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iPhone 12 owners have a big problem — what you need to know

iPhone 12 Pro review
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

If you just spent several hundred dollars on a new iPhone 12, at the very least you’d want it to be able to maintain a signal. But some people are reporting that it’s having trouble doing just that.

At least 500 people have reported issues with their iPhone 12 dropping 5G and LTE signals unexpectedly. And as you can imagine they’re not pleased about it.

It’s not clear how widespread the problem is, but according to 9to5Mac the problem goes back over a month. Apple forum user joxesCA posted about their issues back at the end of October, and it sounds like the problem stems from switching between cell towers.

joxesCA was forced to switch Airplane Mode on and off to regain their connection, and discovered that the problem still occurred after switching from 5G Auto down to LTE. The problem continued even after resetting network settings, then again after restoring the phone to factory settings and reinstalling everything from scratch.

iPhone 12 owners take to Reddit

A Reddit thread discussing the issue also confirms that this isn’t a carrier-specific problem, since users on Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T have experienced this frustration first hand. The fact that the issue generally seems to occur while traveling or driving suggests that the cell tower switching theory is correct.

"So this probably isn’t a Verizon issue and runs a bit deeper I expect. I first noticed this problem today, probably because of tower handoff because I was working in an areas where reception is known to be extremely flaky at work. I’ve also been independently trying to work out why my Google location timeline wasn’t working in Google maps," explained Reddit user ender89.

"I noticed two things here: first, flipping airplane mode on and off reconnects to the network. Secondly, flipping airplane mode on and off makes location history work. Thirdly, location history can and will stop working again, probably after a tower handoff or two. Lastly, cell reception can continue while location history fails (and the new Google home feature for using a phone as a 'presence sensor' doesn’t work). Toggling airplane mode immediately fixed location history." 

Apple hasn’t said anything official about the problem, though Reddit OP Professional_Title posted that Apple customer service would investigate the issue. Shortly afterwards their phone stopped randomly disconnecting, but the absence of a software update is “frustrating” because the problem — and its seemingly random nature — is still unexplained.

The iPhone 12 cellular signal problem is hopefully a software issue which could be solved with an update, though when that might be isn’t clear. After all, it relies on Apple investigating and confirming what the cause of the problem is. 

In the meantime if you’re having trouble with your own iPhone 12 randomly disconnecting, make sure to get in touch with support at both Apple and your carrier. More people complaining could help expedite a fix, as should increased pressure from carriers.

Until then, if you are struggling with random disconnections, switching Airplane Mode on and off should provide a short term fix. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than no service at all.

Tom Pritchard

Tom covers a little bit of everything at Tom’s Guide, ranging from the latest electric cars all the way down to hot takes on why Christopher Nolan is wrong about everything. Appliances are also muscling their way into his routine, which is a pretty long way from his days as Editor at Gizmodo UK. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.