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How to Update Android: OTA & Manual Upgrades

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If an Android update is available to your device you’ll find it in your phone or tablet’s Settings menu. However, just because a newer version of Android exists it doesn’t mean it will be available for your device – now or ever.

That is entirely dependent on what device you have (and sometimes which operator you are with). Unfortunately, about two years into the device’s lifetime you might see updates becoming rarer. There are no obligations from the manufacturers to support updates for older models.

Android is often criticised for its fragmentation. As of 5 February 2018 Android Developers reports the following stats, revealing that only 1.1 percent of Android devices in use are running the latest Oreo operating system:

Version Codename Distribution
2.3.3-2.3.7 Gingerbread 0.3%
4.0.3-4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich 0.4%
4.1.x Jelly Bean 1.7%
4.2.x Jelly Bean 2.6%
4.3 Jelly Bean 0.7%
4.4 KitKat 12.0%
5.0 Lollipop 5.4%
5.1 Lollipop 19.2%
6.0 Marshmallow 28.1%
7.0 Nougat 22.3%
7.1 Nougat 6.2%
8.0 Oreo 0.8%
8.1 Oreo 0.3%

Back up your data

As a precautionary measure, it’s good practice to back up your data such as contacts and photos. The upgrade shouldn’t affect your data but there are no guarantees.

Check out our complete guide to backing up an Android device to find out how.

Enter Settings

Navigate to the Settings menu on your device. On most Android devices this can be done via the app menu or notification bar.

Typically the Settings app will have a cog or spanner logo.

About Phone or Tablet

Scroll down the Settings menu and click on ‘About Phone’, ‘About Tablet’ or perhaps ‘About Device’.

If you have a tabbed settings menu this will appear in the ‘General’ section.

Software Update

The menu can vary from device to device, but look for and click the ‘Software Update’ or similar button.

Search for an update

Your phone or tablet will now search for an available update. If you are taken to another menu, select the ‘Software update check’ button or similar.

If an update is available your device then you will be asked whether you wish to install it. If you select yes then the system will download and install the new software and reboot.

Note: You device may require a Wi-Fi connection to search for an update. We also recommend downloading the software over Wi-Fi because the file size can be large.

Manually update Android

It’s possible to manually flash a newer version of Android to your device if you’re running a recent Google Pixel device (Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL). 

It’s likely all final versions of the software have already been released for your device, and should be available as OTA updates using the steps we’ve outlined above. However, preview versions of upcoming operating systems – such as Android P – are also available to you. But be warned: they may be buggy.

You’ll need to download the appropriate system image for your phone, then manually flash the image using ADB. You’ll find full instructions here.

Do not attempt to flash the system image on an unsupported phone, and remember to back up your data before you begin as you WILL lose it.

Root your phone

Another way to update a phone for which an update is not available is to root it and then install another operating system. But this is not for the faint-hearted.

Check out our guide to rooting Android here.

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