My iPhone Apps Won’t Open! Here’s The Real Fix.

One of two things is happening when you tap to open an iPhone app: Nothing happens at all, or the app beings to load the opening screen, but immediately closes. Either way, you’re left staring at an iPhone full of apps that won’t open, and that’s no good. In this article, I’ll explain why your iPhone apps won’t open and how to fix the problem for good.

Why Won’t My iPhone Apps Open?

Your iPhone apps won’t open because your iPhone has a software problem. When an app crashes, it usually doesn’t take the whole iPhone with it. Instead, you end up back on the Home screen, and the app terminates in the background. Most of the time, that’s enough to fix a software bug – but not always.

Apps don’t exist in a vacuum, either. In my experience, iPhone apps usually won’t open because of a problem with the iPhone operating system (iOS), not a problem with the app itself.

How To Fix iPhone Apps That Won’t Open

I’ll walk you step-by-step through the process of troubleshooting an app that won’t open. We’ll start simple and work our way toward the more involved fixes, if and when they become necessary. You can do this. Let’s get started!

1. Turn Your iPhone Off And Back On

It’s simple, but turning your iPhone off and back on can resolve hidden software issues that may be preventing your apps from opening correctly. When you turn off your iPhone, the operating system shuts down all the little background programs that help your iPhone to run. When you turn it back on, they all start fresh, and sometimes that’s enough to fix a software glitch that had been preventing your apps from opening.

To turn your iPhone off, press and hold the power button on your iPhone until ‘slide to power off’ appears on the screen. Slide the icon across the screen with your finger, and wait for your iPhone to shut off. It’s normal for the process to take up to 30 seconds. To turn your iPhone back on, press and hold the power button until the Apple logo appears on the screen, and then let go.

2. Check For Updates In The App Store

One of the main reasons app developers release updates is to fix software bugs that can cause problems like this one. Instead of combing through the list to find the problem app, I believe your best bet is simply to update all your apps at once.

Check for updates in App StoreTo update your apps, open the App Store on your iPhone, tap Updates in the bottom right-hand corner, and tap Update All. If you don’t see Update All, your apps are already up-to-date.

3. Delete The App And Reinstall It

The idea that you should delete the app from your iPhone and redownload it from the App Store is the first thing most technicians will instruct you to do. It’s the “unplug it and plug it back in” school of thought, and a lot of the time it works.

I think it’s a good place to start too, but I don’t want to get your hopes up. Ask yourself, “Are all of my apps not opening, or is it a problem with just one app?”

  • If only one of your apps won’t open, there’s a good chance that deleting the app from your iPhone and reinstalling it from the App Store will fix the problem.
  • If many of your apps won’t open, I don’t recommend you delete and reinstall all of them, because it’s probably a waste of time. Instead, we’ll have to address the underlying cause, which is the iPhone’s operating system (iOS).

4. Is The App Ancient? When Was The Last Time It Was Updated?

There are over 1.5 million apps in the App Store, and not all of them are kept up-to-date. The software code that runs iPhone apps changes every time Apple releases a new version of iOS. Usually the changes aren’t too drastic, but if an app hasn’t been updated in years, there’s a good chance it’s incompatible with your version of iOS.

If you recently upgraded to a new version of iOS, especially if it was a major upgrade, like going from iOS 8 to iOS 9 (not 9.2 to 9.2.1, for example), this may explain why your app won’t open.

iPhone app last updatedTo find out when an app was last updated, open the App Store on your iPhone, search for the app, tap to open the app, scroll down to the section called Information, and look at the date next to Updated.

Another way to test for this is to ask a friend with the same model iPhone and iOS version to download and open the app. If the app works on their iPhone, we know there’s a software problem with yours. If the app doesn’t open on their iPhone, there’s a problem with the app itself.

Unfortunately, if an app is too old to run on a newer version of iOS, there’s nothing you can do to make it work. Your best bet is to contact the app developer and ask if they’re planning to release an updated version. If I were in their position, I’d be grateful someone let me know about the problem.

5. Reset All Settings

You’ll find Reset All Settings in Settings -> General -> Reset, and it’s not something I recommend doing unless it’s absolutely necessary. Reset All Settings doesn’t erase any of your personal data from your iPhone, but like the name suggests, it does reset all of your settings back to factory defaults. If you’ve taken the time to optimize your settings to get better battery life, for example, you’ll have to do it all over again.

I don’t believe there’s a magic bullet for iPhone problems, but if I had to choose, Reset All Settings is about as close it gets. It’s worth a shot – I’ve seen Reset All Settings fix strange software problems before, and it’s not as time-consuming as the next step in the process, which is to back up and restore your iPhone.

6. Back Up Your iPhone, And Restore

If you’ve tried resetting the settings on your iPhone, uninstalled and reinstalled the app, and you’re convinced the app isn’t too old to run on your version if iOS, it’s time to break out the big guns. We’re going to back up your iPhone to iCloud or iTunes, restore your iPhone using iTunes, and then restore your personal data from your backup.

Before you back up your iPhone, I recommend that you uninstall the problem app from your iPhone, if it’s only one app that won’t open. If it’s more than one app, don’t worry about uninstalling all of them – just back it up and walk through the process. 

The ideal way to do this is to back up your iPhone to iCloud (if you’re out of space, my article about why you should never pay for iCloud storage will help you free some up), DFU restore your iPhone using iTunes, and restore from your iCloud backup.

Use iCloud To Back Up Your iPhone, If You Can

I strongly recommend using iCloud to back up and restore your iPhone when your apps won’t open.

When you back up your iPhone to iTunes, it makes an image of all your apps and data. When you restore from the backup, the whole image gets put back on your iPhone, and there’s a chance the problem will come right back.

iCloud backups only save your personal data “in the cloud”, not the entire app. When you restore from an iCloud backup, your iPhone downloads your personal data from iCloud and your apps fresh from the App Store, so there’s a smaller chance the problem will return.

Apps Are Opening Again: Wrapping It Up

When an iPhone app won’t open, it’s a problem that can take 30 seconds, 30 minutes, or longer to solve. For your sake, I hope the fix was simple. I’d like to hear from you about your experience with apps that won’t open, and about how far you had to go to fix your iPhone.

Thanks for reading, and remember to pay it forward,
David P.


About Author

I'm a former Apple employee and the founder of Payette Forward, and I'm here to help you with your iPhone.