Ugh! Recovering From the Accidental Deletion of an Important iPhone App
Muddy Fun kids' soccer at Mitsuike Sports Ground (三ツ 池運動公園) in Kusatsu Japan -- Mitsuike Sports Ground (三ツ池運動公園) -- Kusatsu, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl,
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 140mm — 1/2000 sec, f/4.5, ISO 4000 — map & image datanearby photos
Muddy Fun
kids' soccer at Mitsuike Sports Ground (三ツ池運動公園) in Kusatsu Japan

Well, that wasn't fun. While at Anthony's soccer game the other day, I pulled my iPhone out of my pocket to find that a couple of apps had been pocket deleted, with the screen showing the dialog to confirm the deletion of a third. Apparently I put the phone in my pocket without deactivating the screen, and it bumped around in there in the just the appropriate way to jump through the hoops to delete an app. Twice. I should have had my pocket play the lottery that day.

I've been pocket dialed by friends before... the call comes in and all I hear is background noise or them chatting with someone without realizing that their phone has called me. This is the first time I've heard of apps getting deleted by accident this way, and the first time I've personally experienced my phone doing pocket anything, other than sitting there.

To make things worse, the two apps that had been deleted where the two apps I use the most (WhatsApp Messenger and Find my Friend), and to make it even super worster, those two apps have a lot of local data (permissions, history, connections, etc.) that are gone the moment you delete them, requiring a lot of hassle to set up again, so I couldn't just re-download from the Apple App Store™ and continue on my merry way. Arrrgh!.

Searching for a Solution -- Mitsuike Sports Ground (三ツ池運動公園) -- Kusatsu, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl,
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/2000 sec, f/2, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
Searching for a Solution

To avoid having to set up the apps again, I had the bright idea of restoring the phone from a recent backup once I got home. iTunes makes a backup of the phone data when syncing, and I'd done it recently, so I though it would be a simple matter of pressing the restore from backup button in iTunes, but no, that results in a frustratingly final error message: "iTunes could not restore the iPhone because not enough free space is available on the iPhone." This made no sense to me because I wasn't asking for a second copy of everything to be added to the phone, but a simple(?) rsync-like make sure what's supposed to be there is actually there synchronization. It was extra frustrating because the error message gave no hint on how to proceed.

It turns out that the way around this is to reset the phone to its factory settings, then restore from backup. After doing the reset, iTunes treated it as if it was a new phone, asking Do you want to set this up as a new phone, or restore from the Jeff's iPhone backup we found lying around?

I restored from backup, and 40 minutes of doing stuff in the background later, my phone was back to its pre-pocket delete glory. I'll have to be more careful next time.

The Right Stuff pitch warriors -- Mitsuike Sports Ground (三ツ池運動公園) -- Kusatsu, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl,
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/2000 sec, f/2, ISO 360 — map & image datanearby photos
The Right Stuff
pitch warriors

All 3 comments so far, oldest first...

What about to switch on Restrictions on your iPhone?
You can disable deletions of applications just.
I have never heard about this before and I will do it on my phone based on your story 🙂
Thanks for warning.

— comment by Michal on February 4th, 2014 at 5:19pm JST (10 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

One of the main reasons I use a pin code for unlocking the iPhone. I always switch the phone to standby when I’m done with it and use the pin code to reactive it.

— comment by Othomas on February 6th, 2014 at 8:35am JST (10 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

I am sooooo glad you posted this. It has happened to me 3 times, most recently yesterday. It seems to be related to heat and moisture. Normally, I can pound on the screen of my Iphone 5 and get no response. But when its hot and I am sweaty, it can make calls and delete apps while sitting in my pocket. I’ve even had it connect to Netflix and start playing movies. Very frustrating. I have taken one users comments and activated restrictions so it will not delete my apps. Last month, in addition to other popular apps I use, it deleted Waze, which had a years worth of addresses logged into favorites. All gone, all when I was traveling and relying on that information for appointments. Fortunately, I had Navigon still installed with most of the same addresses. I learned two important lessons that day. 1) set up a user account in Waze so that I could recover the data if the app is deleted accidently. and 2) Don’t become dependent on the Iphone.

When I get home tonight, I will try your suggestions for a full restore and backup. At least I know I am not going crazy. Thanks for the post.

— comment by Tony on May 22nd, 2014 at 3:30am JST (10 years ago) comment permalink
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