Chances are, we often rely on our smartphones to solve various problems. But what happens when it’s our phone that’s in trouble? iPhone users might be familiar with the ‘SOS Only’ message that sometimes appears on the status bar.

If that SOS message lingers on your iPhone without a resolution, don’t worry—we’ve got you covered. With iOS 16, you’ll notice these messages on the right side of the status bar. In previous versions, they appeared on the left side.

In this article, we’ll explain what SOS means on your iPhone. We’ll cover some of the most common reasons why your phone might display “SOS Only” and how you can turn it off.

What Does ‘SOS Only’ Mean on iPhones? 

You can find the ‘SOS’ or ‘SOS Only’ pop-up on the top right corner on iOS 16 or the top-left corner on iOS 15 or earlier, if your iPhone struggles to connect with a cellular network. The message indicates that you are unable to make phone calls, send messages, or use cellular data altogether. 

Once you get the SOS signal, you are only restricted to using the emergency SOS services, including making a 911 call or only to the concerned authorities. Just bear in mind, these services are only limited to Australia, Canada, and the United States. For the rest of the areas, you will receive No Service in the status bar.  

Note: The ‘SOS Only’ error is completely different from the No Service error that is known to plague iPhones. 

Top 10 Ways to Fix ‘SOS Only’ Error on iPhone

Here is a list of all the troubleshooting methods that you can follow to turn off the ‘SOS Only’ error on your iPhone: 

1. Toggle Off and On Cellular Data

For starters, you might come across the ‘SOS Only’ message for a network error altogether. Something as trivial as reenabling your Cellular Data can fix the underlying issue with a fresh connection. Here’s how you can do it: 

Step 1: Head over to Settings and tap on Mobile Data

Step 2: Now, toggle off Mobile Data

Step 3: You can wait for a few seconds until you Toggle on the Mobile Data. 

Similarly, you can also summon the Control Center and tap on the ‘Cellular Data’ icon. Disable it, and wait for a few seconds to enable it. 

In case, you end up with the SOS icon, follow through with the next methods. 

2. Ensure Data Roaming is Enabled

If you have disabled data roaming, you might also end up with the ‘SOS Only’ error on your iPhone. This particularly kicks in if you are constantly traveling, and out of town. Under such circumstances, you can change the settings as follows: 

Step 1: Head over to Settings and tap on Mobile Data.

Step 2: Now, toggle on Mobile Data.

Based on your data plan, either 5G or 4G will show up instead of SOS. 

3. Switch to a 4G/LTE Network 

There is no point in arguing that 5G is still not completely functional in several parts of the world. So, if you happen to live in an area with poor signal strength, it is always a wise option to disable the 5G network on your iPhone. Until there is a stable connection, you can stick with the 4G network. 

4. Restart Your iPhone

This is by far one of the most convenient and sought-after ways to fix any issue with your iPhone. Mostly, it tends to work in our favor as well. By restarting your iPhone, you reset the cache, which can help in resolving any system error altogether. Once there is a stable network connection, you can fix the SOS error. 

  • iPhone with Face ID: Press and hold the side and volume up/down buttons simultaneously, until you see the power-off slider. 
  • iPhone with Touch ID: Hold the side button until you find the power-off slider appears. 

Also Read: 3 Ways to Unlock Your iPhone

5. Update Your Carrier Settings 

Your carrier settings are set automatically to ensure better cellular connectivity and better performance altogether. To fix the ‘SOS Only’ error, you can also manually update your carrier settings on your iPhone. Simply follow the steps mentioned below: 

Step 1: Open Settings and go to General

Step 2: Tap on About

Step 3: In case there is a pending update, simply click on Update and install. 

Note: For eSIM, you need to manually download the new carrier settings. 

Once you have successfully updated the carrier settings, you can see the network bars appear on the status bar. 

6. Re-enable Automatic Network Selection 

Using this method, you can rest assured that you are actually connected to the right carrier while ensuring a stable network connection. By toggling off and on, you can redirect the device to re-establish a connection with the network. Not to mention, this can also help you to get rid of the ‘SOS Only’ error. 

Step 1: Head over to Settings Mobile Data

Step 2: Tap on Network Selection

Step 3: Turn off the switch right next to Automatic

Step 4: Wait for a few moments until you turn it on. 

7. Re-Insert Your SIM Manually 

If you can also manually reset the network by simply re-inserting the SIM card on your iPhone. If the above-mentioned method didn’t work for you, you can always give it a try. In fact, there are several instances, where the physical SIM card might have shifted its position on an impact. So, you can always take out the SIM card and check for any physical damage. 

8. Update to the Latest iOS 

There might be an underlying software issue due to which you might see the SOS symbol on your iPhone. In that case, you can always resolve the issue by updating your iPhone to the latest iOS. To check for updates, follow the steps mentioned below: 

Step 1: Go to Settings > General

Step 2: Tap on Software Update

Step 3: If there is an update available, tap on Download

9. Reset Your iPhone’s Network Settings

If nothing seems to work by now, you can always rely on this last resort to get rid of the SOS error. By resetting your iPhone, all of your device settings will be erased including Wi-Fi passwords, connected Bluetooth devices, VPN configurations, and more. Follow the steps mentioned below to reset your iPhone: 

Step 1: Go to Settings General

Step 2: Scroll down until you find ‘Transfer or Reset iPhone.’

Step 3: Tap on Reset.

Step 4: Select ‘Reset Network Settings’ and enter your password. 

Step 5: Tap on ‘Reset Network Settings’ to confirm your action. 

10. Contact Your Mobile Carrier

Last but not the least, once you have exhausted all the resources, yet you can see the SOS icon, it’s time to reach out to your carrier. One of the easiest ways is to schedule a call with them and get the error fixed. 

In the meantime, you can also explain all the troubleshooting steps you have taken prior to contacting them. This, in turn, can give them clarity on what went wrong. Simultaneously, you can also reach out to Apple for further support on your iPhone.  

Recommended: How to Turn On or Off 5G on iPhone

The Bottom Line 

That’s our guide on troubleshooting the ‘SOS Only’ error on your iPhone. You might be wondering if this is related to the new Emergency SOS via Satellite feature on the iPhone 14 series. While that feature is exclusive to those models, similar tweaks might appear on other iOS 16 devices. Let us know in the comments which method worked best for you.

Tathagata is a avid lover of sci-fi films and technology. An aspiring electrical engineer and a passionate technical writer. He is very friendly, realist and always on the hunt for latest technological advancements.


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