iPhone Email Attachments Are Not Opening

By Carol Finch

Learn how to troubleshoot email attachments on an iPhone when the Mail app won't let you open or view them.

If you can't open email attachments on an iPhone, you may have a problem with the attachment or the download. Occasionally, a glitch or settings problem on the iPhone prevents you from accessing attachments, in which case you may find a fix by troubleshooting the handset and the email account.

Check the Attachment's Compatibility

The iPhone doesn't support all file types as email attachments, and the Mail app can't open unsupported attachments even though it downloads them. Check the attachment is a supported file type. For example, the iPhone can automatically open the following types of attachments:

  • Web pages in .htm and .html formats.
  • Word, PowerPoint and Excel files.
  • Apple Pages, Numbers and Keynote files.
  • Images with .jpg, .gif and .tiff extensions.
  • Adobe Acrobat PDFs.
  • Text files with .txt and .rtf extensions.
  • Contact files in the .vcf format.
  • ZIP files.
  • iCalendar .ics files.

If the attachment isn't on this list, you can't view it in the Mail app. However, you may be able to find a third-party app that will open it on the iPhone. If the attachment is supported but still doesn't open, try troubleshooting fixes.


Sometimes, you can't view all content in an attachment, even if it's in a supported format. According to Apple, this may be a problem if you're trying to open an MS Office attachment that contains large or multiple images.

Troubleshoot the Download

You can't open an email attachment on the iPhone until it has downloaded. If the attachment has the word Downloading on it or the download circle is not complete, wait until it is finished before you open it. Be patient if you're downloading a large file. If the download seems to be taking too much time, pull down on the iPhone's screen to refresh the Mail app.

If this doesn't work, shut down the Mail app. Press the Home button to exit the app. Double-tap the Home button, go to the Mail app in the list of recently closed apps and swipe it up. This may fix a glitch in the app and it may start working when you restart Mail.


  • Tap and hold the attachment to see if there is an alternative way toview it. For example, you can view PDF files in iBooks and save imagesto the iPhone's Camera Roll.
  • IPhones may have problems downloading some attachments in emailssent from Exchange accounts. Try scrolling to the bottom of the email.If you see a Download Full Message notification, tap it to complete thedownload.
  • If a download seems to hang, open Safari and load a Web page to check that the iPhone has a connection. If it doesn't, thedownload may have been interrupted, preventing you from opening theattachment. Try again when you have a signal.


Sometimes, attachments may be corrupted or may develop a problem during the send process, and you won't be able to open them. Try opening the attachment in an email program on your computer or another device to see if that works or ask the sender to resend the email.

Troubleshoot the iPhone

Restart the iPhone

Press the Sleep/Wake button and hold it down for a few seconds. Swipe Slide to Power Off. When the iPhone closes down, hold the Sleep/Wake button to restart.

Reset the iPhone

Press both the Home and Sleep/Wake buttons until the Apple logo shows on the screen. Release the buttons. The iPhone restarts automatically after it resets.

A restart or reset may clear minor problems with the iPhone.

Troubleshoot the Email Account

If the attachment problem only occurs on one email account, delete that account from the iPhone and reinstall it. To reinstall, you need the account password, so make sure you know this before uninstalling.


To check if the problem is limited to one email account, forward the email to a different account that you can access from the iPhone, if you have one, or ask the sender to resend to the alternate account. If you can open the attachment in the other account, the original email account may be the problem.

Step 1

Tap Settings and open Mail, Contacts, Calendars.

Select Delete Account on the email account's menu screen.

Tap the email account and then Delete Account on the next screen.

Select Delete From My iPhone.

Tap Delete From My iPhone to confirm the deletion.

Step 2

Select Add Account in the Mail, Contacts, Calendars menu.

Open Mail, Contacts, Calendars in the Settings menu and tap Add Account.

Tap your email provider or Other.

The iPhone lists default providers; if your provider is listed, tap the name to start the setup. If your provider isn't there, tap Other and follow the prompts to enter your email address. The iPhone then searches for the account and adds it.


  • If you still can't open attachments, reset the iPhone's network settings. This process deletes your current networking configuration, so make sure you know your network passwords to reconnect to them later. Tap Settings and then General. Tap Reset and then Reset Network Settings. Enter your passcode and then confirm the reset to start the process.
  • If the problem only happens with one email account, contact your provider to see if there is a known issue or fix. If the problem happens with multiple email accounts, contact Apple Support.
  • If all else fails, consider restoring the iPhone, which returns it to its original out-of-the-box configuration.