The best Android antivirus apps in 2021 | #android | #security


If you use an Android device, you need one of the best Android antivirus apps to protect your phone or tablet from corrupted apps and other kinds of malware.

Your choices are far from limited. The best Android antivirus apps offer not only top-notch malware detection and prevention, but a range of privacy and anti-theft features. Most have a free tier, and some are entirely free.

The best Android antivirus apps can back up your contacts and other data, track your phone or tablet via GPS, snap a picture of a phone thief with the device’s camera and even use your Wear OS smartwatch to locate your phone.

We’ve rounded up the biggest names in mobile antivirus protection — Avast, Bitdefender, Kaspersky, Lookout, McAfee, Norton and even Google itself — and rated their Android apps based on setup, interface, usability, extra features and, of course, their anti-malware chops.

To gauge security protection, we used data from AV-Test, an independent German lab that rates most major security apps based on their ability to detect zero-day malware and other recent threats. We also used the Geekbench 4 app to measure the impact these apps have on overall Android performance.

What are the best Android antivirus apps?

The best Android antivirus app, based on our tests, is Bitdefender Mobile Security ($15 per year), which offers nearly flawless malware protection and a wide range of features. 

Norton Mobile Security ($30 per year) has even better protection. Unfortunately, Norton has killed the free tier of Norton Mobile Security, along with its anti-theft features, so we can’t recommend it as highly as we used to.

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Avast Mobile Security and McAfee Mobile Security offer a lot of features for free and do fairly well in malware-detection tests. But Avast’s anti-theft and call-blocking tools didn’t work well, and both apps show lot of ads — unless you pay them not to.

The free version of Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus has no ads, and its call-blocking and anti-theft features work well. Its malware protection is very good, but it lacks a Wi-Fi network-security scanner. 

Lookout Security & Antivirus was one of the first mobile antivirus apps and has a compelling identity-protection option. Yet there’s little third-party lab-test data on Lookout’s antivirus efficiency, so we don’t really know how well it protects against malware.   

The last app, Google Play Protect, is installed on every Android phone that runs Google Play. Sadly, it’s terrible at protecting against malware. Use something else.

The best Android antivirus apps offer not only top-notch malware detection and prevention, but also a range of privacy and anti-theft features. They can track your phone or tablet via GPS, snap a picture of a phone thief with the device’s camera, and even use your Android Wear smartwatch to locate your phone.

For malware protection on other platforms, be sure to visit our pages on the best antivirus software and the best Mac antivirus.

The best Android antivirus app you can get

Bitdefender Mobile Security (Image credit: Bitdefender)

1. Bitdefender Mobile Security

Best paid option

Specifications

Price per year: $15, no free version

Minimum Android support: 5.0 Lollipop

Ads: No

App lock: Yes

Anti-theft: Yes

Reasons to buy

+Top malware protection+Affordable premium version+Many useful features+Small system impact

Reasons to avoid

Expensive unlimited VPN option

Bitdefender’s Android security app has nearly flawless malware protection, a very light performance impact, Android Wear watch integration, a VPN client and a malicious-website blocker that works with most Android browsers. 

It also has robust privacy-protection tools, including an app lock, a Wi-Fi scanner, anti-theft features and data-breach notifications. 

Bitdefender Mobile Security offers a 14-day trial period, but this is not a freemium app. The separate Bitdefender Antivirus Free for Android app (which is indeed totally free) only scans for malware. 

The built-in VPN client gives you only 200MB of free data per data — just enough to check your email while traveling. If you want more data, you’ll have to pay $7 monthly or $50 yearly.

But at $15 per year, Bitdefender Mobile Security is well worth the expense. It’s our choice for the best Android antivirus app.

Read our full Bitdefender Mobile Security review.

Norton Mobile Security (Image credit: Norton)

2. Norton Mobile Security

Specifications

Price per year: $30, no more free version

Minimum Android support: 6.0 Marshmallow

Ads: No

App lock: No

Anti-theft: No

Reasons to buy

+Flawless malware detection+App Advisor beats the competition+Intuitive design

Reasons to avoid

No more anti-theft functionsNo more free tier

Norton Mobile Security offers the best malware protection of any of the Android antivirus apps we tested. Unfortunately, Norton quietly killed the app’s excellent anti-theft functions at the end of 2019, along with its contacts-backup and Link Guard malicious-link blocker. 

Worst of all, Norton also killed Norton Mobile Security’s free tier, which was the best among all the Android antivirus apps we’d recently tested.

Now Norton Mobile Security is entirely premium. At $30 per year, it costs quite a bit more than some other paid mobile apps, even though it’s lacking some functions commonly found elsewhere, such as an app lock for individual apps.

The one feature that might justify the extra cost is Norton Mobile Security’s unique App Advisor, which checks apps on your device for heavy data usage and unusual behavior. It also checks apps in the Google Play store for security and privacy risks even before you install them.

If you purchase one of Norton’s all-encompassing Norton 360 plans, which include antivirus protection for Windows PCs, Mac and Android devices, you’ll be able to upgrade to the Norton 360 mobile app, which includes dark-web monitoring and an unlimited VPN.

Read our full Norton Mobile Security review. 

Avast Mobile Security (Image credit: Avast)

3. Avast Mobile Security

Specifications

Price per year: Free; $20, $40 premium versions

Minimum Android support: 5.0 Lollipop

Ads: Free version

App lock: Premium only

Anti-theft: Partly premium

Reasons to buy

+Inexpensive premium version+Lots of features for free

Reasons to avoid

Unreliable anti-theft featuresToo many ads in free version

Avast Mobile Security & Antivirus is one of the most full-featured of the best Android antivirus apps, offering everything from a privacy adviser to a system optimizer to a customizable blacklist. 

But while Avast’s malware protection is good, it’s far from perfect. Some of Avast’s anti-theft functions didn’t work for us, and its call-blocking feature didn’t work at all. (It’s since been removed.) And the free version’s ads and constant nags to upgrade are annoying and intrusive.

Those ads go away if you pay for either of Avast Mobile Security’s paid tiers, Premium ($2 monthly or $20 yearly) or Ultimate ($7 monthly or $40 yearly). Users of either paid plan also get additional anti-theft features, an app locker and tech support.

The built-in client for Avast’s SecureLine VPN is just a tease, and the only way to use it is to pay for an Ultimate tier. Since the stand-alone price for SecureLine is $60 per year, paying an extra $20 on top of the premium Android antivirus tier for unlimited VPN data is not a bad deal. 

Read our full Avast Mobile Security review.

Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus (Image credit: Kaspersky)

4. Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus

Specifications

Price per year: Free; $20 premium version

Minimum Android support: 5.0 Lollipop

Ads: No

App lock: Premium only

Anti-theft: Yes

Reasons to buy

+Strong malware protection+Call blocking works+No ads in free version

Reasons to avoid

Limited features overallFree version won’t auto-scan new apps

Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus, also known as Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, offers nearly-perfect malware protection, a small system impact and a call blocker that actually works. 

There are no ads in the free version, and not much nagging to upgrade to the paid plan. Free users get call filtering, Android Wear support and a strong set of anti-theft functions, but you have to scan each new app manually. 

Paying users get automatic scans of new apps, an app lock and blocking of known phishing websites. And that’s about it. There’s no Wi-Fi network scanner and none of the privacy tools that other Android antivirus apps now offer.

If you’re just looking for malware protection, you can’t really go wrong with Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus’s free tier. But while the paid version is inexpensive, it feels stripped-down, and you can get more from Bitdefender’s rival paid app for $5 less.

Read our full Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus review.

Lookout Security & Antivirus (Image credit: Lookout Mobile Security)

5. Lookout Security & Antivirus

Specifications

Price per year: Free; $30, $100 premium versions

Minimum Android support: 5.0 Lollipop

Ads: No

App lock: No

Anti-theft: Partly premium

Reasons to buy

+Strong identity-protection option+Good user interface

Reasons to avoid

Few free featuresNot much malware-protection dataHeavy, slow scans

Lookout Mobile Security, now rebranded as Lookout Security and Antivirus or Lookout Personal, was one of the first Android antivirus apps, and for a long time the best. Its ease of use, clean interface and lack of ads explain its continued popularity. 

But Lookout’s costs can rack up quickly. The free tier is bare-bones; it just scans for malware and locates lost phones. 

The premium tier charges $30 per year, even though some of its features — malicious website blocking, Wi-Fi network scanning — come free with other Android antivirus apps. An unlimited VPN and a data-breach notification service make the premium price worthwhile.

At $100 per year, the “premium plus” plan is actually a fairly inexpensive identity-protection service that offers many of the same benefits you’d get from LifeLock or IdentityForce. It might well be worth the expense. 

The trouble is that Lookout doesn’t often submit its app to third-partly lab evaluations, so we don’t really know how well Lookout protects against malware. Its active scans are also slow and heavy.

Read our full Lookout Security & Antivirus review.

McAfee Mobile Security (Image credit: McAfee)

6. McAfee Mobile Security

Specifications

Price per year: Free; $30 & $80 premium versions

Minimum Android support: 7.0 Nougat

Ads: Free version

App lock: Discontinued

Anti-theft: Discontinued

Reasons to buy

+Some decent free features+VPN if you’re ready to pay a lot

Reasons to avoid

Too many ads in free versionPricey premium tiersSo-so malware protection

Like Avast, McAfee offers (or used to offer) a ton of useful features, but its free version is also full of ads and upsell suggestions. The malware protection is decent, if not fantastic. 

In the summer of 2021, McAfee Mobile Security phased out many of its most useful functions, including its App Lock, Guest Mode, Anti-Theft, Memory Booster and Storage Cleaner features. It’s not really clear why this was done, other than to “adjust our product portfolio.”

You’ll get some good stuff with the free version of McAfee Mobile Security, such as a way to track each app’s data usage and a Wi-Fi security scanner. 

You’ll get even more with the “Standard” premium tier, including a URL screener, 24/7 tech support and no more ads. But it’s a bit pricey at $30 per year considering that Bitdefender and Kaspersky give you the same features for less.

The top paid tier, “Plus,” costs $80 per year and gives you the Standard features plus unlimited VPN access, but only for that single phone or tablet. You can get one of the best VPN services to cover all your devices for less.

Read our full McAfee Mobile Security review.

Google Play Protect (Image credit: Google)

7. Google Play Protect

Specifications

Price per year: Free

Minimum Android support: 4.4 Kit Kat

Ads: No

App lock: Yes

Anti-theft: Yes

Reasons to buy

+Built right into Android+Small system impact+Good anti-theft tools

Reasons to avoid

Awful malware protectionFew features

Google Play Protect comes built into every Android device that runs Google Play, and it would be great if it worked well. Unfortunately, Google Play Protect’s dismal malware detection makes the strongest possible argument for using a third-party Android antivirus app. 

We did like that Google Play Protect’s interface is minimal, there are no ads and the system impact is light. Some of Android’s other built-in features, including Find My Device and Chrome Safe Browsing, mirror what third-party antivirus apps do on the side.

Google Play Protect’s best feature is that Google can use it to remotely disable dangerous apps. This stays the case whether you’re running third-party antivirus software or not. We recommend you not disable Google Play Protect.

But overall, Google Play Protect is awful at protecting you from malicious apps. For your own sake, please use something else.

Read our full Google Play Protect review.

Best Android antivirus app comparison chart

Avast Mobile Security Bitdefender Mobile Security Google Play Protect Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus Lookout Security & Antivirus McAfee Mobile Security Norton Mobile Security for Android
Price per year Free; $12; $24 $15 Free Free; $15 Free; $30; $100 Free; $30; $80 $30
Minimum Android support 5.0 Lollipop 5.0 Lollipop 4.4 Kit Kat 5.0 Lollipop 5.0 Lollipop 7.0 Nougat 6.0 Marshmallow
Ads Free version No No No No Free version No
App lock Premium only Yes Yes Premium only No Discontinued No
Anti-theft Partly premium Yes Yes Yes Partly premium Discontinued No
App advisor Yes Yes No No Partly premium Yes Yes
URL screener Yes Yes Yes Premium only Premium only Premium only Yes
Wi-Fi scanner Yes Yes No No Premium only Yes Yes
VPN Costs extra Unlimited data costs extra No No Premium only Costs extra No
Wear OS support No Yes No Yes No Yes No

Why you should use an Android antivirus app

Ideally, to keep your Android device safe, you should keep its software updated. Each new version of Android is more secure than the one before, and each monthly Android security update fixes newly found flaws.

But unless you’ve got a Google Pixel or Android One phone, you won’t get those updates and upgrades right away. Most device makers need time to make sure changes to Android don’t break their devices or software.

That lag time can be a couple of weeks, or it can be many months. Worse, some Android phone models stop getting Android OS upgrades after two years, and a few never get monthly security patches at all.

That’s where the best Android antivirus apps come in. They stop attacks that try to get around Android’s built-in defenses, especially those that Google has patched but which your device doesn’t yet (or never will) have. They also stop new attacks that Google Play Protect won’t catch, even on Pixel phones.

How to choose the best Android antivirus app for you

Android antivirus apps come in three pricing schemes: fully free, fully paid, and freemium.

Freemium apps let you choose between getting a limited set of features for free or paying to get a premium version that gives you all the possible features, similar to fully paid apps. Apps that offer a lot of features for free may also show you a lot of ads.

Such features might include anti-theft mechanisms, an “advisor” to help you examine and choose apps, a Wi-Fi network security scanners, or an app lock that requires a passcode to open specific apps. 

Both paid apps and premium tiers generally run between $15 and $30 per year. Some app makers try to limit on how many devices you can install their premium/paid versions. Some tack on a super-premium tier that gives you unlimited VPN service or an identity-protection-service, often at a pretty good price.

But the most important factor in deciding which Android antivirus app to use is malware protection. 

Norton and Bitdefender lead in this category, and Kaspersky is not far behind. Avast is good but not great, while the built-in Google Play Protect is terrible. We’re not sure about Lookout and 360 Security because they haven’t submitted their apps to recent lab tests.

How we tested the best Android antivirus apps

To gauge the security protection of the best Android antivirus apps, we used the latest bimonthly test results from AV-TEST, an independent lab in Germany that measures how well major Android security apps detect zero-day malware and other threats. 

Because some apps’ scores are inconsistent from one test to the next, we also looked back at the previous two years of results.

We also used some results from AV-Comparatives, a lab in Austria that once a year tests nearly all the Android antivirus apps in Google Play, even those that don’t cooperate with testing labs. But these tests are less detailed.

To measure the impact antivirus apps have on overall performance, we used the Geekbench 4 benchmarking app on a Google Pixel 3 phone running Android 9.0 Pie. For each app, we ran Geekbench several times with no AV app installed, then with one of the review apps installed, and finally during that app’s full scan.

We also evaluated the number and usefulness of each app’s features, took note of which features were reserved for paid users, and assessed the user interface and installation process.

Kaspersky antivirus products have been banned from U.S. government networks. Because the company is Russian, its software would create an unacceptable risk for persons and organizations involved in national security and critical infrastructure.

However, we think Kaspersky software is perfectly safe for home users. We’ve seen no evidence to convince us otherwise. Kaspersky researchers are well respected throughout the antivirus industry, and the company has publicly exposed Russian cyberespionage campaigns as well as American ones.



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