If you’re not running some kind of anti-malware app on your Android smartphone or tablet, you’re putting yourself at risk of infection from corrupted apps and other kinds of malware.
The best mobile antivirus apps offer not only top-notch malware detection and prevention, but also a range of privacy and anti-theft features. These include the ability to 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 Android Wear smartwatch to locate your phone.
Based on our testing, the best paid Android antivirus app is Bitdefender Mobile Security ($15 per year), which offers flawless malware protection with a wide assortment of other features. The freemium Norton Mobile Security has similarly excellent protection, and doesn’t hold back much from users who don’t want to pay the premium-subscription price of $30 per year.
Avast Mobile Security proves you don’t have to pay anything at all to get a rich assortment of features, including the best anti-theft features we’ve seen. Avast’s malware protection wasn’t as good as that of some other apps we reviewed, but many of its best features are stand-alone apps and can be used in conjunction with other software.
The other three apps we reviewed — CM Security, ESET Mobile Security & Antivirus and Kaspersky Internet Security for Android — are also pretty solid. Which of these six is best for you depends on your budget, how many devices you need to protect, and whether your greatest concern is malware infection, device theft or personal privacy.
How We Tested
To gauge security protection, we used the latest evaluation results from AV-TEST, an independent lab in Germany that rates major Android security apps every two months based on their ability to detect zero-day malware and other recent threats. Because some apps’ results are inconsistent from one test to the next, we’ve also looked at the past year’s worth of AV-TEST results.
To measure the impact these security apps have on overall performance, we used the Geekbench 3 benchmarking app on a Nexus 6P running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. 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.