Why Does My iPhone Say Searching? Here’s The Fix!

The signal bars in the upper-left hand corner of your iPhone have been replaced by “Searching…”, but the person standing next to you is chatting up a storm. Is the antenna broken? Not necessarily. In this article, I’ll explain why your iPhone says searching and how to diagnose and fix the problem.

Why Your iPhone Says “Searching…”

As soon as they see “Searching…”, a lot of people assume the built-in antenna on their iPhone is broken and head straight for the Apple Store.

iPhone Searching Box

While it’s true that a defective internal antenna can cause the iPhone searching problem, it is by no means the only cause. Let’s start here:

  • If you smashed your iPhone to smithereens or dropped it in the toilet, there’s a good chance the internal antenna is broken and your iPhone needs to be repaired. (But still check out the troubleshooting steps in this article.)
  • If your iPhone antenna suddenly stopped working without any physical intervention, there’s a good chance that a software problem is causing your iPhone to say “Searching…”, and you may be able to fix the problem yourself.

While it’s true that your iPhone’s antenna is what searches for cell towers, software problems can interfere with how your iPhone talks to the built-in antenna, and that can cause your iPhone to say “Searching…”.

How To Fix An iPhone That Says Searching

I’ll walk you through the process of troubleshooting an iPhone that says “Searching…”, and help you fix the problem, if it can be fixed at home. I structure my articles with the simple fixes first, and then we move on to the more complicated fixes if and when they become necessary. If we discover there really is a hardware problem with your iPhone, I’ll explain some good options for getting help from the pros.

1. Turn Your iPhone Off And Back On Again

It’s a simple fix, but turning your iPhone off and back on again has been a tried-and-true method to fix basic iPhone problems since, well, forever. The technical reasons why turning your iPhone off and back on can help aren’t necessary to understand.

Suffice to say that a lot of little programs that you don’t see run constantly in the background of your iPhone that do everything from controlling the clock to (you guessed it) connecting to cell towers. Turning off your iPhone shuts down all these little programs and forces them to start up fresh. Sometimes that’s all it takes to fix problems with iPhones.

To turn off your iPhone, press and hold the power button until “slide to power off” appears on the screen. If you have an iPhone X or newer, press and hold the side button and either volume button to reach the “slide to power off” screen. Swipe the icon across the screen with your finger and wait for your iPhone to shut down.

slide to power off power icon on iphone

An iPhone can take up to 20 seconds to shut down completely. To turn your iPhone back on, hold down the power button until you see the Apple logo appear on the screen.

2. Update Your Carrier Settings, If You Can

As you can imagine, a lot happens behind the scenes to keep your iPhone connected to the wireless network. I take it for granted nowadays, but the technology is amazing. As we drive, our cellular signal is seamlessly handed off from one tower to the next, and calls seem to find us wherever we are in the world — as long as our iPhones don’t say “Searching…”.

From time to time, wireless carriers release software updates that change the way your iPhone interacts with the cellular network. Sometimes, these updates fix problems that can cause your iPhone to say “Searching…” all the time. Unfortunately, iPhones don’t have a “Check for Carrier Settings Update” button, because that would be too easy.

How To Check For A Carrier Settings Update On Your iPhone

  1. Connect to Wi-Fi.
  2. Go to Settings -> General -> About
  3. Wait for 10 seconds.
  4. If an update is available, a window will appear that asks if you would like to update your carrier settings. If an update is available, tap Update or OK. If nothing happens, your carrier settings are already up to date.

Carrier Settings Update On iPhone

3. Reset Network Settings

It may seem obvious, but I often find it helpful to restate the problem because it clarifies the solution: An iPhone that says searching can’t connect to the cellular network. Worse yet, its battery begins to drain rapidly, because an iPhone will use more power trying to connect when it thinks a cellular network isn’t available. Fixing the “Searching…” problem will often address battery life issues as well.

Reset Network Settings restores your iPhone’s cellular data configuration back to factory defaults. It’s an easy way to eliminate the possibility that an accidental change in the Settings app is preventing your iPhone from connecting to the network. Resetting the network settings on your iPhone also removes all the saved Wi-Fi networks and their passwords from your iPhone, so make sure you know your Wi-Fi password before you do it.

To reset network settings on your iPhone, go to Settings -> General -> Reset, tap Reset Network Settings, enter your passcode, and tap Reset Network Settings. After your iPhone reboots, wait a few seconds to see if the “Searching…” problem goes away. If it doesn’t, move on to the next step.

reset then reset network settings iphone

4. Fix Problems With Your SIM Card

All iPhones have a tiny SIM card that wireless carriers use to identify specific iPhones on their network. Your SIM card gives your iPhone your phone number — it’s what tells your carrier you’re you. SIM card problems are a common reason why iPhones say “Searching…”.

My article about a similar problem, what happens when your iPhone says “No SIM”, explains how to remove your SIM card and the process of diagnosing and fixing SIM card issues. Do steps 1 through 4, and then come back here if your iPhone still says “Searching…”.

5. DFU Restore Your iPhone (But Read The Warning, First)

Your iPhone’s firmware is the programming that controls the hardware on your iPhone, including the antenna. It’s called firmware because it almost never changes, unlike software (changes all the time) or hardware (only changes unless you physically replace a component on your iPhone).

Like software, your iPhone’s firmware can become corrupted. When that happens, the only way to repair it is to do a special type of Restore on your iPhone called a DFU restore. DFU stands for Device Firmware Update.

Restoring an iPhone erases everything on it and restores its software to factory settings. Typically, the user backs up their iPhone to iCloud or iTunes, uses iTunes to restore their iPhone, and uses their iCloud or iTunes backup to put their personal data back on their iPhone.

Problems with your iPhone’s firmware can cause your iPhone to say “Searching…”, and if there is no physical or liquid damage to your iPhone, a DFU restore often will fix the problem.

However, (and this is a big however), after an iPhone restores, it has to reactivate itself on the cellular network before you can do anything else. If you DFU restore your iPhone and it doesn’t fix the problem, your iPhone won’t be able to connect to the cellular network to activate, and you won’t be able to use it at all. 

If you’re going to repair your iPhone anyway, it doesn’t hurt to try a DFU restore. Back up your iPhone first, and then follow the instructions in my article about how to DFU restore an iPhone for a step-by-step walkthrough of the process. Just remember that if it doesn’t work, you won’t be able to use your iPhone.

6. Repair Your iPhone

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve eliminated the possibility that a software problem or problem with your iPhone’s SIM card is causing it to say “Searching…”, and it’s time to repair your iPhone.

If you’re under warranty and there is no physical or liquid damage, or if you have AppleCare+, make an appointment at the Genius Bar of your local Apple Store to have your iPhone replaced on the spot. If you’re not near an Apple Store or you want to skip the line, Apple’s mail-in repair service is excellent.

Repairs can be expensive if you’re not under warranty, because Apple doesn’t do antenna repairs. If you go through Apple, your only option is to replace your entire iPhone.

If you’re looking for a less expensive alternative, we recommend Puls, an on-demand repair company. They’ll send an expert technician directly to you, whether you’re at work or home.

Sometimes, getting a new phone is a better option than repairing the one you currently have. Head to UpPhone to compare every cell phone from every wireless carrier.

Wrapping It Up

In this article, we talked about why your iPhone says searching and walked through a list of possible fixes. An iPhone can’t make or receive phone calls, send text messages, or do pretty much anything when it says “Searching…”. If you have time to leave a comment, I’d like to hear from you about your experiences with an iPhone that says searching and which step fixed the problem for you.

Thanks for reading,
David P.

About Author

I'm a former Apple employee and the founder of Payette Forward, and I'm here to help you with your iPhone.

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Stevie
2 months ago

I did step 3 three times and that worked. Lucky I didn’t stop at twice!,

samuel
5 months ago

i have repaired my iphone 7 saying searching 3 times but it keeps saying searching after a day of working perfetly

roxana
6 months ago

my phone searching mode and does not let me do anything

Anonymous
1 year ago

Thank you very much. I had to reset my network settings. Everything works well now.

Anonymous
1 year ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Would’ve been nice if I could do any of these steps while my phone is unactivated 😐

Anonymous
1 year ago

My iPhone 6 and 6Plus same problem searching and no servide after reset.

Anonymous
1 year ago

Great stuff and insight. However still saying searching. Great because I never thought of these diagnostics which are useful

Anonymous
1 year ago

pretty sure apple wants you to buy a new phone I wouldnt be surprised if the send a bug to make your phone fail ,they have done it before remember battery problems just as iphone 8 was coming out ?

Anonymous
1 year ago

Went through all of the steps, and the DFU restore worked, I was amazed. Back in business.

Anonymous
1 year ago

Very detailed guide, thank you. Just about to try the firmware reset – I cant use the phone (except via WiFi) so Ive nothing to lose now! Thanks again.

Anonymous
1 year ago

Thank you very much as final I resolved my iPhone

Anonymous
1 year ago

Super awesome, super happy. Thanks David. My iphone6 is working again, I hope it last until I can get another. Dont know how long it will last, but at least I know what steps to take. It took only three steps and BOOM searching disappeared. Thanks again.

Anonymous
2 years ago

I was a big time Apple Fan, until a couple of issues happened with my mac and ipad. Just wanted to say the same, I tried all the possible steps ever you can imagine, but the SIM is still searching! One of my friends told me he had the same issue and he was asked for 20k Indian rupees (Almost $300), I mean I can litteraly buy a new phone for that amount. Highly disappointed!

Anonymous
2 years ago

Hey so this really helped, turned out I had to factory reset my network settings. I was pushed into the pool by a friend of mine, thought I broke it. Thought this wouldnt work and was stupid. Glad I tried it, thanks a lot for the article!

Anonymous
2 years ago

Step #3 worked! But like another poster suggested, it took three attempts! Yay

Anonymous
2 years ago

Unfortunately, this did not fix the problem. However, I now feel confident that I need professional assistance. I too often jump the gun only to find out it was something I could have done on my own with clear step by step instructions. So thank-you. I will add that although my iPhone 6 continues to say searching I am able to call, text, receive calls and texts and go online. I occasionally will get a message send failure or learn that a text was sent to me yet I never received it. So off to Apple I go – or… Read more »

Anonymous
2 years ago

I have an iPhone 6 which I have owned for quite a few years. One day this searching problem happened to me and I tried everything on this page. For a few days, my phone started to work again but then suddenly started to say searching again. I took it to an Apple store and they told me that either my antenna was broken, or that my SIM card reader was broken, neither of which they fix. (They also told me that this problem is currently really common among the iPhone 7, all editions of it.) I then took my… Read more »

Anonymous
2 years ago

ive had my iphone 7 for almost 2 years and its worked fine, but now when im not home on the wifi i have either “searching” no just nothing at all. ive turned my phone off and on at least 9 times today and nothing has changed.

Anonymous
2 years ago

It just happen to me.. i tried all of suggested on yor web but none of them work.. but suddenly my battery fully drained.. then Im charging my iphone 5s using usb connect to laptop, when my phone turned on the problem solved, now it back to normal. (My iPhone 5s problem is it keep searching for network after i changed my battery)

Anonymous
2 years ago

Pooched

Anonymous
2 years ago

Hi.
Thanks for the great post.
Hasn’t fixed my phone unfortunately so looks like I’ll have to visit the iPhone shop.
Thank you

OnceBuilder.com
2 years ago

ok, iphones are s***

Anonymous
2 years ago

thanks alot

Anonymous
2 years ago

Thank you. This was very helpful.

Anonymous
2 years ago

I have an iPhone 6 and after several attempts to resolve this issue at the apple store, repair stores and fido – I have been unsuccessful. I have an old iphone 4s that was not working either so I decided to do the above steps and it fixed my old phone. Since this was successful, I tried doing it on the Iphone 6 however, it was unsuccessful. I tried the steps 2 more times in attempt to see if it would help, it didn’t. I have a feeling its the phones carrier update that is causing the issue. With the… Read more »

Anonymous
2 years ago

I have an iphone 5c… still. Yes older model now and its been working pretty good for me until now. It says searching. I did the restarts, network reset and a few other things. Nothing worked. I finally gave up and went for the restore and it didn’t fix it. So then I had a brick. But I looked online that if you have trouble activating you iphone you can try a recovery mode option. THIS SAVED ME! Some how the connection reestablished and I was able to activate my phone a restore all my backed up data. So… RECOVERY… Read more »

Anonymous
2 years ago

BUT IVE TRIED EVERYTHING