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Can’t open email attachments on Android phone (5 solutions)

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Email attachments in Gmail are often essential for conversations and you should be able to access them on the move, on your Android, without issues. However, some users state that they can’t open email attachments on Android and we have a few solutions/workarounds to suggest. The solutions provided below are for Google Gmail but you can use them on Microsoft Outlook or different email Android clients, too.

There are millions of extensions, and some files require specific, niche tools so a good start would be to identify the file format extension (e.g. .zip, .tar, .xlsx, etc.). Once you know what’s the file format, you can download the attachment and install a corresponding app that allows access to the extension. PDF reader for PDF files, RAR for RAR and ZIP files, etc.

Why can’t I download attachments from my email on my phone?

If you can’t open email attachments you should:

  • Delete and re-download the attachment again from the email.
  • Use apps that can open certain extensions if you don’t have any system app that opens them.
  • Reset the Gmail.
  • Ensure that the file is valid and not corrupted. You can ask the sender to check that on their side and re-send it to you.

Usually, you can open email attachments in Gmail without downloading them. At least, to preview the contents of the file. However, we suggest downloading the file and using a recommended app for the file format to access it. Be that RAR, PDF reader, or a specific tool.

1. Download attachments and try again

The first thing you should do is download the attachment and access it locally. There might be a temporary server-side problem that prevents access to email content.

So, download the attachment and try again. To do so, just open the email and tap on the Download icon under the attachment preview to store it locally. After that, open File Manager (every Android device has a built-in file manager) and locate the file. Attachments you download from Gmail usually go to internal storage > Downloads.

2. Install apps that open different file formats

Android can open a wide variety of files but, just like your PC, certain formats require specific apps to be accessed. The good thing is that once you download a file that can’t be opened, your Android will offer to look up apps that can open it on Play Store.

An obvious example would be a presentation done with Microsoft PowerPoint. If you don’t have PowerPoint for Android, you should still be able to preview this attachment (not with all file extensions created in PowerPoint), but can’t edit it.

So, check the details of each attachment you want to access and focus on the file format extension. Many users get attachments with compressed archives (ZIP or RAR) for which you need apps like WinZip (get it, on Play Store) or RAR (available on Play Store) to unzip the archive so you can access the files it contains on your Android.

Have in mind that there’s a small group of files that just can’t be accessed on Android and you’ll need to use your PC to access them.

3. Clear local data from Gmail

If you suspect that an app glitch is causing issues with attachments, you can reset it by clearing local data from it. The procedure is rather simple, you won’t lose anything, and the app should work better afterward.

Here’s how to clear local data from Gmail for Android:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap Apps.
  3. Open Gmail from the list of available apps.
  4. Tap Storage.
  5. Clear data and restart your device. Can't open email attachments on Android
  6. Open Gmail, open the email containing the attachment you want to access, and try again.

If that fails and you still can’t open email attachments on your Android smartphone or tablet, reinstall Gmail or uninstall app updates.

4. Uninstall Gmail updates if you can’t open email attachments on Android

On some Android skins, you can’t fully remove Google Gmail but you can uninstall updates from it. To uninstall updates from Gmail, navigate through Settings > Apps > Gmail. Once there, tap on the 3-dots menu and select Uninstall updates. Can't open email attachments on Android

On the other hand, on many Android skins, you can reinstall Gmail from Play Store with ease. Here’s how to reinstall Gmail on Android:

  1. Open Play Store.
  2. Look for Gmail and expand the app.
  3. Tap Uninstall.
  4. Restart your Android device.
  5. Once again navigate to the Play Store and install Gmail.

5. Try accessing email attachments on your PC

Finally, you can try accessing email attachments on your PC. Just navigate to Gmail for Web. You might need to sign in with your Gmail/Google Account credentials first. Once there, download attachments, in the same manner, you would on Android. Again, incomplete attachments and corrupted files can’t be accessed so ensure that everything is in order on the senders’ side, as well.

That should do it. Thank you for reading and feel free to share your thoughts, questions, or suggestions with us in the comments section below.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in December 2021. We made sure to revamp it for freshness and accuracy.

Picture of Aleksandar Ognjanovic

Aleksandar Ognjanovic

Managing editor at Mobile Internist. @lemmingspain My fascination with mobile technology, particularly Android and iOS, began years ago and continues today. I'm captivated by the constant evolution in the smartphone industry and its impact on our daily lives, always anticipating the next big innovation. That’s the main reason why I found myself writing instructive content on the subject for users who are not as familiar with all the bells and whistles.
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