Can’t Open PDF on iPhone? Try These 15 Fixes

pdfs wont download iphone

Sometimes PDFs fail to open, and this can leave you frustrated. If you’re trying to open a PDF that you’ve received on your iPhone and it won’t open, you can try and open them using iBooks. iBooks allows you to open PDF files on your iPhone but sometimes they don’t open. The most common method of receiving PDFs is via email but your iOS device may fail to open the PDF. If you can’t open PDFs in your email and other apps like Safari, there are a few things you can do to fix the problem.

Why Can’t I Open a PDF on My iPhone?

The main reason why you can’t view PDFs on your iPhone is that the PDF is damaged. If you’re trying to open damaged PDF files, your iPhone won’t allow you to view it. To fix the damaged PDF, you’ll have to download the PDF again using another browser.

1. PDF Damaged

If for some reason, the PDF is damaged or corrupt, you won’t be able to open it. PDFs need to be working properly in order for you to open them in your mail app or Gmail. If the person has sent you a file that’s corrupted, then opening it won’t be possible. You’ll need to make sure that the PDF sent to your works properly and can open in order for you to open it in your email without any issue.

2. The Email App Is Defective

Apps can sometimes have glitches and this includes the mail app that you’re trying to use to open the PDF. Luckily, developers quickly catch on to these glitches and fix them or release new app versions that will not have any glitches. The mail client may not be working on your phone because there is a glitch in the app. You can try to fix the glitch by exiting the app and restarting it; if that doesn’t help, you can wait for a new version, and you will be guaranteed that there will be no glitch.

3. Your iPhone Isn’t Up to Date

Most people put off updating their apps because they don’t see the relevance of constantly updating their phones. Install iOS and third-party app updates as soon as they are made available to ensure that your iPhone continues to operate at peak functionality. In addition to any new features that may get included, upgrades are frequently accompanied by bug fixes or/and critical security patches. If your phone is not up to date, it can affect the performance of mail clients and this can prevent you from being able to open PDF attachments.

4. The App Is Out Of Date

If you find yourself failing to open a PDF attachment in your mail client, maybe that’s Gmail or the native Mail app, one of the reasons could be that you’re using and that app is out of date. Older versions of the app have been known to have problems but even if you do go ahead and update the app, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to fix the issue and it could be related to something else.

However, the data indicates that apps must get updated regularly. Apps that receive frequent updates can respond to user demands more quickly. Many iPhone users can’t open some PDF email attachments, and the developers which are Apple have worked on an update to ensure iPhone users would not encounter that problem anymore. Try to update the mail client and see if the issue persists.

PDF Email Attachment Won’t Open iPhone? Try These Fixes

When you receive PDFs via your email, you have to take a few more steps before you can open them. Sometimes the problem can be fixed by doing some unusual things that you won’t assume would fix the problem, and other times, some common troubleshooting steps can fix the problem.

1. Tap the PDF attachment to See If It’ll Open

Before you jump to any conclusion, the first thing you want to try is to actually open the PDF. Not the traditional way, you need to open and try to open it from the email preview and from within the email as well. If you’ve been trying to open the PDF from within the email, then swipe left to leave the email and tap on the attachment from the preview. If it doesn’t open, then go into the email itself and open the PDF from there.

2. Use A Browser

If you’ve found that you can’t open the email from your iPhone and there’s nothing that you can do to fix the issue, then you can go to your browser and open it from the website. Whether you’re using Apple Mail, or, you need to make sure that you’re on a browser. Once you’ve opened the email, you should try and open the PDF attachment to see if it’ll open. There may be a problem with the app version so trying to open the attachment in a browser could fix the problem.

3. Copy to iBooks

Instead of trying to open the pdf attachment using the app’s pdf viewer, you should share it with another app that can open PDFs such as Apple Books. Doing this will allow you to find out if there’s a problem with the app or the PDF itself. If the PDF does open with Apple Books, then you know that there’s a problem with the mail client. To do this, click the share button in the upper right corner of the PDF attachment you can’t open, and Copy to iBook. Once copied to iBooks, open Apple Books, and select Library, you can check if the PDF you shared from your mail client is here. Once you’ve found it, check if you’re able to open it without any issues.

4. Ask Sender to Send Email with PDF Again

If this didn’t work, then you can ask the email sender to send you the PDF again. If there was a glitch or bug within the app that stopped you from opening it from your mail client, getting them to send the pdf attachment again could help the problem you’re having. If you can open the PDF attachment that they sent the second time, then it looks like there was a bug or glitch with the first attachment that was preventing you to open it.

5. Update Apple Books

If you’re trying to open the PDF with iBooks and it won’t open, then there might be a problem with Apple Books. If there is a problem with Apple Books, then you’ll need to update it in the App Store. When you update the app, it might get rid of the bug that’s causing iBooks not to open the PDF.

6. Turn Off Hide iCloud Books

To hide iCloud Books:

  1. Open Apple Books
  2. Click on My Books tab.
  3. Tap on All Books. This is the collections button.
  4. Toggle off Hide iCloud Books.

7. Refresh Apple Books Content

You can also try and refresh the iBooks content if you still can’t view your PDFs. Open the iBooks apps and click on My Books. Wait for iBooks to be fresh. You can check whether you’re able to view your PDFs.

8. Check Your Internet Connection

If you haven’t got an internet connection, then it might stop your Mail client from opening PDF attachments. Although your internet connection doesn’t typically stop PDFs from opening, sometimes when you don’t have a strong internet connection, it can cause apps to malfunction. You need to check that both your WIFI and data is enabled so that your mail client can find a stable connection.

9. Close the App and Restart

If you still can’t open PDF email attachments, closing and restarting an app is one of the things you can do to get your mail client to start working again. To close apps on an iPhone:

For iPhone X and newer models:

  1. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to the middle to pause the video on your device’s Home Screen.
  2. Swipe right or left until you find the app you want to close and tap it to dismiss it.
  3. To close the app, swipe up on the app’s preview screen.

For iPhone 8 and below models:

  1. Double-clicking the Home button will bring up a list of your most recently used applications.
  2. Swipe right or left until you find the app you want to close and tap it to dismiss it.
  3. To close the app, swipe up on the app’s preview screen.

Once you restart the app, the PDF should finally load.

10. Restart your iPhone

Restarting your iPhone will refresh the software it’s running on and if the software it’s being run on is preventing PDFs email attachments from opening. Restarting your iPhone might get rid of the bug or glitch which could fix the problem you’re experiencing. Usually, when PDFs don’t open in your mail client, there’s a bug or glitch that’s causing it not to open.

11. Sign out and into iTunes

Since Books is an Apple product, you can try and sign out of Books then sign back into. If this problem is caused by Apple themselves, then you can resolve by signing back into iCloud.

To sign out of iCloud:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Click on iTunes & App Store
  3. Click on Apple ID
  4. Click Sign out
  5. Sign back in

12. Force Restart iPhone

If it’s your iOS device that causing this problem, then force restarting it can fix the issue. Force restarting your iPhone can fix the issue. If your iPhone has a software problem such as a glitch, then force restarting it can fix the problem.

If you have an iPhone 7 or above:

  • Press the sleep/wake key on the right side of the phone
  • At the same time, press and hold the volume down key on the left
  • Wait for the Apple logo to appear

If you have an iPhone X or 8:

  • Quickly press the release the volume up button
  • Quickly press the release the volume down button
  • Press and hold the Power button until you see the Apple logo

13. Update the Mail App

  1. On your iPhone, navigate to the app store.
  2. Select the iPhone icon in the upper right corner of your screen.
  3. Scroll down and see if there is an update available. Suppose you find a new version of either Mail or Gmail available, download and install the latest version.

You will be able to effectively resolve the PDF issue if it was caused by a glitch or a bug.

14. Update iPhone

It is necessary to check for updates and download and install the most recent iOS 15 version for mail apps to function properly and open your PDFs. It’s common to experience problems with PDFs not opening in your mail client if your iPhone is running an older or out-of-date version of the iOS operating system. Additionally, if the mail client is not supported by the iOS version you are running, you may experience crashes or other issues with other apps. To avoid constantly updating your iPhone, ensure that you have your settings in automatic updates. When there is a new update, the phone will automatically download and install the update.

What to Do If You Can’t View PDF in Safari

When you want to view a PDF in Safari, it usually opens a new tab so that the PDF can be viewed separately.

If you can’t view your PDF in Safari and the new tab isn’t opening, you can click the share icon and click Copy to iBooks. From here, you can open iBooks and check if you’re able to view the PDF.

Another thing you can do is to clear your Safari history. There may be a bug within the Safari apps that stops PDFs from opening. To solve this problem:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Click Safari.
  3. Click: “Clear History”, “Clear Cookies” and “Clear Cache”.
David Johnson is a freelance writer with 9 years of experience writing for Techzillo and other established tech outlets like iMore. His focus and key interests are Apple and accessibility as well as consumer technology in general. Read our Editorial Guidlines and Fact Checking process.


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