Each year Google releases a major update to its Android operating system. In August 2016 it was the turn of Android 7, also known as Nougat, and Android 8 is expected to appear in the winter of 2017 bearing a suitably food-related nickname beginning with the letter O. Maybe Oreo?

These new versions come with advanced features, such as those we’ll see in Android 8, but there’s no guarantee that the latest version will be automatically arrive on your device.

So how can you check which version of Android you currently have? We show you the few easy steps it takes to unveil this mystery.  

See also: How to download the Android O beta

How can I tell what version of Android is on my phone?

Finding this information is actually easier than you might think. Open up the Settings app that you’ll find in the App draw (the list of apps that appears when you press the Apps button on the Home screen) or swipe your finger down from the top of the screen and look for a cog-shaped icon.

how to find out which version of android you have

Once you’re in Settings scroll down to the bottom until you find the About Device option. Tap this, then look for Software Info or something very similar.

 how to find out which version of android you have

When you’ve located Software Info, tap it, then at the top of the next page should be the heading Android Version, with the number displayed below.

Which version of Android should I be using?

One of the downsides of Android, when it comes to getting the latest version, is that it can take quite a long time for some hardware manufacturers (or mobile operators) to customise the new software and make it available for users. In some cases, devices never get any major updates at all.

This is due to the fact that the manufacturers and mobile services providers (BT, Vodaphone, EE, etc.) have to approve each update before it can be sent to a device. With so many Android handsets available it often means that less popular models get left behind or find themselves at the back of the queue.

Also read: Will my phone get Android O?

Generally, your phone will let you know if a newer version of Android is available. This will appear as a notification saying that there’s an Update, and would you like to run it?

If you’ve seen this in the past and answered no, then you’re still able to upgrade by going to Settings>Software Update>Download updates manually. This will then check to see if there are any updates outstanding.

Of course, you don’t have to move to the newest version of Android if you don’t want to. True, you might miss out on new features, but if your phone is running smoothly and you’re perfectly happy with it, then you can delay for a while longer.

See our guide to How to update an Android phone or tablet for more details.

I’m running the same version as a friend, so why does theirs look different?

Different manufacturers tend to ‘skin’ the Android versions on their devices. This means that they place a design on top of the OS that often moves settings about, offers special features or shortcuts, and generally alters the user interface.

So if you have a Samsung phone, which will have the Korean company's TouchWiz skin, then it will look different to a Sony, LG, or other brand Android device.  

You can actually change these skins yourself by adding something called a Launcher. This essentially does the same thing as the manufacturer’s skin, but gives you more say in how the layout works and the kind of visuals and features available.

Read our guide on How to remove TouchWiz from a Samsung phone for more details on launchers and what they can do.