Tech Guide

Try this trick if your phone keeps losing its data connection

Key Points
  • Sometimes it seems like your iPhone or Android phone has completely lost a data connection.
  • Often this can be fixed by turning off Wi-Fi, since some phones will try to connect to open Wi-Fi networks that aren't actually providing data.
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I have a trick you should try if it seems like your phone is constantly dropping a data connection. Turn off your Wi-Fi. I know, it sounds silly, but let me explain.

Here's the scenario: you're walking down the street trying to find directions in Google Maps or streaming music, when suddenly Google Maps won't load and Spotify stops streaming. It happens to all of us.

There's a chance you've simply wandered out of a data coverage area, but it's becoming rare now that wireless networks pretty much blanket the United States in high-speed data. Instead, it's more likely that your phone has latched on to some open wireless network that's not providing any service, even if your phone thinks it is.

There's a reason this happens: sometimes your wireless network, like AT&T, might have free Wi-Fi hotspots all over a city. It can be convenient if you're using a laptop, but sometimes your smartphone will automatically connect to those networks even if your regular cellular connection has a faster connection.

Apple released a fix for this in iOS 11, which was supposed to prevent iPhones from connecting to poor Wi-Fi networks, but I've found that this can still sometimes happen on Android and iPhones alike. Sometimes it's good, if the Wi-Fi signal is solid, but usually it just gives me a slow or terrible connection. Here's how to fix it.

On an iPhone:

  • Open Settings
  • Select Wi-Fi
  • Scroll to the bottom and turn on 'Ask to Join Networks.'

This will force your iPhone to alert you if it's going to join a Wi-Fi network first. You can also simply swipe down from the top of an iPhone X (or up from the bottom on any other iPhone) and turn off Wi-Fi manually.

On Android:

The trick can vary on Android, since some phones have different menus than others, but you want to try to follow these steps. A function on Samsung phones, called "smart network switch," is supposed to prevent your phone from connecting to poor Wi-Fi, but again it can sometimes be a little wonky. I keep it off.

  • Open Settings
  • Open Connections
  • Tap Wi-Fi
  • Select Advanced
  • Turn off "Smart network switch"

Or, as with an iPhone, you can just turn off Wi-Fi manually by dragging down from the top of the screen on your Android phone and tapping the Wi-Fi icon.

Almost every time I do this I find that I have a cellular connection again and I can get back to using maps, surfing the web or listening to Spotify. Give it a try if you've ever had a similar problem.

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