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Smartphone antivirus software has become big business in recent years. The Android operating system is under an ever-increasing threat from malware, viruses, and other undesirable programs, and the requirement to protect yourself against these threats is now more important than ever.
With so many antivirus apps available and the selection growing on a daily basis, it can be difficult to determine the quality releases from the ineffective ones. In this article, we take a look at some of the best antivirus apps in the Play Store to help you make an informed choice about your coverage.
It seems that almost any list about antivirus software is obliged to include Avast, and it would be extremely remiss of us to leave it out.
Launched out of Prague in the Czech Republic in 1991, Avast now controls 21.4 percent of the worldwide security vendor market and boasts 233 million active users. It started life as a Windows program but now also has releases available for Mac, Linux, and Android.
As with their desktop versions, the developers of the app operate a freemium model. Nonetheless, the free version should be more than enough for most users. It includes “live” scanning of installed apps, the ability to schedule phone memory and memory card scans, SMS and call blocking, web shields to protect you against spyware and malware-infected links, and the ability to pin-protect up to two apps. If you have a rooted device, you can also manage firewalls. The paid version ($2 per month, $12 per year) adds unlimited pin-protection of apps, ad detectors, remote data recovery, and geo-fencing.
In terms of threat detection performance, independent security lab AV-TEST said the app detected 100 percent of their 2,950 malware samples in their January 2015 test, beating the industry average of 99.3 percent.
Kaspersky is one of the most well-known and widely trusted names in the antivirus sector. The company was founded in Moscow in 1997, and has gone on to have 300 million users with offerings across all the major platforms. They made the jump from desktop to Android in 2012 and now provide a solid app that strongly competes with the other mobile-based market leaders.
Their latest Android release finally did away with separate versions from phones and tablets, and is much more streamlined as a result. Like Avast, they operate a freemium model. The free version includes protection against viruses, spyware, and trojans, an antivirus scanner, and anti-theft protection. The $14.95 per year premium version adds real-time protection, cloud protection, SMS anti-phishing protection, and privacy protection.
Drawbacks include the necessity to create a Kaspersky account before you can even open the app and the lack of a white-list.
The January 2015 AV-TEST analysis gave it a 99.9 percent threat detection rate, down from 100 percent in November 2014.
AVG has been downloaded 100 million times from the Google Play Store and has an average rating of 4.4 from 3.3 million reviews — facts that mean you can be sure you’re going to be protected by using a well-regarded piece of software.
Unlike some of its competitors, the free version comes well-stocked with features, including identification of unsecure device settings, a task killer to identify apps and processes that are eating up your device’s RAM, a full anti-theft suite, and phishing protection. The pro version adds social media protection, “Safe Web Surfing” for the stock browser and Chrome, a battery drain monitor and a 3G/4G traffic monitor.
Despite its popularity and impressive range of features, AVG performed below the industry standard in AV-TEST’s January 2015 analysis, with a detection rate of 98.7 percent (0.6 percent below average). The institute also noted that it identified four false positives, something neither of the previous two apps did.
Finally, be aware that they offer separate apps for phone and tablets.
Lookout is probably the slickest antivirus app in terms of design and ease of use, and has garnered a huge following as result.
Like most offerings, there is a free and a paid version. The free version comes packaged with anti-malware protection, data backup, a remote locator (which will work even when your battery is dead), and a remotely triggered alarm. The paid version adds a full anti-theft suite, a privacy advisor, and remote data deletion.
The app detected 99.4 percent of 1,460 malware samples in AV-TEST’s independent analysis which is about on-par with the industry average.
Bitdefender is different from our other four suggestions in that it only offers a paid version. The initial download will give you a 14-day free trial, but thereafter it will cost you $1.49 per month or $14.95 per year.
The money is well spent. Aside from a 100 percent detection score with AV-TEST, they are also at the forefront of innovation; they are one of the only antivirus apps that will already seamlessly sync with Android-based smartwatches, they offer a “Phone Alert” that will alert you when you step too far from your phone to prevent you from leaving it behind, and they use independent testers as part of their development process.
The only drawback we came across was the lack of scheduled scans, meaning you can’t set it to run in the middle of the night when you won’t notice.
Do You Even Need It?
A lot of commentators and analysts are convinced that Android antivirus apps are unnecessary. The modern Android operating system includes vast amounts of stock security, meaning these could apps could all be redundant. The truth is that if you only use the Play Store and install “standard” apps, you are probably safe. Nonetheless, adding third-party peace of mind is certainly a sensible approach, especially if you have a rooted device or side-load a lot of software.
What do you think? Have we missed your favorite? What are you experiences with the apps we listed? Do you think Android antivirus apps are a waste of time and money, or do you subscribe to the better-safe-than-sorry viewpoint?
We’d love to hear your thoughts. Let us know your opinions and feedback in the comments below.