore as new, sim swap. I know as I’m going through this stuff that most of the time, this will do nothing at all. And the Iphone 5 is our major pinnacle product on a 4g network.

  3. Chris says:

    Same problem here on Aruba, no apple store whatsoever… and i did all the possible solutions, resets, whatever… no luck and i read ALL these comments/posts above and NOTHING heleped me and i really have no idea what to do now.

  4. John (the 1st one) says:

    Hey guys, this is the first John that posted. I was so frustrated with the issue on the iPhone I had before. This is my 4th iphone 5 replacement so far. My last ones were all their white box replacements. This one worked for a while, but yesterday I got the searching problem again to my surprise. Turning the iPhone off and on again seems to be a temporary fix. I tried it and it lasted about 2 hours without the problem. I am going to ask Sprint for a new SIM card.

  5. Eduardo says:

    Same thing happened to me yesterday. I took to the apple store and they gave me a new one since was under the warranty.

  6. Remy says:

    Hi vol7ron,

    I had the same problem. I turned off Cell Network Search like you said, and rebooted the Phone.

    This fixed the problem!! Cell Network Search is still turned off, do I really need it?

  7. Remy says:

    Turned Cell Network Search back on. Everything still working, thanks so much, wouldn’t be able to find this myself.

  8. Erich says:

    I have had the same issue. My Verizon 5 went into searching overnight, and wouldn’t come out. I reset the phone, reset the network settings, tried restoring it and nothing worked. 24 hours later, the phone was still searching, so I took it to the verizon store where the lady did those exact things and tried THREE different SIM cards. None of it worked so they sent me a new phone. Hopefully this phone will be better.

  9. John (the 1st one) says:

    iPhone 5 32GB Sprint 6.1.4
    My iPhone hasn’t had the searching problem in a while, but I do lose service constantly because of dead zones here in Charlotte, NC.

  10. John(1st one) says:

    Have you noticed any battery life issues with your phone when it was on searching for a while? It happened to me constantly, calls were dropped, and it almost left me stranded at a park when I was going to call my friend to pick me up since my car was at the body shop.

  11. Bob03222 says:

    My iphone5 starting saying no sim this past week. I could fix it by restarting the phone. Today all it says is searching. I called Verizon they made me do a bunch of stuff to it and still doesn’t work. I have wireless Internet but nothing else.

  12. Hannah says:

    Gosh!!!I repaired my IPhone5. I kindly had the same situation with the first person: I turned off LTE when I went back to my home country in the summer vocation!!! That means my IPhone5 had been disconnect with att for more than 3 months. Before I searched the Internet, I tried changing to airplane mode; restarting IPhone, including pressing sleep and home button together; reseting my IPhone; Poping out & push in SIM; no one worked until I saw this post, then I connected my IPhone 5 (6.0.2) to ITunes, updating IPhone softwares(6.1.4). BTW, I originally checked automatically backup all the files. When the whole process finished, I saw AT&T appearing on my screen!!!
    I got inspired from this forum, I think I have to share my successful experiences, hope this also apply to others.

  13. Brittany says:

    Today I turned my phone off and restarted it later and it said it was searching for the network. I tried resetting it to factory settings and even put in a new sim card and nothing worked. I am currently without a phone, not even a landline, until my NEW phone arrives at the Verizon store. I think this is some sort of defect with the iPhone 5 and I am very upset that no one can tell my WHY my brand new, “top of the line” phone is now useless.

  14. Jeff says:

    I started to experience this today. I performed almost all of the exact same steps Brian did trying to resolve the issue. I even used a coworker’s SIM card (and tray) in my phone and mine in his to see if it was SIM related and those test failed. My card worked in his phone and his failed in my phone. I called and talked with Apple and after an hour or so of going through everything again, we put the phone into restore mode and started it up from scratch as a new iPhone. Low and behold it started working again. I have no idea what sort of software glitch might have caused it, but something was clearly wrong. I’m just hoping it doesn’t happen to me again like some of you have stated. We’ll see… (I’ll update again if there’s anything further.) Thanks for the post and all the comments. They were helpful.

  15. vixen says:

    Hi guys!
    Thanks you all for advice! Really helpful.
    Figured out the same issues with my iphone 5 (it’s about 9 month i use it, no problems until today).
    First it suddenly turned off. And doesn’t react on power button. I press home+power buttons for ~10 secs, and it turns on.
    In two hours it turns off again. I repeat a trick. It turns on, but it shows “searching” on status bar. I rebooted it, again and again.
    After some reboot it says “activation needed, please connect to iTunes” (it can’t see wifi network), I connected to iTunes and see “There’s a problem with your phone. Visit service answer center […] find nearest Apple Store”.
    I reboot it again, see “activation needed”, but it found wifi, and successfully activates via wifi.
    Seems working now and see cellular network.

  16. matt says:

    same issue here as everywhere, telstra fobbed me off to apple store who swapped phone to one of here refirbed ones but issue retured again after leaving Genius Bar and massive queues and wait to start again at Genius Bar (stupid system that, no genius needed to know that) issue still remains. going to go back and que once made an apiontment with one of the apple people standing around making appointments to see an apple person. annoying as, hanging in apple store sux.

  17. Jim says:

    Yep….it appears to be a radio failure problem. After using my phone all day it went into “searching mode” while I was in a restaurant. After spending an hour at T-Mobile…and then hours on the phone with Apple support….they finally made me an appointment at the genius bar for a new phone. Apple could not re-install the IOS on my phone as it would get half way and fail. Its a hardware failure…thats about 5 hours of my life I’ll never get back on a Friday night….so much for Apple quality.

  18. Mia says:

    Been trying to restore my iphone 4 for almost a month without success. It didn’t recognize my sim card so I got a new one. The phone continually searching and will not let me activate to the server. Spoke to Apple customer care and the geniuses and they weren’t any help. All I got is this is a hardware problem and repair or get a new phone $$$. FINALLY able to restore it today but still no service. Tried the suggestion to Turn off Cell Network Search and also turned off my Wifi. I HAVE SERVICE!!! Thank you all!! I hope it lasts.

  19. Nas says:

    ‘No service’ showed up for a few hours and i started panicking! I tried everything and finally as a desperate measure was going to restore iphone. So i connect iphone to macbook, hit restore in itunes and popup asks me to turn off ‘find my iphone’ feature manually in icloud settings on iphone. I turn ‘find my iphone off’ and 1 minute later-BAM! cell service back! Ok so im no engineer! I cant guarantee the relationship between find my iphone and cell reception. Hell, for all i know it could be a service provider cell tower hiccup. Anyways its worth a shot! Goodluck!

  20. Julie says:

    On my 3rd iphone5s in 1 year and 21days! My phone started searching, tried everything listed with no luck, Apple says they know it’s the phone hardware but I’m 21 days out of warranty so to bad and I need to buy a new iPhone without upgrades available.

  21. Jessica says:

    When Matt from the apple store handed you the 16g, was it free or did you have to pay (if out or warranty)?

  22. jjjlewis says:

    I recently had this happen. The screen just showed “searching”. I tried everything suggested and was ready to take it into store. This morning I connected it to my mac again after I updated the ios8 on my mac and then updated my iphone5. Now all is working. Hope this helps someone.

  23. David Shea says:

    I had the same problem this morning. Iphone 5c on AT&T network. Hard reset, reset network settings and still no connection. Noticed software update and installed it. ( 8.1.3 ) that did the trick.

  24. Amy says:

    Currently having this problem with my iphone 5. Had the phone for about 2 years now. Tried everything. Guess I’ll be heading to verizon/apple tomorrow…

  25. Alyssia says:

    This is the second IPhone 5c I’ve had since July. My phone went dead then when I charged it, it said searching at the top and that was around 6. My last iPhone 5c did the same thing. My phone is not reading my sim card for some reason. I like iphones but its way too many problems for me.

  26. Marj says:

    My phone’s problem seems to be the SIM card tray. If I pop it in and out a couple of times I can usually get it to activate.

  27. I.S says:

    I have an iphone 5s which stopped working last night some time, it says seaching i tried all suggestions to get it to work and it still isnt, i believe my phone is now out of warranty will they still replace my phone for free at the apple store?

  28. Katy says:

    iPhone 5 won’t connect to cellular after a recent trip to Mexico. Contacted Verizon, they currently have the phone at the store doing a foible shoot. My tech had done all the steps others had listed, no luck.
    Seems this is a iPhone 5 issue, is there a class action lawsuit yet ?
    I’ll join

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