HD/4K Videos Won't Play on iPhone - Why and How to Fix It

By Eric Pascal, Updated: Mar. 1, 2023

The problem with iPhone video playback has plagued many Apple users so far. When iPhone fails to play videos, it will behave erratically, such as say cannot open, keep spinning, give "something went wrong, tap to retry" message, show a circular loading icon, and so on. Sometimes, the videos freeze after 5-7 seconds normal playback on iPhone. Or you might experience a choppy or jumpy playback on iPhone with the 4K HDR video. These videos that won't play on iPhone come from various platforms, including Safari, apps such as Facebook, Windows Media Player, Android phone, and even the Apple ecosystem like Macbook, iMovie, iTunes and iPad. If the problem keeps recurring and you still don't know how to solve the issue, follow the post and learn why and how to fix videos not playing on iPhone error simply.

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Why and How to Fix Videos Won't Play on iPhone Error

1. iPhone Won't Play 4K/HD Videos from Mac, Windows, Android, GoPro, DJI and other Devices

"Why won't my iPhone play video after syncing from my Mac via iTunes? It plays normally in my QuickTime player."

Reason 1: Incompatible video format

There are times you've downloaded and saved some online videos on your computer. But when you sync them to iPhone you end up with playback failure, with error message "unsupported video format". The same problem happens when you try to play the AVI, MKV, WMV or other video files sent from your friend working on Windows OS or the videos made on Android. The major problem is the video is formatted other than MP4, MOV, or M4V that is natively supported by iPhone.

Reason 2: Subcodec error with HEVC video

iOS 11 added the support of HEVC format in 2017. Playing HEVC videos on iPhone will be problematic, if you still work with iOS 10 or older version. Besides, although iOS 11 natively supports HEVC, you iPhone must use a newer processor to playback these files smoothly. For iPhone manufactured before 2016 it will struggle to play back HEVC video.

Even trickier, your new model such as iPhone 14/13/12 won't play HEVC videos from time to time. Why? Technically, iOS only recognize HEVC video encoded in hvc1 subcodec. Chances are some HEVC files created by programs like Handbrake and FFMPEG are tagged as hev1. So except for upgrading your iOS to newer version for HEVC, it's suggested to convert HEVC video to H.264 which is fully compatible with iPhone to fix video not playing on iPhone issue.

Reason 3: Problem with 4K video, higher frame-rate video or oversized video

Many a iPhone user reported a playback failure of 4k videos filmed by GoPro, DJI Mavic or other cameras. They are told the 4K videos are unsupported and won't play on iPhone or iPad and the resolution or FPS need to be lower. These videos are commonly filmed HEVC 4K 60fps, 2.7k 120fps and 1080p 240fps. Here are the majorly 2 reasons why your iPhone won't play these videos.

• High bitrate or big file size: Some user suggests 2.7k60fps cannot play on iPhone despite short length. But the file size turns out to be overly big since the max bitrate reaches to 60mbps. Technically, 10 min 2.7K60fps GoPro video will take up around 4.8GB storage space, let along the 4K60fps video. Lower bitrate means that iPhone will have less work and easier time to do when playing back the video. You must shrink video size by lowering bitrate for smooth video playback on iPhone. Or else, make sure your iPhone has double the required space available for 4K video playback. Some camera is equipped with settings purpose built for higher quality but resulting in big size, such as GoPro's Protune, make sure to turn off the feature to ensure an easier playback on iPhone later.

• High Resolution: 4K video playback problem on iPhone such as stuttering or lags happens as a result of the iPhone's processing power. This is typically because playing 4k video consumes resources like processor, RAM and graphic memory. Secondly, right now, only iPhone 8 (Plus), iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone XS (Max), iPad Pro and iPhone 11 series in 10.5-inch, 12.9-inch, 11-inch and 12.9-inch can play 4K and HDR videos flawlessly. To accommodate the process, the 4K videos of higher resolution shall be converted to a lower resolution like 1080p or 720p, if you have older models. Check what video quality your iDevice can play >>

• Higher Frame rate: iPhone users are disappointed to see some footages cannot load or play on iPhone. Frankly, certain iDevices have specific limitations and have put a block on frame rate higher or lower being copied into the system folders or imported through the lighting connector. For example, iPhone blocks any video in 100fps and even 29.99fps, while Mavic 30fps is actually more like 29.99fps instead of 30fps. You have to convert the frame rate to Apple 30fps beforehand.

Reason 4: Aspect ratio error

Users encountered the problem that iPhone won't play GoPro HEVC videos, especially the 4:3 videos even with lower resolutions and frame rates. Why? This is because of the aspect ratio issue. According to Gopro, no version of iOS supports 4K 4:3 playback. You have to convert 4K 4:3 to 16:9 aspect ratio or change the video resolution to lower 1080p/720p first. Otherwise, iPhone prevents you from playing 4K 4:3 video.

Reason 5: The video is damaged

If the video not working with iPhone, check if your video is damaged. You can play the video on your desktop computer with a third-party media player.

Solution: How to Fix iPhone Won't Play Videos from Mac, Windows, Android, GoPro, DJI

To fix video not playing on iPhone problem, you can rely on VideoProc Converter, an easy-to-use but powerful toolbox engineered for 4K/HD video processing. It is able to reduce video file size, transcode video to/from iPhone and adjust video parameters, be it codec, frame rate, bitrate or aspect ratio.

Step 1: Open VideoProc Converter and click Video on the main interface to kick off the video processing feature.

Step 2: Click +Video button to load the target video that won't play on iPhone. It accepts loading multiple videos at a time.

Step 3: Choose the output file format that is perfect for iPhone.

* Choose MP4 HEVC if your iPhone supports HEVC, which will reduce large video size by 50% yet retain the high quality as compared with H.264. Or you can choose MP4 H.264 if your iPhone doesn't work well with HEVC video.

choose HEVC profile

* Click Option at the right side of the video information, where you can change video resolution, codec, bit rate, frame rate, and other parameters as you like.

* Click Cut in the basic editing panel to trim off the unwanted parts or the damaged area of the video. See how to cut and trim video for iPhone

* Click Crop in the basic editing panel to crop the video area and change the aspect ratio from 4:3 to 16:9 that your iPhone recognizes.

cut crop option

Optional: If you are unknown of obscure settings for iPhone video playback, you can click Target Format at the bottom of the Video window, choose Apple Device > to iPhone Video and select the specific iPhone model you are using. VideoProc Converter automatically sets the best video setting for iPhone.

Convert MKV to iPhone

Step 4: Press RUN button to begin converting video to iPhone format.

2. iPhone Won't Play Recorded Videos in Camera Roll

"The problem I'm having is the recorded videos won't play on my iPhone. Whenever I hit play button it says cannot open. It's only the long videos that are doing this."

Reasons: It's really a nuisance when the recorded videos won't play on iPhone in Camera Roll. Reasons can be various, ranging from video format incompatibility issue, the video itself is damaged or invalid, issue with software update, to the faulty iTunes syncing.


Step 1: Do a hard reset. Hold down lock and volum up buttons down till iPhone turns off and turn it back on again. Generally, 99% of video issues will be fixed.

Step 2: Update iOS to the latest version

Step 3: Check if the video is damaged

Step 4: Export the video from your iPhone to Mac or PC and test to see if it can play normally.

Step 5: Repair the video or just discard it if it is not so important. Try another video to see if iPhone will play it successfully.

3. iPhone Won't Play Videos on Apps (Facebook, Splice, Clips, etc)

"My iPhone will not play videos on the YouTube app. Whenever I try to play a video it just shows up with the circular loading icon. This is the same in Facebook and Safari. Any fixes out there?"

Reasons: Many users complain iPhone won't play videos from other apps like Facebook, Instagram, or video editors like Splice or Clips. This is attributed to either the Wi-Fi issue, caches, or occasionally app down issue. Sometimes, software update causes app incompatibility issue and further leads to video playback error on iPhone.


Step 1: Reboot iPhone

Step 2: Close and Reopen the app

Double press the Home button to open the App Switcher > swipe up the app to close it > reopen the app and find a video to see if your iPhone can play it.

Step 3: Check for updates

Open App store > tap Updates and look for the app in the pending updates > click Update > enter Apple ID password if asked > go back to the app and see if the video not playing on iPhone issue is fixed.

Step 4: Update to new iOS version

Tap Settings > General > Software Update > tap Download and Install and enter password if asked.

Step 5: Uninstall and reinstall the App

Press the icon of the app till you see the jiggle X in the upper left corner of the app > tap the X to delete and uninstall the app > go to App Store > search the app and tag Get > click Install next to the app to reinstall it on your iPhone.

Step 6: Turn Wi-Fi off and back on

Step 7: Clear the app's cache

Step 8: Reset network setting

Tap General > Reset > Reset Network Settings. Then you can rebook iPhone and see if the video is played on iPhone properly.

Step 9: Download and convert online videos such as YouTube to iPhone.

4. iPhone Won't Play Videos on Safari

"Why won't my iPhone play videos on safari? My internet is good and software is up to date. The play button just keeps spinning but it just wouldn't play please help."

Reasons: Apple discussion forum are flooded with complaints from iPhone users reporting videos fail to play in Safari. The iPhone video playback failure in Safari is due to outdated iOS version, issue with software update. Sometimes, bad network connection and too many junk files or website data are the main culprits that videos keep buffering and stuttering when they are played on Safari.


Step 1: Performa software update

Tap Settings > General > Software Update > tap Download and Install and enter password if asked.

Step 2: Clear cookies and caches

Tap on Settings > go to Safari > scroll down and Clear History and Website Data to get rid of the caches, cookies, and browsing traces. Then open the video in safari to see if it can be played on iPhone.

Step 3: Make sure to have good network connection.

Step 4: Wait for another iOS version

Sometimes, software update will lead to various errors, such as Safari not working. You have to wait for another iOS version and update it to fix the issue.

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Eric Pascal

Eric Pascal previously held a senior editor role at Digiarty, covering almost any technology to do with Apple, from reviews, complex troubleshooting tips, to software related. Eric's quite adept with photographing & post production subjects. His journey into the world began somewhere in 2012, aiming to help photographer get out of sticky situations. He's also a keen musician and sportsman.

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