If you’re running an Android phone, you might be wondering what the latest version of Android currently is – here’s everything you need to know…
Google’s Android platform is the most-used mobile operating system on planet earth. Today, there are around 3 billion active Android phones in operation – that’s over a third of the globe’s population.
Android has been around in one form or another since the early-2000s, but it wasn’t until 2007 that things started to heat up. In 2007, the first-ever Android phone was released. And between 2007 and 2012, things picked up pace rapidly.
Google has tweaked, updated, refined, and made Android one of the best and most useful operating systems on the planet. It is more “open” than Apple’s iOS and also more customizable.
With Android, there are fewer restrictions with things like side-loading apps. And because Android is based on Linux, you can also access the kernel and make system-wide changes and customizations – this is referred to as rooting.
The next big update to Google’s Android platform will be Android 12; it is due to launch later on in 2021. And the Pixel 6 will be the first Android phone to run it.
What’s The Latest Version of Android?
Android 12 is the latest version of Android, and it will be until the release of Android 13 later on in 2022. Android 12 is now shipping out to Google’s Pixel phones and Samsung phones. Xiaomi, OPPO, OnePlus, RealMe, and VIVO have all also started their respective Android 12 rollouts.
With Android 12, especially if you use a Pixel phone, you will see a drastically different-looking operating system. Google’s new Material You design is completely different from what came before. Some people really like Material You, others not so much. I’m kind of in the latter camp if I’m honest – Material You is a very busy-looking update.
With Material You running on your Pixel phone, you get access to plenty of exclusive features and quirks. Things like a Notifications History tab, Google’s new one-handed mode, a dedicated Gaming Mode that ensures all possible processing power is focussed on the game you’re playing, and, of course, Google’s all-new privacy and security features and settings.
If you need to know more about Android 12, check out our detailed guide on ALL of Android 12’s best new features – it covers everything from Material You’s new design quirks to widgets and new privacy settings.
Previous Version: Android 11
- Android 11 Came Before Android 12
- Announced: September 2020
- Rollout: Currently Ongoing
Google announced Android 11 on September 8, 2020. Android 11 is the 18th version of Android released and the eleventh major iteration of Google’s mobile operating system.
Google’s Android 11 launch was delayed because of COVID. Initially pegged to launch at Google I/O 2020 in June, the event was postponed and eventually took place online a few months later during September.
RELATED: The History of The Mobile Phone
The first phones to get Android 11 were Google’s Pixel phones. This is the #1 reason why people use Pixel phones – they’re always first in line for new Android updates. And it’s not just new Pixel phones either; the Pixel 3, and Pixel 3a, as well as the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.
Google – and, more recently, Samsung – ensures each of its Pixel phones will get three years’ worth of Android updates. Currently, only Samsung and Google offer this kind of support, so if software is important to you, maybe think about getting either a Samsung phone or a Google Pixel phone next time you upgrade.
Me? I’d 100% go with the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE right now – it’s a killer phone and it is A LOT cheaper than the standard S20 model (and, in my opinion, is just as good).
Android 11 Features – What’s New In The Operating System?
Google introduced a few changes to Android 11’s UX in 2020. The most visible is the addition of “conversations” notifications which are designed to make organizing your chats and messages simpler and more intuitive.
Compatible apps will now display IM and messages in “bubbles” and you can change the priority of how these bubbles are displayed – so, friends and family can be placed at the top for quick access.
You also have dedicated controls of smart home devices in the UX, things like Google Home and Google’s Nest products. With media controls, you can access these from the quick settings area. Android 11 also now comes with a built-in screen recorder, which is great for creating how-to videos and sharing content from apps with friends.
New APIs & 5G Support
Google introduced a bunch of new APIs inside Android 11. The most notable of which are designed to deal with 5G. But there are also new APIs for curved and foldable displays, as well as APIs for improved heat management, whereby apps that are causing issues will be managed more effectively, resulting in smoother, cooler running temperatures on Android 11 phones.
Privacy & Security Update
Google also simplified and improved security and permissions inside Android 11. With Android 11, you can set “one-time” permissions for core apps like camera, microphone, and location. Users can decide what level of permissions they give the app – and you can choose to confirm access every time you use the app.
Here’s a full breakdown of Android 11’s new security and privacy features, as confirmed on the Android 11 Developer Blog:
- Background location – Background location now requires additional steps from the user beyond granting a runtime permission. If your app needs background location, the system will ensure that you first ask for foreground location. You can then broaden your access to background location through a separate permission request, and the system will take the user to Settings to complete the permission grant.
- Also note that in February we announced that Google Play developers will need to get approval to access background location in their app to prevent misuse. We’re giving developers more time to make changes and won’t be enforcing the policy for existing apps until 2021.
- Permissions auto-reset – if users haven’t used an app for an extended period of time, Android 11 will “auto-reset” all of the runtime permissions associated with the app and notify the user. The app can request the permissions again the next time the app is used. More here.
- Scoped storage – We’ve continued our work to better protect app and user data on external storage, and made further improvements to help developers more easily migrate. More here.
- Google Play system updates – Launched last year, Google Play system updates help us expedite updates of core OS components to devices in the Android ecosystem. In Android 11, we more than doubled the number of updatable modules, including 12 new modules that will help improve privacy, security, and consistency for users and developers.
- BiometricPrompt API – Developers can now use the BiometricPrompt API to specify the biometric authenticator strength required by their app to unlock or access sensitive parts of the app. For backward compatibility, we’ve just added these capabilities to the Jetpack Biometric library. We’ll share further updates as the work progresses.
- Identity Credential API – This will unlock new use cases such as mobile drivers licences, National ID, and Digital ID. We’re working with various government agencies and industry partners to make sure that Android 11 is ready for digital-first identity experiences.
Related: When Will Your Samsung Phone Get Android 11?
Android Version History – From 2009 To 2021…
Over the years, we’ve seen PLENTY of Android version updates – some minor, others major. In total, Google has released 16 Android versions, including Android 11, and when Android 12 drops later on in 2021, we’ll be at 16 complete Android versions since 2009.
Complete Android Version List – 2009 to 2021
- Android 1.5, Cupcake: April 27, 2009
- Android 1.6, Donut: September 15, 2009
- Android 2.0-2.1, Eclair: October 26, 2009
- Android 2.2-2.2.3, Froyo: May 20, 2010
- Android 2.3-2.3.7, Gingerbread: December 6, 2010
- Android 3.0-3.2.6, Honeycomb: February 22, 2011
- Android 4.0-4.0.4, Ice Cream Sandwich: October 18, 2011
- Android 4.1-4.3.1, Jelly Bean: July 9, 2012
- Android 4.4-4.4.4, KitKat: October 31, 2013
- Android 5.0-5.1.1, Lollipop: November 12, 2014
- Android 6.0-6.0.1, Marshmallow: October 5, 2015
- Android 7.0-7.1.2, Nougat: August 22, 2016
- Android 8.0-8.1, Oreo: August 21, 2017
- Android 9.0, Pie: August 6, 2018
- Android 10.0: September 3, 2019
- Android 11.0: September 8, 2020
- Android 12: October 19, 2021
Back in 2009, when Android first launched, Google had to make some pretty big changes early on. That’s why we have three versions of Android released in a single year. From around the time of Android Ice Cream Sandwich, Google switched to a yearly update cycle.
And for the most notable Android versions, we have a few choice options that appeared over the years. Android Honeycomb, for instance, was designed purely with tablets in mind. This was before Apple had completely overtaken the market with its iPad.
Ice Cream Sandwich, for many users, was one of the biggest Android updates ever. It launched in 2011 and radically changed the look and feel of Android. Most Android users didn’t get to experience it first hand, thanks to the use of custom skins on all Android phones, but those that used Google’s Nexus phones got to see all the changes in all their glory.
Android KitKat was a very controversial update too. It was the first time Google partnered up with a commercial, non-tech brand. In this case, it was Nestle, the owners of KitKat. Plenty of users took issue with this, citing Nestle’s less than stellar rap sheet over the past few decades. The food-based naming of Android stopped in 2019 with the release of Android 10. From Android 10 onwards, all Android updates will be numbered.
How To Check Android Version On Your Phone
Unsure what version of Android you’re running? It’s actually pretty simple to check what version of Android you’re running. All you have to do is follow these steps: Settings > About Phone > System > Android Version.
If you’re running an older version of Android, there might be an update waiting for you. To check if you can update your phone, do the following: Settings > About Phone > System > Android Version > System Update
Nothing there? No problem. All this means is that you’re running the latest Android version available for your phone. As you’re probably well aware, most Android phones – save for Samsung and Google Pixel ones – do not run the latest software.
If you’re stuck on a REALLY old version of Android, like Android 8 or lower, it is probably time to update your phone. And if you want three years’ worth of guaranteed Android updates, your best bet is to go with a Google Pixel phone like the Pixel 5 – my current daily driver.
Or, if you want something a little fancier, the Samsung Galaxy S21 – as there are some great deals for it online now!
And check out Android 13: All The New Features, Release Date, & Supported Devices!
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.