iPhone SE needs to restart to make a call

My iPhone SE has developed a disturbing feature. It usually needs to be restarted to make a phone call successfully. I don’t make many calls (less than one per day generally); as a test, I tried to call a number about a day after a restart and it went through (I assume; I knew no one was there and I hung up as soon as I heard it ring). But most of the time it has been over a day since my last call and I need to shut down and restart before I can actually complete a call.

Failure is indicated by the phone turning off speaker without user intervention, no audible ringing tone, and eventually a failure message from the phone. Attempted calls do appear in the Recents menu.

I did Reset Network Settings to no effect. I have not Reset All Settings. The iOS is version 12.1.4; 12.3.1 is available. (Just out of curiosity, how would I install something greater than 12.1.4 but less than 12.3.1 if I wanted to do that?)

I believe the problem started on a recent trip, during which the phone went without service for about a week, and also during which it indicated that it had only 3G service in both Seattle and New York City. My provider is Virgin Mobile USA.

Suggestions? Comments? Thanks for any help.

I don’t think there’s a way to do that on the phone. It’s either jump straight to latest iOS version (if the option’s available) or stay put.

From the description of what’s happening when you’re trying to make a call, I’d suspect a hardware issue. Have you tried a cold start (turn the phone off, leave it a while, then power it on again)? If that doesn’t resolve it, and it’s still happening after updating iOS to 12.3.1, then I think it’s time to contact Apple.

(I’ve got an iPhone SE here on iOS 12.3.1.)

Thanks for the reply, Alan.

Your definition of “a while” determines whether I do that. Typically it’s about 20 to 30 seconds, and that’s what I’m now required to do most of the time that I want to make a call.

Do you see a benefit in leaving the phone off for longer before restarting it? How much longer?

I don’t think leaving the phone off for longer is going to make much difference. Your best bet now would be to contact Apple and see if they can help you get it working again.

Settings -> General -> Reset -> Reset All Settings

This is present on one device running 12.1.4 here; it’s very curious that you don’t see that setting.

You should also see ‘Erase All Contents and Settings’.

I would attach with USB to Lightning cable to iTunes, do a complete backup (or to iCloud if you have no choice), and then do a factory reset ('Erase all… ’ on device, or ‘Restore’ in iTunes), and see how the phone behaves with factory-fresh settings.

If you restore on-device, you can maintain 12.1.4; if you do it via iTunes, and you saved your 12.1.4 .ipsw file, you will have to be careful not to be forced to 12.3.1 (though I’m not clear what your reticence to update is; it’s a fine, stable update on the SEs in our household.)

Once you have tested hardware stability with fresh software, if successful, you can restore from your backup and be back to business as usual; if not, time for a trip to the Apple Store.

First news first. The phone seems to have started working normally. As I said, I make few phone calls, and I would guess that the phone needed to be restarted recently on about six occasions in order to make a call. Since the last restart, I have made a half dozen calls over the last several days (most of them just to see if they would go through). I don’t know what would have been different about the last restart that would have made the phone start working again.

Thanks for your comments, frederico.

I must have phrased something incorrectly. I do see the Reset All Settings command; I did not execute it.

I do back up in iTunes using a cable and not to iCloud. I have never performed a restore. What would it mean to restore on-device rather than via iTunes?

Where would I find the .ipsw file? I suspect that I’m not doing iOS updates in an optimal fashion.

I have no reticence about installing 12.3.1 (at least not now that you’ve endorsed it); it’s just something that I hadn’t gotten around to.

I am almost fully ignorant of most things related to iPhones and iPads. Somehow the Macintosh seems natural to me and iOS devices are confusing black boxes. It’s only recently that I figured out how to save backups older than the most recent one.

Of course, as soon as I posted that comment, I needed to restart the phone to make a call. I installed 12.3.1; the problem still appeared. The problem is intermittent, so successful calls do not necessarily mean the issue is gone.

I visited an Apple Store; the Genius wiped the phone clean (and seemed slightly amazed when I said I had a backup) and installed 12.3.1. I restored from the backup, and today the problem again manifested itself. However, based on a comment by the Genius, I switched to Airplane Mode for several seconds and switched back and that cured the problem, for that call.

My guess is that whatever causes the problem is in my backup, so my plan is to Reset All Settings and then restore from my oldest backup, which I believe predates the start of the issue. Does this seem reasonable? Any other suggestions?


My problem with the iPhone failing to make an outgoing call continues. Since the nearest Apple store is about 250 miles away, I’ll be living with it for a while. However, that suggestion to turn Airplane Mode on then off has worked reliably. Also, I have been leaving Airplane Mode on for shorter and shorter periods of time; I’m down to about one second. Apart from the annoyance of “it shouldn’t be necessary” (and remembering to do it), it is tolerable.

The iPhone SE gets quite warm fairly quickly when I’m on a call. Is this normal? I hadn’t noticed it before I started having the problem of failing to make outgoing calls, but I sure notice it now. Thanks for any information.

I’m pretty sure that’s not normal, and is very worrying as it points to the internal battery getting hot. I hate to say it, but I’d start looking for a replacement handset if I were you.

Just my 2¢, but I’ve always experienced iPhones getting warm really quick during calls. In fact even before the iPhone I remember that with my Treo and my Nokia. Always seemed to get a sweaty ear piece after a longer call. One of the reasons I have always preferred taking calls with headphones.

Thanks, Alan and Simon. For what it’s worth, “gets quite warm fairly quickly” meant 110 degrees F after about three minutes.

Related to the original topic, the January issue of Consumer Reports says, in a snippet, “And if you’re suddenly unable to make calls or you stop receiving calls or texts, someone may be illegally using your number.” Since I can regain the ability to make a call by turning Airplane Mode on and off, am I safe to assume this does not apply to me? Or might that just mean that the person illegally using my number must turn Airplane Mode on and off?