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I woke up this morning and noticed a missing icon for an app. I don't know which app; it's just a missing position in a grid of icons. It made me wonder... When app is removed from the Play store, is it removed from everyone's phone that downloaded it? Does having auto-update matter at all, and in any case, what happens to the user data? Will I receive an email notification of the app's removal?

It's disconcerting that someone else could have uninstall power over apps on my phone.

Phone: Samsung Galaxy S3 SCH-I535 Running Android 4.4.2

  • 5
    You don't say whether this grid of icons was a homescreen or the list of all apps. If the former, I've seen the shortcut disappear when an app is updated -- but only occasionally -- and you don't (always) get (much of) a notification then. If the icon has disappeared from the list of all apps it presumably has been uninstalled. – Chris H Apr 17 '15 at 18:58
24

In general the answer is no - however Google do have the capability of remotely removing apps (i.e. Malware) from everyone's device as required, and if they do so they will provide you with a notification.

This was explained by Rich Cannings, Android Security Lead in an Android Developers blog post, back in 2010:-

... In cases where users may have installed a malicious application that poses a threat, we’ve also developed technologies and processes to remotely remove an installed application from devices. If an application is removed in this way, users will receive a notification on their phone.

Recently, we became aware of two free applications built by a security researcher for research purposes ... [a]fter the researcher voluntarily removed these applications from Android Market, we decided, per the Android Market Terms of Service, to exercise our remote application removal feature on the remaining installed copies to complete the cleanup.

... a dangerous application could be removed from active circulation in a rapid and scalable manner to prevent further exposure to users. While we hope to not have to use it, we know that we have the capability to take swift action on behalf of users’ safety when needed. ...

This was then used to remove 60 malicious applications back in 2011

On Tuesday evening, the Android team was made aware of a number of malicious applications published to Android Market. Within minutes of becoming aware, we identified and removed the malicious applications. ... But given the nature of the exploits, the attacker(s) could access other data, which is why we’ve taken a number of steps to protect those who downloaded a malicious application:

We removed the malicious applications from Android Market, suspended the associated developer accounts, and contacted law enforcement about the attack. We are remotely removing the malicious applications from affected devices. This remote application removal feature is one of many security controls the Android team can use to help protect users from malicious applications. ...

  • 3
    OP didn't mention any notification, and don't know which app it was. This probably isn't what happened to them, then? – ashes999 Apr 17 '15 at 18:44
12

While not exactly an answer to your question, I saw this happen recently, and the cause was that an app developer had changed the name of the app. When it did an auto-update, the old app disappeared, and the new app was installed. But, the icon was removed from my launcher page, and the new one was not put there. Once I had figured out why I had an empty spot, and what the new name was, I was able to just put it back.
It did have me confused for a bit, and it could have been what happened to you. I don't know why an update would consider the two apps to be the same, but the launcher would not, but that is what happened.

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    Regarding why the launcher would consider two versions of the same app differently: while the updater checks the package name of the app (for example, com.facebook.orca) whereas the launcher displays all icons declared in the application's manifest with the intent filter android.intent.category.LAUNCHER... so an app can have multiple icons and they can change from one version to the next. – LS97 Apr 17 '15 at 20:12
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No, it is not removed automatically. I actually use several apps that have been removed from the Play Store since I installed them.

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    Just to confirm it's not only Matthew's device: So do I. On multiple devices actually. – Izzy Apr 17 '15 at 14:40

protected by eldarerathis Apr 19 '15 at 16:10

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