When I activated my Tbolt the first time in April 2011, the phone reinstalled all the applications I had installed on my DROID Eris. I didn't realize it did that until I got home an hour or so later.
Since I purposely turn that restore feature off when I setup any of my android devices. Many of the apps that work on an older device running Gingerbread don't always work well on devices running Jelly Bean.
The feature does work and you are welcome to use it, but be aware of the potential issues of loading multiple applications can equate into application conflicts.
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I hear you, Mandievp! It can be a real painful and time consuming process. The good news is that you can use an application, such as MyBackup or AppManager to backup your applications to your SD card, but reinstalling them will be just as cumbersome as reinstalling them from the Android Market. Additionally, unless you reinstall the apps through the Android Market, you will not be notified of new updates for the apps when they are published, and may be stuck with the older version.
So while it will take a little extra time to manually download your apps, it will be worth it to ensure that you have the best experience. I hope this addresses your concerns.
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Mine did alot of updating apps on the device but I had to click the ones I wanted from my "my Apps' area. Just make sure your on wireless and for 2 clicks each it will get the job done quick. I had all my apps in within an hour. I just had the fun of re-logging in for the apps that use play to acknowledge you.
Just make sure you check the auto update apps since some you may not need and you can hide the rest in your apps area.