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iPhone continues to encounter 'searching for service' bug

updated 11:50 am EST, Tue November 24, 2009

May be connected to firmware

Some iPhone owners are still suffering from an issue preventing any kind of cellular connection, posters on Apple's support forums say. After entering an area with no carrier service, or simply at random, an iPhone may launch into a "searching for service" mode from which it does not return, even when back in a known coverage area. The only way of temporarily fixing the problem is said to be rebooting a phone.

Although some suggest the fault may lie with carriers, or phones without the latest carrier updates, others argue it is instead connected to the iPhone firmware. Disruptions allegedly began with the iPhone 3.1 update, and have persisted with v3.1.2. Posters also note that the issue can occur across multiple phones, and multiple carriers, such as AT&T, Telus and Rogers. Neither carriers nor Apple have reportedly been able to find a solution.

by MacNN Staff



  1. chrisagiddings

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Happening a long time

    I've been having this issue off and on since before 3.0.

    AT&T's signal doesn't reach my desk at work, in no small part due to the abundance of verizon repeaters in the building. I've resorted to putting my phone in airplane mode until I get back to my car as it's always found a signal after that.

    Before I came up with that solution the phone would go a couple hours without signal at work and decide it wasn't going to try anymore. Ultimately that decision carried over indeffinitely until a reboot was carried out.

    This has been happening to me since at least February or March of this year.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Isn't this something we just blame ATT for, since they're the ones which lack the signal strength to have a signal always available? I mean, it isn't Apple's fault, is it?

  1. no use for a nick

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I've experienced this multiple times. My phone will eventually get a signal back, but it often takes 3-5 minutes for it to re-acquire a signal after losing it, even if I've been in a full-signal coverage area for most of that time. It will, every single time, search for a signal for a long period, switch to No Signal and then after about another minute, re-acquire signal.

    It's makes AT&T's poor coverage in my city all the more frustrating.

  1. Campah

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Made me leave iPhone/AT&T

    I've been fighting this problem for months and finally had enough. AT&T and Apple pointed fingers at each other, I got a replacement phone, nothing fixed the problem.

    As near as I can tell what was happening, I live right next to another carrier's GSM tower (Unicel). About 80% of the time, my phone would see that tower, and be happy and have 5 full bars of EDGE. The rest of the time, it would see the closest AT&T owned tower across town, also EDGE, and try as hard as it could to connect, even if that meant only 1 bar or just Searching...

    Of course this only happened when I needed the phone. My theory is that there is something in the carrier settings that gave preference to AT&T towers, no matter how poor the reception would be. This is only a theory though.

    Needless to say, I don't care much anymore now that I switched to Verizon and the Droid. Miss the iPhone, but really, what good's a phone that doesn't make or receive calls when you need it :/

  1. Fast iBook

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Location services?

    After turning OFF location services, i notice cell network "monitoring" seems a bit snappier than when they are ON. WiFi seems to have no effect. I'm guessing it's a carrier setting combined with a battery life saving feature that switches the transceivers into a lower power mode meant for high signal strength areas. Since location services put extra strain on the battery, this may trigger those power savings going into effect. Just an idea, it could be as simple as one funky line of code somewhere. I've never had severe issues, in fact i only ever have signal disruption in my room, inside ground floor with trees all around in the middle of a "moderate" coverage area on att's coverage map.

    - A

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