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A Beginner’s Guide to the Types of Updates on Android

You unlock your Android device, open a favorite app, and to your surprise, you find that a certain button placement has changed, or a new feature was added. You receive a notification while you are using your phone, telling you that a new update is available for your device, and you need to install it, with some information about the changes that may range from a “security improvement” sentence to a huge list of changes. All of those updates may leave you feeling confused. Let’s take a quick look at those types of updates and what they can bring to you.

App Updates:

App updates refer to the regular improvements and modifications made to apps installed on your Android device. These updates are often released by app developers to enhance user experience, introduce new features, and fix bugs or glitches.

Here’s why app updates are important:

  • Improved Performance: App updates often come with optimizations that make the particular app run smoother and faster, providing you with a seamless experience.
  • New Features: Developers release updates to introduce new functionalities, enhancing your ability to perform tasks and access information.
  • Bug Fixes: Glitches and bugs can hinder your app experience. Updates address these issues, ensuring that the app runs smoothly.
  • Security: app updates can address vulnerabilities, enhancing the overall security of the application.

App updates can be downloaded through Google Play store. To ensure you’re benefiting from the latest app updates, enable automatic updates, if it is not already enabled, on your device or regularly check for updates in the Play Store.

To check for updates in the Play Store, select “Signed in as [your account name],” which is located at the top of the screen near the right edge. Then, activate “Manage app and device.” You will then see the number of available updates.
If the app is not in the Play Store, it may offer an update checker, or you can install the update manually. Additionally, other stores, such as the Galaxy Store for Samsung devices, offer the ability to update apps that are available in the store.

Security Updates

Security updates are vital for safeguarding your devices against the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats. These updates address vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the software that could potentially be exploited by malicious actors.

Key reasons to install security updates whenever they are available for your device include:

  • Patch Vulnerabilities: Hackers are constantly looking for weaknesses to exploit. Security updates close these vulnerabilities, making it harder for cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access.
  • Data Protection: Your personal data is valuable. Security updates prevent unauthorized access to your sensitive information, reducing the risk of data breaches.
  • System Stability: Some security vulnerabilities can impact the stability of your device or app. Regular updates maintain a stable environment.
  • Malware Prevention: Security updates often include improvements to the software’s ability to detect and prevent malware infections.

Google releases monthly security patches, but the duration of availability for these patches is determined by the device manufacturer, often influenced by the phone’s age and range. Security patch updates are typically not large in size and primarily focused on enhancing security without introducing new features. However, in some cases, a system upgrade, which includes Android version updates and new features, may also incorporate the latest security patches.

To check the current security patch on your phone, navigate to “Settings” > “About” > “Software Information.”

System Upgrades

System upgrades are updates to your system that can either upgrade your Android version or introduce new features to your existing version. For instance, both Samsung’s One UI 4.0 and 4.1 versions were based on Android 12.

Here’s why system updates matter:

  • New Features: OS updates introduce new functionalities, tools, and user interfaces, enhancing the overall user experience.
  • Performance Boost: Just like app updates, OS updates often include performance optimizations that make your device run more efficiently.
  • Security Enhancements: OS updates address security vulnerabilities on a deeper level, safeguarding your device against a wider range of threats.
  • Compatibility: Updated android version ensures that your device remains compatible with new apps and technologies.

Typically, a new Android version is released each year. However, whether your device will receive the new version and when this will happen is determined by the device manufacturer, taking into consideration the age and specifications of the device.
To check for updates, you usually go to “Software Updates” in your phone settings.

Google Play System Updates:

Starting from Android 10, Google has separated components and spun them out as “modules.” This allows Google to address these modules independently, without requiring a full firmware update or involving the phone manufacturer.
The primary purpose of these updates is to address security vulnerabilities promptly, without waiting for manufacturers to take action, and to protect older phones that are no longer supported from some risks.
To check for Play System updates, navigate to your device’s settings, then select “About,” Next, choose “Software Information,” and finally, tap on “Google Play system updates.”


While the primary purpose of any update, regardless of its type, is to enhance the user experience, there are instances where things may not go as planned. An app or system update can sometimes introduce bugs or changes that not all users will like.

System upgrades and security patches are not uniformly distributed across all devices. It is advisable to check before purchasing a new device whether the manufacturer commits to a specific duration of support, the number of Android versions the phone or tablet should receive, and the guaranteed duration for security patches. Also, consider the manufacturer’s reputation for timely update delivery.

You can prevent automatic updates for a particular app in the Play Store by navigating to the app’s details page and tapping “More Options.” From there, you can disable auto-updates.

The information provided in this post is intended to offer general guidance to address common beginner confusions and is not meant to be an exhaustive, detailed guide. Additionally, please note that the names of options and settings may vary from one device to another.

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Editorial Staff

Editorial staff at Accessible Android is here for you. We post news, tips and tricks, tutorials and useful apps to make most out of your Android device.

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