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4 reasons why your iPhone goes straight to voicemail, and how to fix it

It's possible to accidentally block calls, even from people you care about.
By

Published onNovember 6, 2023

It can be easy to forget that an iPhone is supposed to be for, you know, calling, but you’ll be snapped out of that mindset in a hurry if you miss an important message from your partner, family, or boss. There are four main reasons iPhone calls will go straight to voicemail — and thankfully, there are options to fix them.

4 reasons why your iPhone goes straight to voicemail, and how to fix it

apple iphone 15 home screen leaning
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

There could hypothetically be software glitches at play here, so to rule them out, it might be worth installing iOS updates and/or restarting your iPhone before pointing your finger at one of the causes below. If nothing on this list helps, that’s when it’s time to talk to your carrier, or else book an appointment at an Apple Store or authorized repair shop.

1. Your cellular connection is weak or non-existent.

If your carrier’s cellular towers can’t connect to your iPhone, there’s nowhere else for your calls to go. Check that you’ve got at least two bars of signal strength, and/or that you don’t have your cellular radios disabled.

Make sure that Airplane Mode is off. If it is, doublecheck Settings > Cellular just to be sure everything is running as intended. Cellular Data should be on, and you may need to enable roaming under Cellular Data Options.

2. Your iPhone is set to silence unknown callers.

iOS’s Silence Unknown Callers option can save you a lot of misery if you’re constantly being harassed by telemarketers. The filter bounces away any phone number that isn’t in your Contacts app, but that’s obviously a problem if you haven’t kept your contacts up-to-date, or someone you wouldn’t normally talk to is trying to reach out — for instance, a government official or a future employer.

To disable the feature, go to Settings > Phone and scroll down. Tap Silence Unknown Callers, then flip the toggle off.

3. A Focus mode that blocks incoming calls is enabled.

Since iOS 15, iPhone owners have been able to set Focus modes that alter their homescreens and lockscreens, as well as dictate which people and apps can get through. The most common one is Do Not Disturb, but you can also create your own modes, and some other prefab choices include Work and Fitness. You might, say, block everyone but your wife from calling you while you’re deadlifting at the gym.

The problem of course is that people sometimes forget to turn a restrictive Focus mode off, or don’t know how to make it less restrictive. In iOS 17, you can disable any Focus at any time by swiping down from the battery meter to open Control Center, then tapping on the icon inside the Focus button. That icon will change depending on which mode is active.

If you want to customize a mode, go to Settings > Focus and select the one you want to change. You’ll see separate lists for allowed People and Apps, as well as options for filters and scheduling. You can, for example set a Fitness mode to trigger only once you’ve started a workout on your Apple Watch.

4. Your carrier settings may be out of date.

iPhone carrier settings tend to update with little to no effort on your part, but if there’s a lag period in which your iPhone doesn’t have the latest carrier info, it may not be able to connect properly and receive phone calls.

There’s no direct option for forcing a carrier update. You can potentially speed up the process, however, by opening the Settings app and navigating to General > About. Leave your iPhone open at this screen for a few minutes. If there’s an update, you’ll be prompted to install it, often within a matter of seconds. If nothing happens, a different problem is likely to blame.