How to fix an Apple iPhone XS that cannot open email attachments, unsupported file error

Emails can contain file attachments. You will know that the email contains an attachment if you see the paper clip icon next to the name of the sender’s message header. To view or open email attachments, you will need to use other apps or tools that support the attached file type. Otherwise, there’s no way for you to view the attached contents. Among the common reasons as to why email attachments won’t open on an iPhone include but not limited to the following:

  • attached file is incompatible format or unsupported file
  • no similar app on the iPhone can open the attached file
  • attached file is broken or corrupted
  • the file is too large and available storage is low

In some instances, email attachments may also fail to open due to network-related problems like when the attached file is too large and the Internet connection is too slow or unstable. In this case, you will need to deal with Internet connectivity problem first so that email functions work properly again.

Before troubleshooting, check the file type of the email attachment you’re attempting to open and make sure you have the required application on your iPhone. The main file type identifier is the filename extension, usually a three-letter text after the period (.) on the filename. For example, .vcf for vCards. To open email attachments of vcf type, Contacts app is required. Each file type has a corresponding app to run on, either a stock (built-in) or third-party application.

Aside from the corresponding app, a stable Internet connection and ample of storage space on the device are likewise needed. Unless the attached file is corrupted, it should open on the phone as long as all the specified requisites are met. If you still can’t open email attachments on your iPhone XS, then you can apply the following workarounds to rule out software-related errors.

First solution: Force close Mail (email) app then restart.

Email problems including attachment loading and relevant symptoms can also occur when the email app acts up. To clear out random app glitches that might have hindered you from opening email attachments on your iPhone XS, force close the email app then restart your device. Here’s how:

  1. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen and then pause slightly in the middle.
  2. Then swipe right or left to locate Mail (or third-party email tool) app.
  3. Finally, swipe up on the app’s preview to close it.

If you see any other background apps, follow the same steps to close them all. Once you’re done clearing out background apps, soft reset/restart your iPhone XS to dump junk files from its memory including those that caused conflicts with the phone’s email system. To restart/soft reset your iPhone XS, simply follow these steps:

  1. Press and hold the Side/Power button and either Volume buttons simultaneously for a few seconds.
  2. Release the buttons when the Slide to Power Off command appears and then drag the power off slider to the right.
  3. After 30 seconds, press and hold the Power/Side button again until the phone reboots.

Wait until the phone is finished restarting and then download the attachment again. Before opening the email attachment, let the download to finish so as to prevent ruining the file.

Second solution: Update email app and iOS to the latest version.

App problems including those affecting email functions can also be resolved by installing new updates. In this case, you can update both the email app or your iPhone itself. If you’re using a third-party email, then you can install pending updates for the app through the App Store. If you’re using the stock Mail app, then you can install the latest iOS version available for your iPhone XS.

To check for pending app updates on your iPhone XS, follow these steps:

  1. Tap to open the App Store then scroll down to Updates section.
  2. Navigate through the list of apps with pending updates.
  3. To update individual apps, tap the Update button next to the name of the app.
  4. To install pending app updates simultaneously, tap the Update All button on the upper-right side of the screen.

To check for new software update or iOS version available for your iPhone XS, follow these steps:

  1. Tap Settings from the Home screen.
  2. Select General.
  3. Tap Software Update.
  4. Then follow the onscreen instructions to Download and Install update.

After installing updates for your apps and/or iPhone software, restart or soft reset your iPhone XS to apply the recent system changes and to clear all software glitches and errors. Then open the email app, load the message that contains the attachment you want to view and then retry opening the attached file.

Third solution: Reset network settings on your iPhone.

As mentioned earlier, network-related problems can also cause affect the phone’s email functions and could be the reason why you can’t view or open email attachments. To rule out network problems, you can try these steps to reset network settings on your iPhone XS. Doing so will erase your current network settings and configurations including Wi-Fi networks and passwords, Bluetooth connections, APNs, and other relevant information. Any invalid network settings that are causing conflict to your phone’s email functions will also be cleared out in the process. If you wish to give it a shot, then simply follow these steps:

  1. From your Home screen, tap on Settings.
  2. Select General.
  3. Scroll down to and then tap on Reset.
  4. Select the option to Reset network settings.
  5. If prompted, enter your passcode to proceed.
  6. Then tap RESET to confirm action.

After the reset, your iPhone should reboot automatically and then loads the default network settings. In order to use online apps and services, you need to set up and reconnect to your Wi-Fi network. Once connected, you can launch the email app and then open the email with the attachment you’re having trouble viewing.

Fourth solution: Reset all settings.

If the previous reset failed to fix the problem, and you still cannot open email attachments on your iPhone XS, try to reset all settings on your device instead. Doing so clears out all customized options and then restores the original configuration and options on the phone. This will likewise fix any problem associated with invalid settings on the phone. And here’s how it works:

  1. From your Home screen, tap on Settings.
  2. Select General.
  3. Scroll down to and then tap on Reset.
  4. Select the option to Reset all settings.
  5. If prompted, enter your passcode to proceed.
  6. Then confirm settings reset.

Default settings and options are then restored after the reset. To use features that are disabled by default, you need to enable them first. That being said, turn on Wi-Fi to reconnect to the Internet and use online apps and services including emails.

Fifth solution: Delete the email account and add set it up manually.

It’s also possible that the email account set up on your iPhone has been corrupted and so it fails to work as intended. To fix this problem, you will need to delete the corrupted email account and then set it up again. To delete the email account on your iPhone XS, follow these steps:

  1. From the Home screen, tap on Settings.
  2. Select Passwords & Accounts.
  3. From the Accounts section, tap to select the email account that you want to delete.
  4. Tap the option to Delete Account.
  5. Then tap Delete from My iPhone to confirm action.
  6. Before adding the email account back, reboot your iPhone to clear its memory cache.

To add the email account back, follow these steps:

  1. Tap Settings from the Home screen.
  2. Select Passwords & Accounts.
  3. Tap Add Account…
  4. Select the email service provider.
  5. Enter your email account details on their respective fields including email address, password, and other requested information then tap Next to continue.
  6. If preferred, select the option to sync other options including Contacts and Calendars.
  7. Then tap Save to set up the email account on your device.

Wait until email messages populate your Inbox then view the email containing the file attachment to view.

Other options

  • Use other email app. If the problem persists when using the same email app, you can try using other email platforms. Doing so will help you determine if the problem is isolated to the email app you’re using.
  • Open the email attachment on your computer. To rule out file format issues, try to open the email attachment on your computer. If you can open the attachment on the computer, then most likely you don’t have the required app that supports the type of file contained in the attachment. Thus, you’re getting unsupported file error.
  • Contact your email service provider. If the problem isn’t solved and you’ve ran out of options, contact your email service provider and ask further assistance in performing more advanced solutions or troubleshooting procedures.
  • Contact Apple Support. If the problem is isolated to the Mail application, then you can escalate the problem to Apple Support for other recommendations.

I hope that we’ve been able to help you fix the problem with your device. We would appreciate it if you helped us spread the word so please share this post if you found it helpful. Thank you so much for reading!