How to Check for Updates on Your Android Phone

Check for a system update to get the latest version of Android

The Android operating system for smartphones and tablets gets periodic system updates just like Apple's iOS for the iPhone and iPad. These updates are also called firmware updates since they operate on a deeper system level than normal software (app) updates and are designed to control the hardware. Firmware updates require permission, time, and a device restart.

Instructions in this article should apply (in general) no matter what manufacturer made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc. We've noted some differences in the instructions below.

How Updates Work

Google periodically pushes upgrades to the firmware on an Android phone by sending the updated information through a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. When the phone is turned on, notification of the available update appears on the screen.

These updates are rolled out in waves by device makers and carriers, so updates aren't available to everyone at once. That's because firmware updates must be specifically compatible with the hardware on a phone, unlike apps, which work with a wide variety of devices.

How to Check for Android Updates

This approach works on most recent versions of Android, although some versions may have slight variations. Following these steps will also tell you which version of Android your smartphone is running.

  1. Open the Settings app.

    Samsung devices may display a Software Update notification. If not, tap Settings > Software Update to see if updates are available.

  2. Tap System. On some phones, tap About phone, then skip to Step 4. On some Samsung phones, tap System updates, then skip to Step 5.

  3. Tap About phone.

    Gear icon, System, About phone buttons in Android

    On some Android Phones, tap Advanced, then select System Update.

  4. Tap System updates. The phone may display different phrasing, such as in this LineageOS example.

    LineageOS updates
  5. The screen shows if the system is up to date and when the update server was last checked. Select Check for update to check again.

  6. If an update is available, tap to start the installation.

    Leave the phone in a charger during a firmware update so there's less chance of running out of battery power mid-upgrade and potentially breaking the phone.

  7. The update takes a few minutes and restarts the phone.

Considerations

Because Android is a fragmented operating system — different device manufacturers and cellular carriers configure it separately — updates roll out at different times to different customers. The first recipients of any new upgrade are Google Pixel users because updates are pushed directly by Google without being reviewed or modified by a carrier.

Users who have rooted their phones (that is, modified the device on a basic operating system level) may not be eligible for over-the-air carrier updates and must reflash the phone to update to the newest Android version that is optimized for their device.

A firmware upgrade is unrelated to app upgrades pushed through the Google Play Store. App updates do not require vetting by device manufacturers or cellular carriers.