As we’ve reported frequently at MakeUseOf, Android is no longer safe from malware. The number of threats is on the rise. This shouldn’t be surprise to anyone. Smartphones and tablets can carry all sorts of personal information and users often don’t understand the potential threat.
The state of anti-virus software on Android doesn’t make the situation better. Objective tests have been limited so far, and those conducted suggest that many security apps don’t provide much security at all. There are, however, a few early contenders that have stood out from the crowd.
Kaspersky has been one of the top PC security companies in the world for some time now. It has been rare for the company to not rank among the top group in recent anti-virus tests.
Mobile security is a different game, of course, but all test data available so far has shown that Kaspersky’s hasn’t missed a beat while transitioning to Android. AV-Test has shown it to be among the best at detecting malware and an AV-Comparatives test showed that Kaspersky’s remote wipe feature worked better than that found in other apps.
The “Lite” version of this app offers anti-virus, basic anti-theft protection and a filter for calls and SMS. It’s an okay array of features, but those who don’t want to pay may be better served elsewhere.
The paid version includes better theft protection, adds cloud-based app scans to the anti-virus protection and includes privacy protection. Besides the interface, which could use some work, it’s good at what it does. And here’s the kicker – it’s only $9.99 on the Android Market!
Currently the price for per-year protection is $19.99, but that price is still lower than many competitors. If you are willing to fork over some dough this app is an excellent choice.
Lookout was an early darling among Android antivirus apps, but there was little evidence to show that it was worthy of the praise. Unlike virtually all the other top Android security apps, this one is developed by a company that started with smartphones. This meant there was no history to refer to.
Fortunately, Lookout isn’t smoke-and-mirrors. A recent AV-Test comparison showed that this free app is among the most effective available. It’s not the most effective, but it’s extremely close. Better still, Lookout benefits from a simple, friendly interface. Anti-virus apps are only effective if their users understand them and keep them installed, so this is a good thing.
The basic version is free, and comes with the anti-virus, phone-finding features and a backup utility. It’s a good package given the non-existent price tag. Going premium nets you additional remote lock and wipe features (for erasing data from stolen phones), a safe browsing feature and more comprehensive backup. The $30/year price tag is a bit expensive.
F-Secure Mobile Security [No Longer Available]
This app is a bit of an oddball if for no other reason than the fact that it’s not on the Android market. To obtain it you need to go directly to F-Secure’s mobile site and purchase it. And you do need to purchase it, because there’s no free version.
So why should you care about it? Well, it does seem to offer extremely good protection according to the latest information from AV-Test and AV-Comparatives. Though seven apps were ranked in the “top group” in the latest AV-Test report, Kaspersky and F-Secure were the cream of that crop.
Another important feature is the app’s parental controls. You can blacklist websites or use pre-defined web content filtering that blocks sites that parents typically don’t approve of (such as porn sites). There’s black-listing for phone numbers and even apps, as well.
The catch is the price. At 29.99 euros (about 39 US dollars) F-Secure is by far the most expensive app here. You can find other apps that offer similar features for less, such as McAfee Mobile Security. However, McAfee has not tested nearly as well, so you’re getting what you pay for.
I think the three anti-virus apps here cover a broad swath of users. Here is how it breaks down.
- If you are willing to pay and you want excellent protection, buy Kaspersky.
- If you are not willing to pay or value a friendly user interface, go with Lookout.
- If you want parental controls, go with F-Secure.
Right now, I think most users are going to be best served with one of these three apps. That is not to say there aren’t other options. Avast! has tested well and offers a firewall for people with rooted devices, so if you run a rooted phone you could use it instead of Kaspersky.
Let us know in the comments which app you prefer to go with and why.