Smartphone operating systems aren’t something many of us give much thought to on a daily basis.
The version of iOS or Android installed onto our phones is rarely as significant (or discussion-worthy) as its storage, or the pixel quality of its selfie camera.
Indeed, without delving into the Settings > About Phone > Software Information sub-menu, few consumers would be able to identify the current version of Android on their device.
In some respects, that’s not surprising.
Although smartphone operating systems are constantly undergoing incremental improvements, one version of Android performs broadly similar to the others.
Yet those incremental improvements mean people with older handsets may be missing out on key features, including greater privacy and practicality.
So what’s the current version of Android available to consumers? And what benefits does it provide over older iterations?
Turn it up to 11?
The latest version of Google’s smartphone operating system is the unremarkably-named Android 11.
Its predecessor was the first not to be named after a delicacy since version 1.1 enjoyed just two months in the sun in early 2009.
It was swiftly replaced by Cupcake, which in turn gave way to Donut (betraying Android’s American origins), and then Éclair.
In August 2018, Google released Android Pie (9.0), before realising there aren’t many cakes or desserts starting with the letter Q.
However, Android 10 wasn’t immediately available across every Android device.
Google Pixel owners were first in line for the company’s OS upgrade, while the OnePlus 7T was the first non-Google handset sold with Android 10 pre-installed.
A number of other handsets were involved in beta testing Android 10, including the LG G8 and the Nokia 8.1. Owners of these devices received a final version of 10 subsequent to its launch.
And now Android 11 has reached the market, having recently completed its own three-month beta testing process.
Once again, millions of Android devices are unable to upgrade, though Google Pixel users will already be benefiting from its picture-in-picture mode and smart home media controls.
Can I update my handset?
Some handset manufacturers are more proactive than others at making newer versions of operating systems available, and your choice of network may also be a factor.
For instance, the Samsung Galaxy S7 runs Android 8.0 – Oreo. There’s no option to upgrade to version 9.0, let alone 10.0 or 11.0.
At the time of writing, the only non-Pixel handsets able to install the current version of Android are the Xiaomi Mi 10 and 10 Pro models.
If a device’s hardware is compatible with the OS software, it’ll receive a push notification encouraging an update.
It’s also possible to manually check for updates through the Settings > System submenu (Settings > Software Update on Samsung handsets).
If an OS update is available, you’ll need a well-charged battery and a WiFi connection to begin the installation process.