Your phone probably has sensitive information on it, so it may be a good idea to install some security software. There is some debate about whether you really need antivirus apps on your smartphone. Much depends on whether you sideload apps, but there is no denying that malware has grown into a much greater concern since we first wrote this article in 2012. Luckily, security apps have improved dramatically to keep pace with the new threats, so you have plenty of great protection to choose from.
The majority of security apps go beyond antivirus protection for Android to include a host of other tools from contact filtering to remote lock or wipe. We decided to take a look at the top five Android security apps and find out what they do. We are taking a look at these from a consumer point of view, so be warned that some of the “free” apps are only free for personal, non-commercial use.
|Trend Micro Mobile Security and Antivirus||Best antivirus overall|
|Avast Mobile Security||Best malware protection|
|AVG||Best feature set|
|Sophos Mobile Security||Best ad-free experience|
|Avira Antivirus Security 2018||Best UI|
Trend Micro Mobile Security and Antivirus
Averaging a 99.9 percent malware detection rate over the last two years, Trend Micro is a consistently solid choice. In the latest report, it managed 100 percent for real-time detection and 100 percent for malware discovered in the last four weeks. It also returned no false positives and it won’t impact noticeably on battery life or performance.
You get a handful of other tools with the free version of Trend Micro’s app. There is protection against phishing sites, a privacy scanner for Facebook, and some tools to help you save battery life and memory. There is also a neat “Just-a-Phone” feature that kills all non-essential background processes.
There is a seven-day free trial of the premium features, which include malware blocking and cleaning, anti-theft tools, app locking, call filtering, and more. At $36 per year, we’re not convinced it’s worth it, but the free version will cover you for malware detection and it already has some handy extras.
Avast Mobile Security
As a genuinely free app for the Android platform, Avast Mobile Security offers an impressive range of tools. It has antivirus protection, it scans your apps to provide details on what they are doing, and it has a web shield that scans URLs for malware.
There are various additional tools in the package including a call blocker for blacklisting problem numbers, an app locker to PIN protect private apps, and Wi-Fi scanning options for improved security and speed. Sadly, the app locking and anti-theft features require you to subscribe to the “Pro” version, which also removes ads and gives you direct support access from the app.
If you have a rooted device, then there is also a firewall that allows you to control network traffic. You can block access to Wi-Fi or the network for specific apps, which is handy for security and may potentially save battery life as well.
According to the latest AV-Test report of 20 popular Android security apps from March 2018, Avast is a solid option with a detection rate of the latest Android malware in real time of 99.9 percent, rising to 100 percent for malware discovered in the last four weeks. That puts it near the very top of the charts in terms of malware detection, which, combined with the extra functionality, makes it worth considering. It has a light footprint with no discernible drain on battery life and no impact on general performance. It also returned no false positives.
The free version of this Android security app provides a decent range of features, keeps you safe from malware, and offers extra protection for rooted devices, making it a strong contender. If you’re looking for a security solution for your Android smartphone, and your primary concern is malware and safe browsing, then this could be the right app for you.
As one of the biggest names in free antivirus software for various platforms, AVG makes this year’s list thanks to a 99.9 percent real-time malware detection rate, which jumps to 100 percent for malware discovered in the last four weeks. It returned no false positives and it has no discernible impact on battery life, performance, or network traffic.
You get a whole package of tools with AVG, including a phone locator, app lock, call blocker, and photo vault for hiding away those sensitive snaps. There are some extras that you can try out for free, such as the Camera Trap feature, which captures photos of anyone trying to unlock your phone, but you need to spring for the Pro version if you want to keep them.
If you can put up with the persistent pop-ups that try to convince you to download other AVG apps, then the free version should serve you well and it offers plenty of protection.
Sophos Mobile Security
There are a lot of really good Android security apps out there, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that offers this many features, scores a 100 percent detection rate for malware in real-time, and costs absolutely nothing.
Sophos Mobile Security has been a top performer for months, consistently boasting a 100 percent detection rate for Android malware according to AV-Test. Unfortunately, it did stumble in the most recent test by returning a number of false positives, incorrectly showing warnings about legitimate software.
It offers robust scanning covering installation, existing apps, and storage media. You also get an impressive package of extras including loss and theft protection, with support for wipe, lock, alarm, locate, and more via SMS. There is also web filtering, password protection for apps, spam blocking, privacy and security advice, and a few other tools.
It’s not the prettiest app on the list and the false positives are a concern, but Sophos retains its place on the list because it’s a genuinely free app with a solid list of fully accessible features and without any advertising.
Avira Antivirus Security 2018
As a pretty consistent performer over the last few years, Avira is a decent option to protect your Android device. There is a premium version which bundles in all sorts of additional tools, but you get more than enough with the free version. It managed a 99.9 percent malware detection rate in real-time, rising to 100 percent for malware discovered in the last four weeks. There was only one false positive and it didn’t impact negatively on battery life or performance.
You can trust the free version of Avira to keep your Android smartphone or tablet safe. It has a light footprint in terms of performance and a sleek, minimalist design. Apart from scanning for malware or spyware, this app also has a full range of anti-theft and recovery tools and some other extras.
In the most recent March 2018 tests, eight out of 20 apps tested managed a 100 percent detection rate in real time, but there seems to have been a jump in the number of false positives, where legitimate apps are incorrectly identified as malware.
From the big name security software brands, Kaspersky and Norton will attract many people because they are familiar names, but compared to some of the free options there is really nothing there to justify the price tags. Same goes for the excellent Bitdefender Mobile Security and Antivirus. Even where they offer free trials or free versions, they will persistently bug you about paying an annual subscription, sometimes using scare tactics to try and upsell you. Sadly, this is common practice in the industry.
Winner: Trend Micro Mobile Security and Antivirus
You can read about whether you actually need antivirus protection and run through some common sense ways to safeguard your Android device in the next two parts of this security series. However, if you do want to go ahead and get antivirus protection for Android, then Trend Micro Mobile Security and Antivirus is your best bet right now. It offers a good blend of protection and handy features, without a lot of superfluous extras, and detection rates are consistently at the kind of high level you would expect from a premium app. If you don’t fancy it, Avast and AVG are almost as good.