How to update your smartphone software
Posted: 11th Jan 2012
Google’s Android operating system is going from strength to strength. Millions of new phones have been activated over the last few weeks, and it’s now the most popular smartphone OS in the world. Just before Christmas, the company released a massive and fascinating breakdown of who’s using what, in a wonderful infographic that will grace any geek’s bedroom wall.
But one thing those stats also reveal is just how many people are using an old and outdated version of Android. Only half of the phones that accessed the Android Market in December were running the latest ‘Gingerbread’ version of Android, suggesting that a lot of people aren’t staying up to date as the OS is improved.
With Android 4.0, codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich, becoming available for current handsets over the next few weeks, this problem will only get worse.
Not keeping your phone up to date is just as big a problem as not keeping your PC up to date. Downloading patches improves handset security and adds new features as the developers implement them. Worse, because app designers have to take into account the fact that millions of people are using depreciated versions of Android, cool apps that use new features are being held back.
It’s not just Android either. Owners of iOS and Windows Phone 7 handsets are just as likely to be using outdated versions. The problem is that an alert might arrive on your screen telling you an update is available, but updating a phone can mean it’s out of use for up to an hour – something that’s not always practical in the middle of the day. If you dismiss it in order to download the update later you may forget to actually do it later.
So if you have a few minutes, grab your handset and make sure you’re not missing out on an important download.
Open up your Settings menu by clicking the home button and then tapping the Settings icon. Now scroll down to ‘About Phone’. You’ll see an option here for Software Update that will tell you whether or not there’s one available for download.
iOS 4.x or older
It’s a bit more complicated if you’re using an iPhone. In iOS 1-4, the only way to update your phone is to plug it into your PC or Mac and fire up iTunes. You’ll see a notice telling you whether or not you can update there.
If you have an iPhone 4S, or have already updated an iPhone 4, you can get upgrades ‘over the air’. This means you just go to the Settings menu, choose General and tap the Software Update option. The phone will work out whether or not it’s running the latest version.
Windows Phone 7
The most convoluted of all, but also the operating system that rewards the patient upgrader with the best new features. You’ll need Microsoft’s Zune software installed on a PC in order to grab updates for WP7. Then you’ll need to connect the phone to your PC via USB and follow the download instructions.
Thankfully, it’s a lot more straightforward for BlackBerry users. Just as with Android and WP7, you’ll get an alert whenever a software update is available, or you can check manually. Got to Options>Device>Software Update and let the phone do the rest – dead easy.