One of the key advantages of Android is that it is a wide-open ecosystem: Everybody gets to play; you don’t have to install apps only from Google Play, but also from Amazon’s AppStore and other sources. You can even side-load apps you got from the darker corners of the Internet, though we’ve explained before why installing cracked apps is a bad idea. All of this openness is great, but also makes Android potentially risky – which is where antivirus apps come in. We’ve previously looked at Lookout and Advanced Mobile Care, and today it’s time to check out another free competitor that prides itself on beautiful looks, 360 Mobile Security. This security app has over 3,300 reviews on Google Play, raking up an unbelievable 4.8 star average. Let’s see what makes it so popular.
Since this is a security-related post, here is an important disclaimer: I will not be evaluating virus detection rates in this post. This is a review of the interface, user experience, and promised functionality. If you want to read a detailed security analysis of Android antivirus performance, I recommend the detailed comparative reports produced by AV-Test. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at the first screen you get after installing 360 Mobile Security:
This is a vertically-scrolling onboarding sequence that presents the antivirus and sets out the general aesthetic: A blurry background image, and colorful icons. The app promises “system optimization,” as well as “powerful protection.” If your device is rooted, you will next get the following prompt:
360 Mobile Security wants to have root access to your device, although the onboarding sequence doesn’t prepare you for this, nor does it explain why the app needs root access. That’s a bit of a drawback: I have no problem with granting root access to trusted apps, but I need to understand what the app intends to do with its newfound absolute control over my device.
The Virus Scan Experience
Scanning for viruses looks like this:
The “progress circle” certainly appears more futuristic than a vanilla progress bar, and uses the vertical aspect ratio of the device to better effect. There’s also a detail pane at the bottom part of the screen, showing the currently scanned app. The scan itself moved at a fairly rapid clip on my device, but then stalled for several long moments at the 99% mark while displaying the vaguely ominous message “Cloud processing…”. Presumably, 360 Mobile Security used this time to send its findings to an online server for analysis. This probably means the server got a full listing of all apps I have installed on my device — something I wish 360 Mobile Security was more upfront about.
After the scan, I was presented with the following result, proclaiming my situation Risky:
This came as a surprise to me, especially since 360 Mobile Security replaced the reputable AVG AntiVirus Security app on my device. Drilling down, 360 Mobile Security claims it found a vulnerability on my device that lets apps send fraudulent SMS broadcasts:
This further leads to a full-page explanation of the threat:
While I won’t opine as to whether or not the threat is real, I have to say that the way 360 Mobile Security presents it is clear, informative, and does not feel needlessly threatening.
The Task Killer
Another feature offered by 360 Mobile Security is called System Cleanup. This is basically a task killer:
Using a task killer on modern Android devices is not a good idea, and this Cleanup feature mainly feels like a marketing ploy by 360 Mobile Security rather than something truly useful. Tapping “Running apps” leads to a listing of all background processes:
You can swipe processes to the left to add them to an Ignore List, which means they will not be automatically terminated when you press the “Clean up” button. Still, I advise against using this feature.
The third and final feature I’d like to show you is the floating overlay. Here’s a crop of my home screen, with the overlay shown:
This is a tiny floating notification that displays your current used memory percentage. Tapping it opens an overlay with toggles for WiFi, brightness, GPS, and the other usual suspects:
Holding and dragging the overlay pops open a drop target that resembles a glowing portal from the distant future. Dropping the overlay on the target causes the task killer to run:
While all of this is very pretty, it’s also partially redundant: Recent Android versions include their own system toggles in the notification shade.
Finally, the settings screen is clear and to the point:
You can switch off the floating window, as well as the permanent notification. All of the other settings are just as self-explanatory, and the screen is clear and uncluttered.
Should an Antivirus Be So Pretty?
At its best, an antivirus is almost invisible: It fades to background, and quietly does its work, keeping you safe from harm without draining your battery or taxing your CPU. This is ideal, but it also presents a marketing challenge: If your app is so quiet the user never notices it, how will you get people to talk about it? 360 Mobile Security tries to solve this with a flashy, futuristic UI. Whether or not it’s for you is a matter of personal taste. If you like the aesthetic and the feature set, you should take it for a spin. Personally, I mainly wish the app was more upfront regarding privacy concerns and its use of root privileges.
Do you use an antivirus for your Android device? If so, which one, and why did you pick that particular one?
Image Credits: Millsboro Police Car Via Flickr