Keeping your Android phone or tablet up to date is critical for ensuring the latest security patches are installed and you have access to the best new features, but not all devices will be compatible with the latest version of the operating system.

Sometimes this is because your phone or tablet is too old and no longer supported by the manufacturer or mobile operator - a decision they may make sooner rather than later if it's also a reasonably cheap model.

And sometimes it's because it takes time for manufacturers and operators to tinker with the base Android OS and apply and test their own user-interface customisations. The process is faster than in recent years, but you could still be waiting several months for a new operating system update to roll out to your phone or tablet.

Case in point: at the end of October 2018 only 21.5% of users were running Android Oreo, which is the 2017 update to the Android operating system, and even fewer were running the August 2018 release of Android Pie.

This delayed rollout of Android updates is a main reason for many users opting for devices running pure Android operating systems. If you buy a Google Pixel or Android One device you get Android as it was intended, which means updates are able to roll out almost immediately.

Regardless of whether it's the most recent version of the OS, if an Android update is available to your device you should install it without delay. Here's how to check for, download and install Android updates.

Is your Android up to date?

The first thing we need to check is whether new software is available for your device.

When an Android update is made available you are usually informed about it via a notification, but it's possible you may have swiped this away without thinking about it, or it's got lost among a load of other notifications. No matter, it's easy to get back to that update in the Settings menu.

The steps can look a little different depending on which version of Android you're running, but they are largely the same so you should be able to find your way around fairly easily.

Pull down from the top of the screen to access the drop-down notifications bar and tap the cog icon to enter the Settings menu.

Now scroll down to and select System > System Update > Check for update.

If no update is available here then you are running the latest version of software for your device. If an update is available, continue to the next step.

Download and Install the Android Update

If an update is available your device will prompt you to install it now, overnight or later.

Because updates are usually pretty large you will want to be connected to Wi-Fi to do so.

Tap the selected option and the update will download in the background. You'll then be prompted to restart your device to apply the update.

Manually Update Android

If you are running a recent Google Pixel device it is possible to manually flash a newer version of Android to your device before it officially rolls out as an over-the-air (OTA) update to said device. 

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.