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Reinstalling apps on lost/recovered phone


Jul 15, 2022
Hi everyone

Long story cut short... my son lost his phone in June and I blocked the SIM and IMEI, and also factory erased it via Google Family Link (or something like that) thinking it would never be returned. Then someone handed it to the police and I now have it back in perfect condition. Replacement SIM is working fine and I can install new apps, but I can't launch or re-install existing apps.

Under Settings > All apps > it shows 100+ apps, including stuff like WhatsApp, Chrome etc.

Under Google Play > Username > Manage apps and device > Manage > I can see loads of Not Installed apps listed, eg WhatsApp, Chrome etc. But some of these show 'Not available for device' beneath them and some of them don't. But in Play, none of them show up as incompatible.

And no matter if I try Force Stop, or uninstalling them, I cannot re-install them. They show up in Play, so I click Install and they download but then refresh to show Install again. No app icon appears on the home screen.

Phone is a Motorola G9 Play.

Any ideas on how I can fix this because I'm keen to give this to my son up and running with all his games etc?



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Did he have a lock screen enabled before he lost it? That's a good deterrent for most prying eyes. If that same lock screen was in place when the phone was returned than the odds are the phone wasn't 'hacked' into, but that's not a sure bet. Taking into consideration that phone was physically out of your (well, his) possession that leaves a big open ended question as to what may or may not have been done to it in that time. The thing is, 'hacking' a phone isn't as simple or quick as it is in the movies. Just connecting it to a computer and typing a few strings of commands isn't realistic so it's one thing to do it on-the-fly while someone is in the bathroom and you snap up their phone, and a completely other matter when you have possession of their phone without any supervision and no time constraints.

You might find it more prudent to be on safe side and just assume this phone has been compromised. I'd delete your Google account from it, remove the SIM, and at the very least do a Factory Reset. When he lost it was there a microSD card in it? You might want to remove that too and scan it on a trusted PC using a good anti-virus/anti-malware utility. If he didn't have one in it and now there is, be very, very wary of the contents of that new mystery card. But at least take steps to wipe the phone clean and then just start setting up back up into your Family Link service from scratch, as a new user account.
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There is going to be a mixed result in trying to restore his previous user account by just reinstalling whatever apps he was using. The backup/restore feature in the Settings menu itself is a bit of a misnomer in that it relates only to Google apps and services. (It would be nice if Google made this more evident.) His Google account retains that data online in Google's servers so that's what it uses to do part of the restore.
But given you did a Factory Reset via Family Link before, third-party apps/services settings and config files should have been wiped. So other non-Google data files, like game history, saved music files, etc., will be gone.

Give some thought into setting up a thorough backup solution so this kind of problem can be resolved in an easier way. That Settings option only applies to an automatic backup of Google apps and Google settings/config data. The rest of our phone data is our responsibility. So some things like your son's game history might require you to just manually back up his game folders in his user data partition to an online storage service.
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I fixed it yesterday. It turns out all the apps had been hidden/disabled via Google Family Link at
https://families.google.com/families > child name > Android apps. All I had to do was re-enable them and they started appearing on the home screen. This must have happened as part of the Google remote reset that I did when it was stolen.

FTR, all data is still exactly as it was, eg game saves, WhatsApp messages, etc.

Like you say, I'll look into a backup solution this week.

Cheers all
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