AT&T outage causing phones to be stuck on ‘SOS mode’: Here’s what that means

FILE _ A cellular phone tower is shown on Monday, May 22, 2017 in High Ridge, Mo. A number of Americans are dealing with cellular outages Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, on AT&T, Cricket Wireless, Verizon, T-Mobile and other service providers, according to data from Downdetector. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) (Jeff Roberson, Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

HOUSTON – Thursday morning, a nationwide service outage by AT&T and several other cellular device networks left customers in the U.S. without cell phone service.

Over 74,000 customers were affected by the outage, according to DownDetector.

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The loss of service meant no cell service, texting, or cellular internet access for those affected.

Several people reported their phones being in “SOS mode” during the outage.

SOS mode is a feature on iPhones that indicates a lack of proper cellular connection. In this mode, users are only able to make calls or send text messages to emergency services through the cellular network.

iPhone 14 and newer models have satellite SOS capability, enabling users to call 911 even when outside of cellular service range, unless the signal is completely inaccessible at the location. Android phones also allow calling 911 without service, although this feature is not referred to as SOS mode.

When service is unavailable, the SOS icon will appear in the top right corner of an iPhone’s screen, replacing the usual cellular connection bars.

For iPhone 13 or earlier models, when out of range for any cellular service, the icon changes to display “No service” until returning within range.

SOS mode is automatically activated when there is no cell service available from the phone carrier.

During an outage, users must wait for service to be restored to their area.

If SOS mode is activated due to being outside the network’s coverage area, one must return inside the coverage area before making calls.

While SOS mode indicates a lack of cellular service, the phone can still be used. Most phones allow calling, texting, and internet browsing over Wi-Fi. If there is an internet connection through Wi-Fi, the phone can be used normally and contact can be made with other Wi-Fi network phones while in SOS mode.

AT&T has not provided a timeline for full service restoration but confirmed that efforts are underway to resolve the issue.

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