Foolishly I activated a different phone on-line and decided to go back to the Hero. The phone connection worked fine. Attempts to re-establish the data connection with Sprint tech support's help failed. Any ideas how to update the PRL successfully?
Have you tried hard resetting the Hero? When I have had phones that won't provision data correctly after being activated once before, a hard reset has always fixed it. It wiped everything on the phone, but it brought data back for my customers.
Your contacts should be syncing to google (unless there's a problem, or they're set to "phone") and your apps will download themselves again, unless you're talking about non market apps.
Go to gmail on your computer and see if your contacts are in there, if so, they'll sync to your phone (or any new andriod phone for that matter)