8 Steps to Speeding Up a Slow Mobile Data Connection

6 Mins read

Wondering why your cellular data is so slow? There’s nothing more frustrating than a slow data connection on your phone. Whether you’re trying to watch a video 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 simple steps first to see if they fix your slow mobile data issues.

1. Restart Your Phone

This seems like a cliché fix, but it often works. Restarting your phone should fix sluggish cellular data speeds, especially if you haven’t turned it off in a while. Restarting your phone is simple:

  • On an iPhone X or newer, 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.
  • If you have an iPhone 8 or earlier, simply hold the side button (on the right side of the phone, or the top of older devices) until Slide to Power Off appears on the screen.
  • For most Android phones, you just need to hold the power button until the power options appear on the screen, then tap Restart.

2. Change Locations

Many factors can result in slow LTE service. These include weather, network congestion, and even solar activity. But chief 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 wonder why your data is so slow when you enter certain structures. If you’re having speed problems that might 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. This step is likely something tech support will ask you to do anyway if you call for help.

3. Update and Disable 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. When your iPhone internet is slow, 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 > App data usage. Tap an app, then slide the Background data slider off to prevent that app from using data in the background. You should also check for app 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 through an update.

4. Disable Data Saver/Low Data Mode

Both Android and iOS contain modes designed to reduce your data usage. These are handy if you have a limited amount of data, but can also make it seem like your service connection is slow. Try disabling these modes and see if everything feels faster. On Android, head to Settings > Network & internet > Data Saver. If you have an iPhone, you’ll find a comparable setting called Low Data Mode under Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options. If you’re worried about how much data you use, make sure you turn these back on after a bit. You should be able to tell if this setting is making your mobile data slower or not.

5. 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. Not using a VPN yet? You should be! We highly recommend ExpressVPN because it’s effective and reputable, but if you find it too expensive, CyberGhost is a good value-conscious option.

6. 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. If you’re still experiencing slow mobile data at this point, it’s a good idea to check for outages with your carrier before calling in. If you can connect to Wi-Fi, it’s easy to do some investigating. Try checking a website such as Downdetector. Quite often, if your issue is widespread, other people will have already reported it.

You can also hop onto social media. Twitter is a good place to research connection issues because people will often tweet about their connection problems. If you contact your mobile carrier’s support Twitter account, you’re likely to get a response quickly. This also lets you do something else while you wait, instead of wasting time on hold.

7. Reset Your Phone’s Network Settings

Resetting your network settings, like restarting your phone, often fixes a slow mobile data connection. The problem is that doing so 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 saved Wi-Fi networks 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 > Advanced > 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.

8. Pull and Insert Your SIM Card Again

Finally, you can try to pull and reinsert your SIM card. This can clear up any underlying issues affecting your phone’s connection to your carrier. 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, bottom, or even 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, usually provided in the phone box. If you don’t have this handy, you can bend a paper clip or use the back of an earring.

When pulling your SIM card, you should ideally power the phone off first. It’s not a huge deal, but will prevent any potential damage. Also, make sure you pull your SIM while sitting at a table or flat surface, since it’s tiny and easy to lose. If pulling the SIM card doesn’t work, you can try replacing it. This will require 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 gigabytes. If you go over that cap, your mobile carrier will usually slow your connection (in lieu of expensive overages). Even those on so-called unlimited plans may experience throttling or “deprioritization” during times of network congestion after they hit a certain limit. Keep this in mind when you experience slow service. If you’ve used up your allotment, you may have to wait until your bill cycle resets or purchase additional high-speed data. If none of these steps fix your slow data, then it’s time to call tech support. The technician may have you repeat some of these steps. You might be inclined to refuse because you’re already done them, but it’s the representative’s 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 could something on your provider’s end that you can’t fix. And if you also have slow internet speeds on Wi-Fi, you should investigate your phone’s slow connection speeds further.

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