iPhone 911: “I Just Updated an App on my iPhone. Now It Won’t Open”

iPhone memory usage, quit-all, reboot.
My iPhone 4’s memory usage before and after a quit-all and reboot.

I’m not sure why this happens. I just know that I’ve been seeing more of it recently. I’ll download the new update of an app that worked great before. And then when I try to open it… CRASH!

I’m sure it has something to do with memory or how another poorly coded app has made the stack unstable (I don’t know the exact technical specifics). The bottom line is, my app crashes.

If this sounds familiar, here are a few steps you can take to try and bring a crashy app to a usable state before you fire off that 1-star App Store review. >>>

1. Reboot your iPhone

Yes, I preach this, but rebooting your clears up these types of crashes more often than not. As you use your iPhone (or iPad or iPod Touch), its memory becomes fragmented. It may be effected by random fragments of code leftover from a previous app crash, making your device less stable over time. Rebooting your device clears all that. It loads the iOS fresh into memory which may help stabilize cranky apps.

2. Quit all open apps.

iOS 4 introduced multi-tasking and backgrounding to iDevices. However closing out of apps doesn’t mean that you’ve actually quit the app. It’s still in the background using up a chunk of memory.

To quit all of your open apps, double-click the home button to show your recently accessed applications. Press and hold any of the icons. They’ll start shaking. Then just tap the red-circled minus buttons to quit each app. One tap of the home button stops the shaking. One more takes you back to your home screen.

Whenever I do a maintenance reboot of my iPhone, I also quit out of all apps beforehand. Between that and rebooting, I often reclaim about 50% of my iPhone’s available RAM (see photo above).

3. Delete the app from your iPhone and reinstall from the App Store.

When updating an app, you are installing over the previous version of the app. That means that your files and preferences aren’t effected. Pretty convenient. This saves you the trouble of losing photos and reentering login information after each update.

Sometimes, app crankiness is caused when one of these files gets corrupted and that will still cause the app to crash even after the update. Deleting the app from your iPhone removes these files and forces you to create new preferences files from scratch.

To delete an app from your iPhone, press and hold the app’s icon. All icons will start shaking. Then just tap the red-circled minus button to delete the app. One tap of the home button stops the shaking.

WARNING! Deleting an app will cause you to lose any logins you have saved for that app. Those are easy enough to reenter. It will also cause you to lose any photos or files stored in that app’s built-in Lightbox. Be sure to move any files, photos, or videos you want to save into your Camera Roll or save it somewhere else. Once you delete the app, those files are gone forever. Photos and videos already in your iPhone’s Camera Roll are safe, however.

4. Delete the app and reinstall from iTunes.

Sometimes, updating the app in iTunes on your desktop or laptop PC can make a difference and help reduce app instability. For instance, during the recent Instagram 1.6.x updates, users were reporting fewer problems when they downloaded the update in iTunes and then synced to their iPhones.

5. Downgrade back to the previous version of the app.

Okay, you’ve wasted an hour trying all of these tips and the app still crashes. Many times, it’s just a buggy update. Most developers are really good at bug-fix updates, but getting those updated and bug-fixed app through the App Store’s approval process can take a little time. It is possible to downgrade back to a previous version of the app while you’re waiting for an update that works.

We’ve covered that in the past. Read our post on downgrading an app to a previous version.

Most of the time, app updates go smoothly. When they don’t, hopefully, these tips will get your apps back into a usable state.



About Marty Yawnick 1826 Articles
Marty is a self-employed graphic designer in the Fort Worth/Dallas Metroplex. He is an avid Rangers baseball, Chicago Cubs, Packers and Highbury Arsenal fan. In addition to capturing random moments with whatever camera is close by (usually his iPhone), his other interests include coffee, film, music, and traveling in seats 5E and 5F with his fiancé.
  • amo

    was it posted because of my last comment ? 🙂
    I actually had to delete and reinstall cameramatic !

    • Hi, Amo!

      Yup! It's advice I give out regularly elsewhere. I saw your comment and one on Facebook and thought it would be helpful for many readers. Thanks for the inspiration!


  • Jos

    I've tried all of the above without point 5. Instagram keeps freezing and crashing.

    • Hi, Jos,

      The Instagram "White Screen of Death"? Unfortunately, Instagram's official response is to delete and reinstall the app. If it still occurs, let the app crash several times. It's a cache issue that eventually repairs itself temporarily.

      They say it'll be fixed in the next update.


  • cyrano

    off topic, but what app is that Marty that you got the memory usage stats with? i searched on dashboard but no joy…thanks in advance…

    • An all-in-one app called AppBox Pro. I mainly use it for measurement and currency conversions, but it's got a handy Memory gauge as well. There are several apps available that do this — probably with a sexier interface. This one does what I need.


  • Trickyhat

    I sometimes hack little in xcode and the problem is that by default all apps in xcode are set to stay in background when you close them. If you don't want this you actually have to explicitly specify that you don't want to do it. There isn't even an interface for it, you have to type it down. So all apps pretty much never close, just are moved to standby by the system, whatever they are, all the fart apps you ever run just once.

    If the memory is close to full and app asks for memory and no other app frees the memory (which none do because the memory management is just a joke) you have crash. The system is set to unload apps that are not used for some time and take more memory, but the timing of it is horrible, this is why the instagram says let it crash few times – they hope that at that later time the system will also force some other apps to terminate so after few crashes the memory would be more free.
    The memory management is not good on iphone and ipad.

  • Rob

    Funny that you'd post this today. Hipstamatic was crashing on me for the first time ever this morning. Launch the app, take a shot: crash. Try again: crash. I rebooted my iPhone and all was well again.

    I wish Apple offered an option for a daily silent reboot time. I say silent because it would be great if my iPhone could silently reboot itself every morning at 4am.

  • The silent reboot is a fantastic idea!