Unable to Play a Video on iPhone? Here Is How to Fix This

  • It turns out that issues with video playback are quite common on iPhones these days. So, if some videos are not playing on your iPhone – don’t worry, there are ways to fix this.

In this article we’re going to share the most common problems with video playback on different iPhone models, including iPhone 11, X, 8/Plus, 7/Plus, 6(s). We will also provide you with easy-to-follow guides on how to fix the issues, so that you can play any video file or stream you want.

Table of Contents

Issue 1. When your iPhone cannot play video saved in the gallery.

This is, probably, the most common issue out of others, so we’ll start with it first.

If you’ve recorded a video file with your iPhone and the video has been saved in the gallery, but you’re not able to play it back, the reason could be that the video is actually located in your iCloud account, not in the iPhone’s storage.

This usually happens if the Optimize iPhone Storage feature is enabled for your device. This feature uploads all your video and audio content from devices’ internal storage to your iCloud account when there is an Internet connection. By keeping large video files in the cloud, the feature frees up internal storage of your iPhone.

Now, when trying to play a video on your iPhone from the gallery, it downloads the file from your iCloud account. The problem occurs when there is no Internet connection. In this case, you can see only a preview of the video file on your phone, but can’t play it back, since the file is stored in the cloud and can’t be downloaded at the moment.

There are two solutions here:

1. First is obvious – just find a WiFi spot, or turn your Mobile Data (3G) option on, so that the video can be downloaded from your iCloud account.

2. Second, if you want your videos to be playable offline, then you need to set your iPhone, so that it keeps original video files in its internal memory. For this, go to Settings -> Photos -> select Download and Keep Originals. In this case, all your photos along with video files will be downloaded to you iPhone’s internal memory, and you will be able to watch the videos offline.    

Pro Tip:

If there is not enough space to keep all the videos in your iPhone memory, you can download only one or several of those you’d like to have an access to when being offline. For this, open the video file preview from your iPhone’s Camera or Photos app, then click the upload icon in the bottom of the screen and scroll down to the Save to Files option. Voila, this will let you save the video in your iPhone’s internal memory and play it whenever you want.       

Issue 2. The video file you’re trying to play is damaged.

If you’ve downloaded a video file to your iPhone’s internal memory, but still can’t play it, there may be the following reasons:

a. The video file is damaged.

b. The file format is not supported by iPhone.

In this paragraph we’re going to cover how to repair a corrupt video file right from your iPhone. While in the next paragraph, we will discover what video file formats are supported by iPhone, as well as how to play video files that are not supported by your device.

If you’re sure that the video file is located on your iPhone’s memory card and is supported by the device, but still can’t be played, chances are the file is damaged.

Unfortunately, video files may be affected as a result of a device, storage, or app glitch. For example, if a video recording app crashes, or your iPhone goes off unexpectedly when recording a video, the resulting file may be saved improperly and contain errors, or miss important bits of data.

Luckily though, corrupt video files can be easily fixed with the help of an online tool – Restore.Media. You can access and use this tool from your iPhone via a web-browser. All you have to do is register a free account at Restore.Media, upload your broken video file and then follow the instructions. The tool supports most common video file formats, including Apple’s native QuickTime media files with the MOV extension.

For more details on how to repair MOV and other video file types with the tool, read the guide on Restore.Media’s blog. 

Issue 3. The video file format is not supported by your iPhone.

Sometimes, when trying to play a video file on an iPhone, the following error message appears: “Unsupported Video Format“. If this is your case, then you’re, probably, trying to play some legacy video file type, such as MKV, or the video is encoded with some rare codecs that are not supported by iPhone.

Bellow are specs taken from the official Apple site. These are applicable to all iPhone models, starting from iPhone 6 and later on:

Video playback (video file formats that can be played with iPhone):

  • File extensions (video file container types): MOV, MP4, M4V, AVI
  • Video codecs: HEVC, H.264, MPEG‑4 Part 2, Motion JPEG

Video recording (video file formats that can be recorded with iPhone):

  • File extensions (video file container types): QuickTime files with the MOV extension
  • Video codecs: HEVC and H.264

So, what do you do if you have a different file extension, or codec and, hence, unable to play the video on your iPhone? Well, your option here is to convert your existing video file to one that is supported by iPhone. For example, if you have an MKV video file, you can convert it to a MOV file and then play it with your iPhone. There are quite a lot of video file converters out there, including those available online – just Google. If you’re on a Mac, we also recommend to give a try to this one MKV to MOV converter.   

Issue 4. YouTube not working on iPhone.

If you’re unable to play a YouTube video on your iPhone, then the checklist bellow should help you fix the problem:

  • First, make sure you have a stable Internet connection. Try opening a few random sites in a web-browser to see if they work. If not, reset your Internet connection, or connect to a different network.
  • If you have a stable Internet connection, but the YouTube video still doesn’t play, try to open some other videos from YouTube, just to check that this is not an issue with this specific clip.
  • If this doesn’t help, then you may try to play the video via another app. For example, if you’re opening the video via the YouTube app, then try to open it in your Safari browser, and vise-versa.
  • If this still doesn’t help, reboot your iPhone and then check if there are any updates available for the YouTube app. If yes, update the app and then try to play the video again.
  • If nothing helps, you should, probably, ask for help the Apple’s support community.


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