While using an antivirus on Windows is a must, security on a smartphone is more of a gray area. On Android, it’s not a bad idea to use an antivirus if you regularly download apps from unknown sources. On the other hand, normal users probably won’t ever run into a virus and might be better off forgetting the antivirus app to save resources.
360 Security (previously known as 360 Mobile Security), from Chinese security company Qihoo, is a visually attractive antivirus app that promises to fulfill your security needs if you choose to use a mobile security solution. Let’s take a look at what the app offers.
Note that we’re only looking at the app’s features and won’t consider the virus detection rates. For more info on antivirus performance, check the AV Test results for Android security apps.
Meet 360 Security
Once you’ve downloaded 360 Security from Google Play, you’ll find that it doesn’t require any setup. Simply pop open the app, and you’ll find its three home tabs — Boost, Clean, and Antivirus.
The Boost section contains the usual “performance boosting” tools of RAM boosting apps on Android. These tools are useless at best and harmful at worse, so we recommend that you ignore this part of the app. Your phone does a fine job of managing RAM on its own and doesn’t need an app to kill processes.
Under the Clean tab, you’ll find a typical file cleaner. After a few seconds, it locates “junk” in Android files, installed app files, and leftover files from uninstalled apps. While this can help free up space on your Android device, some of the items under “Google System Junk” are a bit worrisome.
You probably don’t want to clean System caches, as this will just slow down apps you often use until the cache is rebuilt. Use this file cleaner with caution. We recommend a less invasive cleaning app that isn’t loaded with garbage, like the great CCleaner. Our guide to an Android spring cleaning will clean up your device more than this all-in-one tool will.
To test the Antivirus, I ran a full scan on my phone. The scanning screen contains a radar-like circle with the percentage completion, while random app icons from your device show below the scanner. The app found two “issues” with my device.
One of these was a privacy risk, claiming I should lock WhatsApp and several other apps to protect my privacy. The other was a fraudulent messaging broadcast vulnerability, insisting that malware on my phone could send fake text messages impersonating people whom I trust. I declined to “repair” any of these since I trust all of my apps.
More Tools and Features
While the three main tabs of 360 Security contain its headline features, there are several other tools within the app.
Wait… These Aren’t Features
In the top-right, you’ll find a Market icon. This isn’t worth your time at all — it’s a collection of “recommended” apps and ads that are likely only present to keep the app free.
Sliding out the menu on the left side of the screen reveals many more utilities. The Notification Manager allows you to hide unwanted notifications. However, this really isn’t necessary, as modern versions of Android allow you to turn off notifications from any app. It’s uncommon, but if you’re seeing ads in your phone’s notification drawer, you can identify and remove them.
AppLock wants to “protect your privacy” by locking recommended apps like Chrome, YouTube, and Gmail. It does this by adding a PIN or pattern code to the apps. This is redundant, as you should secure your phone with a passcode anyway. If you need to lock certain apps beyond your phone’s password, check out HexLock, which offers much more functionality.
Phone Cooler is a joke; it offers to “cool down” your phone’s “fever.” This is essentially the same as killing tasks, and you should avoid using it as well. Be sure to open this once to prevent it from running in the background, as it won’t actually prevent your phone from overheating.
More Useless Junk
Next is the Game Boost option. This tries to find all the games on your phone and lets you start them in “boosted” mode. What this actually does isn’t clear — perhaps it devotes extra system resources to the game. Either way, it’s another unnecessary feature, and if you’re struggling to play games on your phone, you probably need a new phone.
The App Manager duplicates your phone’s functionality to uninstall apps. It also allows you to install or delete APK files on your device, and move apps to your SD card if present. Again, these are all functions that your phone’s default tools or other apps do better.
The rest of these tools are all the same story. Find My Phone is a copy of Android Device Manager. We’ve shown the best apps for blocking calls and texts that have more options than the Call & SMS Filter here. Android already has a built-in Data Monitor.
Smart Lock is more snake oil. It kills apps when your phone is charging, and gives a useless message when charging is complete “to prevent overcharging.” Modern phones are smart enough to manage their own batteries, so you don’t need this. Even worse, this feature also displays ads, so you shouldn’t have any reason to use it.
Look and Feel
The app has a clean, material design theme. Each of the three main tabs turns blue to indicate all-clear, and yellow or red when an aspect needs your attention.
What’s not great is the persistent notification 360 Security adds to your notification drawer. Toolbars are annoying enough on the desktop, and this is essentially the same thing for your phone. This bar allows you to apply the “boost” to your phone with one tap. You can also tap its arrow to slide out a quick-toggle menu that duplicates the functionality of your quick settings panel.
You can already toggle data, airplane mode, and the brightness by pulling down twice on your shade. I’d say you’re best off disabling this toolbar in the settings.
360 Security Lite Version
For those with older phones that have 1 GB of RAM or under, Qihoo provides a lite version of 360 Security. It’s basically the same core app, but smaller in size and optimized for low-end devices. Thankfully, the lite version doesn’t feature all the garbage features like the App Manager and Phone Cooler.
If you’re going to use this app, you should download the lite version even if your device is powerful. However…
You Really Shouldn’t Use This Security App
When we examined 360 Mobile Security a few years back, we praised it for its good looks and simple security. While the app is still aesthetically pleasing, and the virus detection might be great, it’s become so loaded with junk that we can’t recommend it to anyone.
Half of the “features” this app offers are duplicates of default Android tools or half-baked versions of superior apps. The other half are snake oil that we wouldn’t want anyone to put on their phones. As soon as I finished testing this app, I removed it from my device immediately.
While you don’t necessarily need an antivirus app on Android, if you do want to use one for peace of mind, you should look elsewhere. Two great ones to try are TrustGo and Malwarebytes. They’re free, don’t contain ads, and aren’t loaded with garbage you’ll never use.
Looking for more Android security? Check out the best Android security apps to consider using.
Do you use an antivirus on your Android device? Let us know if you’ve tried 360 Security, or if you prefer another app!
Originally written by Erez Zukerman on August 13th, 2013.