iPhone Won't Download Apps? 11 Ways to Fix It

Sort out your iPhone and get back into the App Store

It can be incredibly frustrating when your iPhone won't download apps. After all, apps are part of what makes the iPhone so great. It doesn't matter whether you're trying to download new apps or update apps you already have, you want this to work. Luckily, fixing this problem is relatively easy. Read on for 11 ways to fix an iPhone that won't download apps.

If your problem is that your iPhone won't update apps you already have, we have a separate article for that. Check out How to Fix an iPhone That Can't Update Apps.

The tips in this article apply to all iPhones running recent versions of the iOS. They also apply to the iPad and iPod touch, too.

What Stops Apps From Downloading on iPhone?

While fixing an iPhone that won't download apps is relatively easy, the causes of the problem isn't quite so simple. In fact, there are almost as many potential causes of this error as there are fixes. These range from App Store rules to simple bugs, from problems with your Apple ID to your iPhone's settings and more. Rather than providing a list of the causes here, each solution below provides some background for the issue.

One very simple explanation for why you can't download apps is that there's not enough storage space on your iPhone. To learn more about that, check out How to Free Up Storage on iPhone and Can You Expand iPhone Memory?

frustrated man looking at a smartphone
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How to Fix an iPhone That Won't Download Apps

If apps won't download to your iPhone, try these fixes, in this order.

  1. Try Wi-Fi. If you're trying to download the app over a cellular connection like 4G LTE, you might be hitting a limitation of the App Store. Apple limits the size of app downloads over cellular to 150 MB (200 MB on iOS 13 and up). This prevents people from using too much data on a single download. If the app you want to download is bigger than that, connect to Wi-Fi. It's also a good idea to check to make sure you're not in Airplane Mode, which blocks all Wi-Fi and cellular network connections.

    For more details on the iPhone and Wi-Fi, read How to Connect an iPhone to Wi-Fi.

  2. Restart the App Store app. The bug in downloading the app may have to do with the App Store app itself. If something goes wrong with that app, it won't be able to help install the app you want. In that case, quitting the App Store app may clear the bug. Then, just re-open the App Store app and try to download the app.

    To learn all about how to quit and restart apps, check out How to Close Apps on the iPhone.

  3. Pause and restart the app download. This tip works when your app download has been interfered with for some reason. If an app icon appears on your home screen, but the download seems slow or like it's not happening, tap the icon for the app you're trying to install. This pauses the download. Wait a short time and then tap it again to resume the download.

    A long press on the app icon will pop out a menu. In that menu, tap Pause Download. Wait a bit and do the same thing and Resume Download.

  4. Restart iPhone. Just like restarting the App Store app can solve the problem of apps not downloading on your iPhone, sometimes you need to restart your whole phone. This could be because the temporary glitch in your phone could be in the operating system or another part of the phone's software. A restart will usually resolve that sort of issue.

    For detailed, step-by-step instructions, read How to Reset Any Model of iPhone.

  5. Check your Apple ID payment methods. In order to download apps, you need to have a payment method on file in your Apple ID. That's true even if you're downloading a free app. If you don't have a payment method on file, or if your card is expired, you might not be able to download apps. This can also lead to a Verification Required pop-up message. Add a valid payment method and you might be able to start downloading apps again.

    To learn about updating your payment method and other Apple ID account data, check out How to Update Apple ID Account Information.

  6. Sign out of the App Store and sign back in. An iPhone that can't download apps may be a sign that something is up with your Apple ID. If the connection made by your Apple ID between your iPhone and the App Store gets disrupted, sometimes simply signing out and signing back in will fix it. To do that, tap Settings > iTunes & App Store > Apple ID > Sign Out. Then, sign back in by tapping Sign In and entering your Apple ID username and password.

  7. Update iOS. Whenever Apple releases an update to the iOS — the operating system that runs on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch — the new software fixes bugs. It could be that your iPhone can't download apps because of a bug in the operating system. An easy, fast, and free OS update may solve your problem.

    For instructions on how to upgrade iOS on your iPhone, read How to Update iOS Wirelessly on the iPhone or How To Download and Install New iOS Updates Using iTunes.

  8. Set the correct date and time. Believe it or not, but the date and time settings on your phone being wrong can block you from downloading apps. The easiest way to solve this is to make your iPhone automatically set its date and time so that it's always correct. To do that, tap Settings > General > Date & Time > move the Set Automatically slider on on/green.

  9. Reset iPhone device settings. Bugs like apps not downloading on your iPhone can sometimes be caused by a minor problem in your low-level settings. You can't always see these settings or fix them individually, but the iOS gives you a way to reset all settings. Doing this won't erase your data, but can solve these sorts of issues.

    Learn more about resetting your settings in How to Erase Your iPhone Settings and Data. In that article, pay attention to the Reset All Settings option.

  10. Check the Apple ID you're using. If you're having a problem updating an app already on your device, the problem could be the Apple ID you're using. When you download an app, it's tied to the Apple ID you're logged into at the time. If you change the Apple ID you're using, apps tied to the old ID won't be able to update. Try signing into other Apple IDs you've used, following the instructions in step 7 above.

    For other kinds of help with App Store purchases, read 4 Ways to Solve Problems With iTunes Purchases.

  11. Get help from Apple. If you've tried all of these steps and your iPhone still won't download apps, you need help from the experts at Apple. You can get online or phone support via Apple's website or you can make an appointment at the Genius Bar at your local Apple Store for in-person help.