Android can be confusing. There are a lot of different versions, and many of them are still running on devices today. Keeping up with the latest version can be a challenge, but fret not—we have you covered.
Major Android versions are generally released once per year (though it wasn’t always like this), with monthly security updates released in between. Occasionally, Google also releases point updates (.1, .2, etc.), though those generally come without regularity. Oftentimes, more significant updates that aren’t quite as significant as full version releases warrant a point update—like the update from Android 8.0 to Android 8.1, for example.
Alongside every version of Android is a code name, which many people use instead of the version number. Each one is named after a dessert or some other form of confection, which is more for fun than anything else.
A Brief Android Version History
We thought it fitting to give a brief rundown of each Android version on the accompanying code name and release date. You know, for completeness.
- Android 1.5, Cupcake: April 27, 2009
- Android 1.6, Donut: September 15, 2009
- Android 2.0-2.1, Eclair: October 26, 2009 (initial release)
- Android 2.2-2.2.3, Froyo: May 20, 2010 (initial release)
- Android 2.3-2.3.7, Gingerbread: December 6, 2010 (initial release)
- Android 3.0-3.2.6, Honeycomb: February 22, 2011 (initial release)
- Android 4.0-4.0.4, Ice Cream Sandwich: October 18, 2011 (initial release)
- Android 4.1-4.3.1, Jelly Bean: July 9, 2012 (initial release)
- Android 4.4-4.4.4, KitKat: October 31, 2013 (initial release)
- Android 5.0-5.1.1, Lollipop: November 12, 2014 (initial release)
- Android 6.0-6.0.1, Marshmallow: October 5, 2015 (initial release)
- Android 7.0-7.1.2, Nougat: August 22, 2016 (initial release)
- Android 8.0-8.1, Oreo: August 21, 2017 (initial release)
As you can see, the update system was without any sort of regularity early on, but the Ice Cream Sandwich era started the yearly OS version update schedule.
A few other fun notes:
- Honeycomb was the only tablet-specific version of Android, and it ran alongside the Gingerbread build for phones. The separate phone and tablet OSes were then combined starting with Ice Cream Sandwich.
- Ice Cream Sandwich was arguably the most dramatic update to Android to date. It not only combined the tablet and phone versions of the OS, but completely overhauled the look and feel of the system.
- Google initially released developer-focused Nexus devices to highlight each Android version’s power. This eventually evolved into the consumer-focused Pixel device line we have today.
- Android KitKat marked the first time Google teamed up with a commercial manufacturer for an Android release. They did it again for Android Oreo.
The Latest Version of Android is 8.1, Oreo
The initial version of Android Oreo (8.0) was released on August 21, 2017, and was followed up by Android 8.1 on December 5, 2017.
Oreo features a number of updates and new features over its predecessor, including a new sideloading policy, limited app background data, notifications for applications that are running in the background or using battery, picture-in-picture, autofill for passwords in apps, improved battery life and boot-time, Project Treble, and a lot more.
How to Check Your Version of Android
Here’s the fun part about Android: how you find out even the simplest information varies depending not only what version of Android your phone is running, but also who manufactured the device.
But we’ll keep it as simple as possible here. Go ahead and open your phone’s setting menu by pulling down the notification shade, and then tapping the cog icon.
From there, scroll to the very bottom of the menu and tap the “About Phone” entry (it may also read “About Device”). If your phone doesn’t have this option, it’s probably running Oreo, which received a pretty dramatic Settings overhaul. In that case, look for the “System” option.
There should be an entry for Android Version—again, depending on the device and Android version, it may be different. On Oreo, you can find the version info under the “System Update” section.
How to Update to the Latest Version
The short answer is also an unfortunate one: you might not be able to.
Android updates are first handled by the manufacturer of your phone—so Samsung is responsible for its updates, LG handles updating its phone, and so on. The only updates handled by Google itself are for Pixel and Nexus devices.
To see if there’s an update available for your device, head into Settings > About Device > System Updates (or similar). Again, this may be in a different place depending on your phone—Samsung puts the System Updates option in the root of the Settings menu, for example.
Tapping this option will check for an update on the device, but there’s a good chance it won’t find anything. As soon as an update is available for your phone, it generally notifies you of that fact, and prompts you to download and install it right then.
The only surefire way to make sure you’ll get the latest version of Android is to buy from the Pixel line. Google updates these phones directly, and they’re generally up to date with the latest major version and security patches.