There’s nothing more frustrating than a slow cellular data connection. Whether you’re trying to Google something or check Facebook on your phone, you pay for and expect a certain level of speed. When service fails to meet that level, it’s easy to get upset.
In most cases, a slow connection is just temporary, caused by location or network congestion. Other times, it can persist for hours or even days. Before you call your mobile carrier’s technical support, try these seven simple steps first to see if they fix your speed issues.
1. Restart Your Phone
This seems like such a simple fix, but it often works. Especially if you haven’t turned it off in a while, restarting your phone should fix sluggish cellular data speeds.
Restarting your phone is simple. On an iPhone 8 or older, simply hold the side button (on the right side of the phone) until Slide to Power Off appears on the screen.
On an iPhone X, press and hold the side button and either volume up or volume down until Slide to Power Off appears. Once you power off your iPhone, hold the side button again to turn it back on.
For most Android phones, hold the power button until the power options appear on the screen, then tap Restart.
2. Change Locations
Many factors can impact a phone’s data connection. These include weather, network congestion, and even solar activity. But tops among these are geography and buildings.
If you’re in a remote area, or there are a lot of natural barriers around you such as hills, mountains, and valleys, they can affect your signal.
The same goes for buildings. You could be in the middle of a heavily populated urban area with full bars, then see your signal drop to nothing when you enter certain structures.
If you’re having speed problems that seem to have started in a certain location, try moving somewhere else. You may need to leave the building you’re in or drive a few miles away. While this may not be convenient, it’s a good way to troubleshoot your speed issue. It’s likely something tech support will ask you to do anyway.
3. Disable and Update Apps
Sometimes a troublesome app can cause issues by hogging your data connection and slowing it down. In such a case, you’ll want to do a little investigating to see what, if anything, is eating into your speed. If it turns out there is something amiss, you can disable the app’s access to your cellular data connection or uninstall it.
On an iPhone, you can visit Settings > Cellular and disable any app’s access to your cellular data connection.
On Android, you’ll find this at Settings > Network & internet > Mobile network > Data usage. Tap an app, then slide the Background data slider off to prevent an app from using data in the background.
You should also check for updates. App developers publish updates to address bugs all the time, so it could be a simple matter of opening the App Store or Google Play and downloading the fix in an update.
4. Disconnect From Your VPN
VPNs provide anonymity and privacy, but they can also slow down your speeds when using remote servers. Thus, if your phone is connected to a VPN, try disconnecting and try again.
Chances are, you’ll notice an immediate improvement as soon as you disconnect. If that does fix the problem, you can improve your VPN’s speed when you reconnect to it.
5. Check for Network Outages
Though mobile carriers love to tout their reliability, outages happen all the time. These outages often account for reduced speeds or even lost connections. It’s always a good idea to check for outages with your carrier first, before calling in.
If you can connect to Wi-Fi, you can do some investigating. Try checking a website such as Down Detector. Quite often, if your issue is widespread, other people will have already reported it.
You can also hop on social media. Twitter is a good place to research connection issues. If you contact your mobile carrier’s custom support Twitter account, you’re likely to get a response quickly. This also allows you time to do something else instead of wasting time on hold.
6. Reset Your Network Settings
Resetting your network settings, like restarting your phone, often fixes a slow data connection. The problem is that it also resets your Wi-Fi access points and Bluetooth devices. This isn’t the end of the world, but you will have to reconnect to Wi-Fi and re-pair your Bluetooth devices later.
To reset network settings on an iPhone, open Settings > General > Reset > Reset Network Settings. The phone will prompt you for your passcode if you have one, then it will restart.
On an Android phone, you’ll find the reset network settings option at Settings > System > Reset options > Reset Wi-Fi, mobile & Bluetooth. This may be in a different location depending on your phone manufacturer. Try searching for it in the Settings search bar if you can’t find it.
Resetting the network settings on an Android phone usually does not require you to restart the device.
7. Pull Your SIM Card
Finally, you can try to pull and reinsert your SIM card.
Where your SIM card is located varies from device to device. On iPhones, the SIM card slot is always located on the right edge of the phone below the side button. On Android devices, it can be on the side, top, or behind the back cover, if your phone has a removable battery.
The SIM sits in a small tray that will pop out. You can pull some SIM trays with your fingernail. Others may require you to use a small tool like a paper clip or the back of an earring.
When pulling your SIM card, it’s important to always power the phone off first to prevent any damage. Also, make sure you pull your SIM while sitting at a table or flat surface, since it is very small and easy to lose.
If pulling the SIM card doesn’t work, you can try replacing it. This will require you going into one of your carrier’s store locations, so you should call first if your issue still isn’t resolved at this point. Your carrier may send you a new SIM anyway.
Keep in mind that if you have an older phone, you may not be able to access the fastest mobile data standards. See our comparison of 4G LTE and 5G for what to expect.
When All Else Fails, Call Tech Support
Remember, you probably have a mobile data cap ranging from a few to several dozen GBs. If you go over that cap, your mobile carrier will usually slow your connection (in lieu of expensive overages). Even users on so-called unlimited plans may experience throttling or “deprioritization” during times of network congestion when they hit a certain limit.
Keep this in mind when you call support. In these cases, you may have to wait until your bill cycle resets or purchase additional data.
If none of these steps fix your speed issues, then it’s time to call tech support. Remember that they may have you repeat some of these steps. You might be inclined to refuse because you’re already done them, but it’s their job to go through a list of troubleshooting steps to see what works and what doesn’t.
Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. If it does, the issue might be something on your provider’s end that you can’t fix. Should you have the same problem on Wi-Fi, you should investigate your phone’s slow internet speeds further.
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