Hand holding an iPhone XS showing the home screen.
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Apps can crash or freeze on iPhones and iPads, just as they can on any other platform. Apple’s iOS operating system disguises app crashes by closing the app. If you’re experiencing crashing, freezing, or buggy apps, here’s how you can fix your problem.

Is it an App or Device Crash?

First, you have to figure out whether it’s an app crash or a device crash. This is pretty simple: if you’re using an app, and it suddenly closes for no reason, the app crashed. If you’re using an app and it becomes unresponsive, but you can still access other apps, the app has crashed. If you’re trying to launch an app and it keeps disappearing, the app is repeatedly crashing.

If your phone has become unresponsive, it’s likely a device issue. Your phone will display a black screen or remain stuck on the Apple logo if the device has crashed. Also, if your iPhone or iPad is slow for no apparent reason, and across multiple apps, it’s a device issue.

If you cannot connect your wireless headphones, send files over AirDrop, or see AirPlay devices, it’s possible a service used by the operating system has crashed.

Troubleshooting App Crashes

Apps are third-party software that runs on your iPhone. Despite the, “it just works,” perception of Apple devices, there’s plenty that can go wrong and cause apps to crash, become unresponsive, or refuse to open at all. Problems usually stem from issues with the code, unexpected input, and even hardware limitations. Apps are made by humans, after all, and humans make mistakes.

If an app suddenly disappears, it’s due to a crash. In most cases, reopening it resolves the problem. If you’re sharing analytics with developers (more on this later), they receive a crash report they can use to prevent the problem from reoccurring.

How to Kill an Unresponsive App

If an app is unresponsive, you can kill it using the app switcher. There’s no need to routinely kill apps using this method unless they’re causing issues. The app switcher is accessed using different shortcuts, depending on your iPhone model:

  • iPhone 8 and earlier (devices with a Home button): Double-tap the Home button until you see a list of recently-used applications.
  • iPhone X and later (devices without a Home button): Swipe up from the bottom of the screen and flick to the right or Swipe up from the bottom of the screen and hold until you see a list of recently-used applications.

You can use this list to switch between apps quickly. Find the application causing the issue, and then touch and swipe up on it to “throw it away” and close it. The app will disappear from the list of recently-used apps.

The iOS App Switcher on an iPhone.

Now try to restart the app. After you kill apps this way, it takes slightly longer to open them than it does when they’re suspended in the background. This is why you shouldn’t kill apps unnecessarily.

Check for Updates

Old versions of apps can also cause issues. Upgrading from one major version of iOS to another can cause stability issues if an app isn’t updated to account for the changes. Sometimes, developers abandon their apps entirely.

The most obvious solution here is to check for an update. Launch the App Store, head to the “Updates” tab, and then tap “Update All” to install any available updates. You can see how long ago an app was updated by searching for it in the App Store and scrolling down to Version History.

The Version History info of an app in the App Store.

If an app hasn’t been updated in quite some time, you might want to seek an alternative. Sometimes, developers upload new versions as new apps. For example, the note-taking app Drafts 4 was renamed Drafts (Legacy Version) after Drafts 5 was released.

You can view a developer’s other apps by tapping its name under the app description in the App Store.

Reinstall Problem Apps

Sometimes, apps crash way too frequently. Occasionally, one refuses to open altogether, crashing each time you try to start it. If you’re experiencing either of these issues, delete, and then reinstall the app. You’ll lose all local app data when you delete it, but this isn’t a problem if it relies on the cloud (like Evernote, Google Drive, and Pages). If the app requires that you log in, you’ll have to do this again when you reinstall it.

To delete an app from your device:

  1. Tap and hold the app icon until it moves.
  2. Tap the “X” next to the app, and then tap “Delete” when prompted.
  3. Launch the App Store, find the app, and reinstall it.

Tap the "X" next to the app to delete it.

Keep in mind, if the app is no longer available on the App Store, you won’t be able to download it again.

Check Your App Permissions

Sometimes, privacy settings can wreak havoc with your apps. For example, if a mapping app can’t fetch your location, you need to make sure it has access to that information.

The Microphone settings under the Privacy settings on iOS.

Head to Settings > Privacy and check any relevant categories, like Camera, Microphone, or Location Services. Any apps that require your permission to access services or information will be listed here.

Create Some Free Space

If your device is full to the brim, you may encounter weird app behavior. This is particularly true of apps that require free space to function, like camera apps, audio recorders, and so on. You might also encounter a general iOS slowdown.

The iPhone Storage screen on an iPhone.

Head to Settings > General > iPhone Storage to see how much free space you have. Learn how to create free space on iOS.

Contact the Developer or Get a Refund

If you’ve just downloaded the app and it refuses to work, you can reach out to the developer or request a refund. To contact the developer, find the app on the App Store, and then scroll down to the “Ratings and Reviews” section. Tap on “App Support” to be taken to the developer’s support website. Much of the time this will be a FAQ, but there’s usually contact info for the developer, too.

Tap "App Support" to contact the developer.

Be sure to describe your issue in detail, and include your iPhone/iPad model and iOS software version (both are under Settings > About). The “App Support” link is only visible to users who downloaded that app so, if you don’t see it, make sure you’re using the same Apple ID with which you purchased (or downloaded) the app.

If you paid for an app and it’s not working, you’re entitled to a refund. Learn how to request an app refund from Apple.

Troubleshooting Device and iOS Crashes

iPhone and iPad use Apple’s iOS operating system. Despite the platform being relatively stable, problems are bound to appear occasionally. These can include random restarts, software glitches, and freezes that require manual intervention.

How to Restart Your iPhone

Many issues are resolved simply by restarting your device. If you’ve noticed weird OS behavior, like a screen that won’t “sleep” or problems with audio playback, a restart might do the trick.

The method you use to restart your device depends on your iPhone model:

  • iPhone 8, X, XS, or XR: Press and hold Volume Down and Sleep/Wake until “Slide to Power Off” appears, and then swipe the bar to turn off your device.
  • iPhone 7 or earlier: Press and hold the Sleep/Wake button, either on the top (iPhone 5s and earlier) or right side (iPhone 6 and 7), until “Slide to Power Off” appears, and then swipe the bar to turn off your device.

Once your device has powered off, you can restart it by holding the Sleep/Wake button until the Apple logo appears.

Recover an Unresponsive iPhone

If your iPhone is completely unresponsive or appears to be frozen, you’ll need to force a reset by holding some buttons. This differs depending on which iPhone model you’re using:

  • iPhone 8, X, XS, and XR: Press and release Volume Up, press and release Volume Down, and then press and hold the Sleep/Wake button until the Apple logo appears.
  • iPhone 7: Press and hold Volume Up and the Sleep/Wake button until the Apple logo appears.
  • iPhone 6 or earlier: Press and hold the Home and Sleep/Wake buttons until the Apple logo appears.

If your iPhone has a physical home button, it’s an iPhone 6. Other models have either a virtual Home button (software-controlled, without moving parts) or no Home button at all.

Reinstall iOS

Sometimes, problems aren’t solved by a restart, and you might need to reinstall iOS. This is the last resort for persistent issues related to the core operating system. Problems like this can arise from the use of third-party software used to “clean” or maintain your iPhone and jailbreaking.

Keep in mind that reinstalling iOS will cause you to lose all of the data on your iPhone. Make sure you create an iPhone backup so you can restore your data when you’re done.

  1. Head to Settings and tap your name at the top of the list.
  2. Tap your iPhone from the list of devices at the bottom of the screen (it will say “This iPhone”).
  3. Tap “Find My iPhone.” Uncheck “Find My iPhone,” and then input your Apple ID password.
  4. Launch iTunes (Windows users can download it from Apple’s website) and connect your iPhone with a Lightning cable.
  5. Click on the device icon in the top-right corner (see screenshot below).
  6. On the Summary tab, click Restore iPhone, and then follow the prompts.

Click the device icon in the top-right corner in iTunes.

Suspect a Hardware Issue?

If you’ve tried everything and believe your issue is hardware-related, you can find out for free by booking yourself an appointment at the nearest Apple Store or authorized service center. If your iPhone is still under warranty, any repairs will be covered and free of charge. You can find out if you’re covered on Apple’s website.

If your iPhone isn’t covered, you’ll only be charged for any work you approve. Apple’s technicians will run a diagnostic on your device and find out if there are any issues under the hood.

Make a Genius Bar or Authorized Service Center Appointment

You can then decide whether you want to get the device repaired. If repairs are expensive, it might be worth opting for a new device, instead. Apple will even offer you some trade-in credit to use toward your new device.

Share Analytics to Improve Software

Do you wish there was something you could do to improve the software you use? Head to Settings > Privacy > Analytics to review your current analytics sharing policies. Analytics are anonymous usage stats gathered about your device, the software that runs on it, and what you use it for.

You can enable “Share iPhone and Watch Analytics” to share information directly with Apple. The company can then use the info to improve iOS. You can also enable “Share With App Developers” to share anonymous usage and crash reports with third-party developers. This will help them squish bugs and create more stable software experiences.

Tap the "Share iPhone & Watch Analytics" and "Share With App Developers" toggles to send analytics to Apple and other app developers.

There are a few other toggles you can enable, but none are as valuable as those two in terms of improving your everyday iOS experience. Apple promises that no identifying information is transmitted during this process, but you can turn these off if it makes you uncomfortable.

Tim Brookes Tim Brookes
Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He's invested in the Apple ecosystem, with experience covering Macs, iPhones, and iPads for publications like Zapier and MakeUseOf.
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