How to upgrade an Android smartphone or tablet Operating System (OS)

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If you are an Android user then you have made an excellent choice. See, the Android platfrom is REALLY powerful and packed with support for a load of features which will revolutionalize your experience using your Android smartphone or tablet via Android applications. The
Android platform is open source ( google releases new versions from time to time) so it can be tweaked and modified by any developer. Within the time a new version is officially released by google to when your device manufacturer makes it available for you to download,
a lot of tweaking and customization would’ve been done to give you a sensational experience. Now, let’s get down to the shibang about the Android platform and upgrading an Android OS (which is more direct than updating a Blackberry OS).

What is Android?

Android in English language refers to a robot with a human appearance. Android is an open source (licenced under Apache), linux-based operating system programmed majorly in C, C++ and Java. The Android platfrom was initially developed by Android Inc., which Google later acquired in 2005. In 2008, T-Mobile released the first Android phone ( T-Mobile G1) whose design wasn’t exactly great but the power and potential of the Android platform was crystal clear. Still in 2008, Google also introduced the HTC Dream as the first marketed phone to use Android Technology. Android platfrom is the world’s most poplular mobile device-run platform and is mostly used by HTC, Samsung and Motorola. Android being open source (free for any developer to modify to his / her taste) and Google’s Open Handset Alliance, are two contributing factor to its success because it has a very large and active base of developers constantly perfecting the technology (Android Open Source Project). Apple’s iOS and Windows OS are Android’s chief rivals. You will come across the term “Android device” ( be it smartphone or tablet) a lot. Do not be embarassed to ask ” what is an android phone ” ? An android phone or tablet isn’t exactly a special brand like Nokia , Blackberry, Apple or Techno; the term merely refers to a device running on an Android OS.

What are the various versions of Android, their code names and how they are ranked?

While Apple nicknames its OS versions according to Ski Resort-derived code names like Lion (10.7), Alpine (1.0), Wildcat (iPad only) , Big bear and Windows nicknames its OS versions rather randomly (Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8), Google uses dessert-derived code names to nickname its OS versions like Cupcake, Donut etc. The versions of Android OS in ascending order are:

  • 1.0 (API level 1) – No codename
  • 1.1 (API level 2) – No codename
  • 1.5 (API level 3, NDK 1) – Cupcake
  • 1.6 (API level 4, NDK 2) – Donut
  • 2.0 (API level 5) – Eclair
  • 2.0.1 (API level 6) – Eclair
  • 2.1 (API level 7, NDK 3) – Eclair
  • 2.2.x (API level 8, NDK 4) – Froyo
  • 2.3 – 2.3.2 (API level 9, NDK 5) – Gingerbread
  • 2.3.3 – 2.3.7 (API level 10) – Gingerbread
  • 3.0 (API level 11) – Honeycomb
  • 3.1 (API level 12, NDK 6) – Honeycomb
  • 3.2.x (API level 13) – Honeycomb
  • 4.0.1 – 4.0.2 (API level 14, NDK 7) – Ice Cream Sandwich
  • 4.0.3 – 4.0.4 (API level 15, NDK 8) – Ice Cream Sandwich
  • 4.1.x (API level 16) – Jelly Bean
  • 4.2.x (API level 17) – Jelly Bean
  • 4.3 (mr2)- JellBean
  • 4.4 – Kitkat

How do i check the version of Android my smartphone / tablet is currently running?

  • Press the Home key
  • Tap the Menu button
  • Select Settings
  • Select About phone
  • Your smartphone / tablet specifications will be displayed

What are the advantages or benefits of updating Android OS?

It is very important to upgrade Android OS running on your smartphone or tablet so you do not miss out on the latest features and functionality of the Android Technology. More features are supported and improved with each version, all aimed at giving you a mind blowing experience. Security patches and bug fixes are also rolled out with each version so you really do not want to miss this bus. More and more sophisticated Android applications keep pouring in so it would only be wise to stay updated in order to keep enjoying the best. For example, upgrading Jelly Bean 4.1 or earlier to Jelly Bean 4.2 unveils:

    • Gesture typing: You do not need to tap on your screen to type, simply swiping across the keyboard automatically recognizes the pattern and types out what you swiped.
    • Photo Sphere: This is Panorama photos on a whole new level. You can take 360 degree photo shots. You can add in views from above and below your viewpoint.
    • Multiple account: Since tablets are often shared amongst friends and family, each user can have his or her own personalized account on the tablet; meaning someone’s preferences don’t have to affect yours.

……. and many more exciting features.

How often should i update / upgrade Android OS running on my smartphone or tablet?

I advise you update your Android OS as often as you get the ‘New update available’ notification. If you do not get the notification after six (6) months, I suggest you search to be sure there really are no available or pending updates for you. Note that to upgrade Android OS is not the same thing as to update Android OS. To upgrade Android OS means to replace the current Android OS with a higher version (not necessarily the latest for the smartphone or tablet) while to update Android OS means to replace the current Android OS with the latest Android OS for that device.

Will i lose my contacts and important files after upgrading my Android OS?

No, you shouldn’t lose your contacts or files after an Android OS update but it’s best you backup Android contacts and files of yours just incase something goes wrong during the Android OS upgrade. To backup an Android smartphone or tablet, simply use Android’s built-in tools.

How do i backup my important Android contacts and files?

Google’s Android offers the ability to seamlessly save certain settings like wireless network preferences, bookmarks, and custom dictionary words to their servers using your Google account. To enable it:

  • Go to Settings > Personal > Backup and reset > Select both ‘Backup my data’ and ‘Automatic restore’.
  • Go to Settings > Personal > Accounts & Sync > Select your Google account.
  • Select all of the option boxes listed to ensure that all available data is synced.

You could Backup your files using third-party Apps like MyBackup Pro. To Backup manually:

  • Connect your phone to your computer via a USB cable
  • It will show up as an external hard drive.
  • For Macs, you may need to first download a tool called Android File Transfer.
  • Select the disk, and navigate to the DCIM folder.
  • This folder contains your video and picture data.
  • Select the data files that you want to back up, and drag them to an area on your computer, such as your desktop. The selected files will copy over to your computer.

Are there any problems associated with upgrading Android OS?

The major problems associated with upgrading or updating Android OS are voiding the smartphone / tablet’s warranty and getting it bricked. Confused right? Sometimes, a new Android version is floated but might not be made available for certain smartphones or tablets. If you find yourself in such a situation and really want to enjoy the latest Android OS, you can root your Android smartphone or tablet and install any Android OS of your choice. The downside of this is that you have voided your smartphone or tablet’s warranty so do not bother returning it if something happens to it. Also, if the Android OS tweak is not compatible with your smartphone or tablet, you will get your smartphone / tablet bricked.

Why is the latest Android OS not available for my smartphone or tablet?

After Google releases a new version of Android, each smartphone or tablet manufacturer tweaks it to support certain devices (either old or new models). The new Android version being available for a specific smartphone or tablet would depend on whether its manufacturer tweaked the latest Android OS to be compatible with that smartphone / tablet or the smartphone / tablet meets the minimum requirements to run the Android OS in question. For this reason, some smartphones or tablets get regular OS updates, some get OS updates less frequently, while some have almost stopped getting OS updates. Some people are however, too impatient to wait for their smartphone or tablet manufacturer to officially release an Android OS update which they really wish to run on their devices. What they do is to root the Android smartphone or tablet so they can install any OS of their choice, whether official or not.

What do i need to upgrade my Android OS?

    • An available update / upgrade
    • A huge data plan (because Android consumes quite a lot of data (MB))
    • Plug in your phone to a power source via USB or AC adapter during the upgrade because you do not want your smartphone / tablets ‘s battery running out in the middle of an Android OS upgrade

How do i upgrade my Android operating system?

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There are four methods of updating / upgrading your Android OS

      • Automatic (update notification) method
      • Update search method
      • Manual method
      • Using custom ROM

The Automatic (update notification) method of updating Android OS

Upgrading the Android OS on your smartphone / tablet via this method is easy. This is because your carrier automatically sends you the latest updates so sooner or later you’ll get an over the air (OTA) update to the latest supported Android OS. All you will need to do is confirm the installation and let it go. Ensure you have a sufficient data plan (See: How to control heavy Android data / MB consumption). Once installed, you can confirm by going to your phone’s device information screen to see that the latest version of Android is now on the phone. On some Samsung devices, you’ll need to enable your Samsung account in order to upgrade Android OS. To do so:

      • Go to Settings
      • Select Accounts & Sync
      • Select Add account
      • Select Samsung Account
      • You will then be prompted to set up a Samsung account, which requires inputting your email and creating a password.

The Update search method of updating Android OS

You could decide to search for the latest OS yourself just in case there’s a delayed notification to your device. Simply:

      • Press the Home key
      • Tap the Menu button
      • Go to the Settings option.
      • Select About phone
      • Select System updates
      • Your phone will search for any new Android updates to download and install.
      • To streamline this process, download the app ANYCUT and you can create a shortcut on your main screen which will do all that with a quick tap.

The Manual method of updating Android OS

If your phone is too old, your carrier doesn’t think you should get a particular OS, or you’re just too impatient to get it, you can always root your phone and download a custom ROM of that given OS once it becomes available. Rooting means you get administrator access to your phone and can customize it’s functions. There is a very active community of Android fans who are constantly working on versions of Android called ‘ROMS’ which make a new version or Android available to phones that don’t get them, or that streamline the OS taking out overlays like Motoblur or TouchWiz.

How to upgrade Android OS with custom ROM

Upgrading with a custom ROM that is made from a much more recent version of Android actually means replacing your whole OS with this “new OS”. This is recommended especially if you have an older device that has no chance of getting upgraded again, but you want to squeeze more life out of it before you buy a new one. To update with a custom ROM:

      • Find a proper (stable) custom ROM for your device on XDA Forum (preferably one based on CyanogenMod)
      • Copy the ROM on the SD card of the phone
      • Backup your files
      • Root your device (Follow this guide on how to root your android device )
      • Install a custom recovery like ClockWorkMod
      • Reboot into recovery
      • Backup your original OS with Nandroid backup
      • Wipe data, cache and Dalvik cache
      • Install zip file from SD card (select the custom ROM)
      • Install Android apps from Play Store if they were not already included in the ROM

Are there other things i should take note of about upgrading Android OS?

    • The same Android OS might act, look and feel different on different smartphones / tablets. This is because each manufacturer picks different ‘skins’ and customizations.
    • After a fresh update, you might want to know how to download android apps made specially for your new Android OS. The XDA forum or Play Store is where to look

Hovatek….just a button away!

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6 thoughts on “How to upgrade an Android smartphone or tablet Operating System (OS)”

  1. ” Install a custom recovery like
    ClockWorkMod” as in I Google ClockWorkMod.apk??

    ” Install zip file from SD card (select the
    custom ROM)” Is android able to unzip files without the help of applications??

    1. 1. Clockworkmod is not an apk. You’ll need to get the exact one for your phone model
      2. Yes, Android recovery mode is able to unzip

  2. i have rooted tecno p9 phantom pad mini… os 4.2.2 jely bean and i want to upgrade to 4.4 kitkat.. what is the stable custom rom and how do i get it… pleeaaase help me guys

  3. hello hovatek
    thanks 4 ur post. I have an infinix x700 runing on android 4.0.4 OS, pls how do I root it to be able to update my OS. I have tried many ways and apps but none works on my device.

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