Android reinstall not as easy as can be

Samsung Nexus S phoneIn the midst of a very fun evening in New York City the other day, I dropped my Nexus S in a cab and lost it forever. After a bit of research and due consideration, I decided to replace it with an identical model. The upcoming Android phones don’t have anything on the Nexus S that really matters to me and most appear to be bulkier. The iPhone 5 is too far off and the Nexus S is vastly preferable for my needs than the iPhone 4.

So I went to a local Best Buy and got a new Nexus S, booted up and logged into my Google account, expecting almost everything from my old phone had been backed up to the “cloud.” That turned out to be just the case for all my personal data — contacts, email, notes, passwords, stock portfolios, RSS feeds and the like.

But it was decidedly not the case for apps, contrary to what I had expected. Yes, you can re-install any app you’ve previously bought from the Android app market for free onto a new phone. And you can order up the downloads from either the market app on your phone or the Market web site. However, the re-downloads have to be done one at a time and you have to click through the permissions and disclosures screen for each one individually. That’s not nearly as handy as the restore from backup option available for iPhones and iPads in iTunes.

Even worse, the list of installed apps in my account on the market was missing dozens of apps I had previously downloaded on my first phone. Some, like the FiOS home voice mail manager, seem kind of obscure and may be limited in their distribution. But lots of mainstream apps like the super-excellent WordPress (which beats the pants off the iOS version) or Angry Birds or Twitter were also missing. When I searched for them, the amrket did have them listed as “installed” so it clearly had kept an accurate record of my previous downloads.

Definitely an aspect of Android that needs improvement as the platform ages and more and more people face the need to transfer their apps from an old phone to a new one.

I’ve also just finished the exercise of changing dozens of passwords for all the web services and apps I use that were signed in on the old phone. Phew.

For Nexus S the Sequel, I’m investigating some better backup apps and remote find and wipe programs. I’ve already installed the useful “contact owner” app which shows my name and contact info (and the phrase “Reward for safe return”) on my login screen.

  • Shabbir Safdar

    When I upgraded my Samsung Captivate S from android 2.1 to 2.2 I went through something similar. I thought I was being clever by buying and running MyBackup Pro to backup all my data and apps first. I then discovered that AT&T does not allow you to restore apps from a backup on an SD card, you have to only download them from the store unless you root your phone. (Who has time to bother with that?)

  • The apps not installing automatically doesn’t sound right to me. Make sure that in the Settings -> Privacy both “Back up my data” and “Automatic restore” are enabled.

    Generally, after installing ROM after wiping data section (which is close to the scenario of entering google account info on a new phone), I have to wait about 15-30 mins for apps to automatically restore (with WiFi enabled for faster restore). Sometimes I have to open Market manually for the restore to kick in, but it seems to work reasonably well.

    Restoring app settings is a bit more difficult – developers need to support backup of the settings to the google servers and some don’t. If you’re rooted, you can use Titanium backup to backup both apps and their settings.

  • Anju Go

    Same predicament. But when I do buy a new Nexus S , I’ll also install a Seek Droid or other similar app. Coz in my case, my phone was reachable for the greater part of a day and I could only bemoan my stupidity in not doing this earlier..

  • I think you are right it is very technical work to reinstall the android. I read your blog and there are some important  factors.