How to Fix an iPhone That Can't Update Apps

Is the App Store not working? Or is something else going on?

Ever run into a situation in which your iPhone can't update apps? It's not very common, so that makes it a pretty confusing situation, especially because updating apps on your iPhone is usually so simple. There are a lot of ways to solve this problem, but the fixes aren't obvious. If your iPhone won't update apps and you know your Internet connection is working fine (since you can't download apps without that!), you've come to the right place. This article has 13 ways to get your iPhone updating apps again.

The tips in this article apply to all recent versions of the iPhone and iOS, including iOS 11, iOS 12, and iOS 13.

  1. Restart Your iPhone

    A simple step that can solve many iPhone problems is restarting the device. Sometimes your phone just needs to be reset. When it starts fresh, things that didn't work before suddenly do, including updating apps. To restart your iPhone:

    1. Hold down the sleep/wake (or Side) button. 
    2. When the slider appears at the top of the screen, move it from left to right.
    3. Let the iPhone turn off.
    4. When it's off, hold down the sleep/wake button again until the Apple logo appears.
    5. Let go of the button and let the phone start up as normal.

    If you're using the iPhone 7​, 8, X, XS, XR, or 11 the restart process is a bit different. Learn about restarting those models here.

  2. Pause and Restart the App Download

    Problems downloading an app are sometimes caused by an interruption in the connection between your phone and the App Store. You can reset that connection by pausing the download and restarting it. This option is a bit hidden, but here's how to find it:

    1. Find the icon on your homescreen for the app that you're trying to download.
    2. Tap it and a pause icon will appear on the app.
    3. Wait a moment, then tap the app icon again to resume the download.

    On devices with 3D Touch screens, you've got a slightly different option:

    1. Find the icon for the app being updated.
    2. Press hard on it.
    3. In the menu that pops out, tap Pause Download.
    4. Tap the app icon and resume the download.
    Screenshot of pausing iPhone app download
  3. Update to the Latest Version of iOS

    Another common solution to many problems is to ensure you're running the latest version of the iOS. This is particularly important when you can't update apps, since updates to apps may require a newer version of the iOS than you have.

    Read these articles to learn how to update the iOS on your iPhone:

  4. Make Sure You're Using the Right Apple ID

    If you can't update apps, check that you're using the right Apple ID. When you download an app, it's tied to the Apple ID you used when you downloaded it. That means that you need to be logged into that original Apple ID to use the app on your iPhone. 

    On your iPhone, check what Apple ID was used to get an app by following these steps:

    1. Tap the App Store app.
    2. Tap Updates.
    3. Tap your picture or icon in the top right corner (skip this step in iOS 10 or earlier).
    4. Tap Purchased.
    5. Check to see if the app is listed here. If it's not, it was likely downloaded with an Apple ID other than the one you're currently signed in with.
    Updates, Account, Purchased icons in App Store on iOS

    If you use iTunes (and are running a version that still shows your apps; iTunes 12.7 removed the App Store and apps), you can confirm what Apple ID was used to get an app by following these steps:

    1. Go to your list of apps.
    2. Right-click the app you're interested in.
    3. Click Get Info.
    4. Click the File tab.
    5. Look at Purchased by for the Apple ID.

    If you used another Apple ID in the past, try logging into that one to see if it fixes your problem (Settings -> iTunes & App Stores -> Apple ID).

  5. Ensure Restrictions Are Off

    The Restrictions feature of the iOS is located in the Screen Time settings (in iOS 12 and up). It lets people (usually parents or corporate IT administrators) disable certain features of the iPhone. One of those features is the ability to download apps. So, if you can't install an update, the feature may be blocked.

    To check this or turn off app restrictions, follow these steps:

    Screen Time and Content & Privacy Restrictions
    1. Tap Settings.
    2. Tap Screen Time.
    3. Tap Content & Privacy Restrictions.
    4. Tap iTunes & App Store Purchases.
    5. Tap Installing Apps.
    6. Make sure Allow is checked.

    In earlier versions of the iOS, Restrictions are located in Settings -> General -> Restrictions.

  6. Sign Out and Back In to the App Store

    Sometimes, all you need to do to fix an iPhone that can't update apps is to sign into and out of your Apple ID. It's simple, but that can solve the problem. Here's what you need to do:

    1. Tap Settings.
    2. Tap iTunes & App Store.
    3. Tap the Apple ID menu (it lists the email address you use for your Apple ID).
    4. In the pop-up menu, tap Sign Out.
    5. Tap the Apple ID menu again and sign in with your Apple ID.
    iTunes & App Store, Apple ID, Sign Out buttons in iOS Settings
  7. Check Available Storage

    Here's a simple explanation: Maybe you can't install the app update because you don't have enough available storage space on your iPhone. If you've got very, very little free storage, the phone may not have the space it needs to perform the update and fit in the new version of the app.

    Check your free storage space by following these steps:

    1. Tap Settings.
    2. Tap General.
    3. Tap About.
    4. Look for the Available line. That's how much free space you have.
    General, About, Available storage in iOS Settings

    If your available storage is very low, try deleting some data you don't need like apps, photos, podcasts, or videos.

    If you're running iOS 13, there are some new ways to delete apps.

  8. Change Date and Time Setting

    Your iPhone's date and time settings influence whether it can update apps. The reasons for this are complex, but basically, your iPhone performs a number of checks when communicating with Apple's servers to update apps. One of those checks is for date and time. If your settings are incorrect, it can prevent you from being able to update apps.

    To solve this problem, set your date and time to be automatically set by following these steps:

    1. Tap Settings.
    2. Tap General.
    3. Tap Date & Time.
    4. Move the Set Automatically slider to on/green.
    Date & Time, Set Automatically toggle to OFF
  9. Delete and Reinstall the App

    If nothing else has worked so far, try deleting and reinstalling the app. Sometimes an app just needs a fresh start. When you do this, you'll install the latest version of the app.

    To learn more about deleting apps, read:

  10. Reset All Settings

    If you still can't update apps, you may need to try more drastic steps to get things working again. The first option is to try resetting your iPhone's settings.

    This won't delete any data from your phone. It just reverts some of your preferences and settings to their original states. You can change them back after your apps are updating again. Here's how to do it:

    1. Tap Settings.
    2. Tap General.
    3. Tap Reset.
    4. Tap Reset All Settings.
    5. You may be asked to enter your passcode. If you are, do so.
    6. In the pop-up window, tap Reset All Settings.
    Reset, Reset All Settings, Reset All Settings confirmation in iOS Settings app
  11. Update the App Using iTunes

    If an app won't update on your iPhone, try doing it through iTunes (assuming you use iTunes with your phone, that is). Updating this way is pretty simple:

    1. On your computer, launch iTunes.
    2. Select Apps from the drop-down menu at the top left. 
    3. Click Updates just beneath the top window.
    4. Single-click the icon of the app you want to update.
    5. In the section that opens, click the Update button.
    6. When the app has updated, sync your iPhone like normal and install the updated app.

    As mentioned earlier, if you're running iTunes 12.7 or higher, this won't be possible since apps and the App Store have been removed from iTunes.

  12. Restore iPhone to Factory Settings

    Erase All Content and Settings in iOS Settings app

    Lastly, if nothing else has worked, it's time to try the most drastic step of all: deleting everything from your iPhone and setting it up from scratch.

    This is a bigger, more involved process, so we've got a full article devoted to the topic: How to Restore iPhone to Factory Settings.

    After that's done, you may also want to restore your iPhone from backup.

  13. Get Support From Apple

    How to Make Apple Store Genius Bar Appointment
    image credit: Artur Debat/Moment Mobile ED/Getty Images

If you've tried all of these steps and still can't update your apps, it's time to appeal to higher authority: Apple. Apple provides tech support over the phone and at the Apple Store. You can't just drop into a store, though. They're too busy. You'll need to Make an Apple Genius Bar Appointment.