It’s the contest we were all waiting for: which Android antivirus system can protect our phones best (and for the least — or hardly any — money?) The closest to watch, while there are several other antivirus apps on the Play Store, are Lookout antivirus and secutiry, AVG antivirus and Webroot security & antivirus. And the results are out.[hr_padding] [hr_padding]
Perhaps the first thing to (very briefly) look at would be the lot of antiviruses we will not be considering here, and why. To start with, you will notice the big players like Kaspersky and Norton Security from our desktop world are missing here. Unfortunately, the services they provide on mobile platforms, for some reason, are paltry, hardly practical and are well superceeded by other software.
Some that deserve a good mention are Avast!, McAfee, TrustGo and Zoner. Perhaps these will be competitors at some point in the future, but, for now, let us look at the top three and decide. As you go on, you will also perhaps realise what makes these the best, and choosing one will be quite tough. (There is no point choosing more than one because they will start eyeing other antivirus software most of the time, on priority!)[hr_top] [hr_padding] [sws_toggle1 title="How were the antivirus software tested?"]
I have 120 apps installed (phone power, resolution etc. are really pointless in case of antivirus) and I also installed about 20-30 reported rogue apps from the Play Store, along with a handful of cracked apps (that I thankfully deleted later!)
The tests were performed with a GALAXY Note running a slightly modified ICS version, and spanning all of the 150 or so varied apps besides text messages, emails, settings, media files and three browsers (chrome, firefox and dolphin.)
The tests were performed with three things in mind: speed, analysis details, update-status of definitions (i.e. how old they are,) and, additionally, any special features they may provide.[/sws_toggle1] [hr_padding] [hr_padding]
Lookout Antivirus and Security
The first on this list is probably also the best looking; but antivirus software are a lot more than just looks. Lookout, much like every other antivirus out there, has two versions: a limited free version and a paid version with several features added. For this review, let us stick with free versions.
The free version of Lookout perhaps stands out in its offer of regular backup of your contacts, securely, to its cloud-hosted servers. There is, most probably, a limit (unspecified in the app,) and a neat retrieval mechanism via their website. The paid version lets you upload photos and media besides contacts.[hr_padding]
Lookout’s broad range of effective mobile device-specific security features are coupled with a minimal performance hit, making it a must-have app.
Here are a few screenshots from my phone as I was testing lookout security. Do take a look at them as they give you a good look at all parts of the app.
Lookout also lets you perform regular scans of all your apps and random cloud backups too. It comes with a lost device detection mechanism linked with Google Maps that lets you track down your device and even remotely activate an alarm on your device via the Lookout website.
Lookout has also won several accolades and has some big people recommending it. At the end of the day, though, with the paid version of Lookout, you probably cannot go wrong, but with the free version, you will be losing out on some nifty features like protected browsing (recognition of fake links and ads,) personal information storage (secure storage of passwords, identities etc.,) and remote key-less entry and wipe (in case you lose your phone and want to erase confidential data.)
Would you opt for Lookout, or will our next contender appeal more to your requirements?Download Lookout Antivirus and Security from the Play Store [hr_top] [hr_padding]
AVG is a familiar name when it comes to desktop antivirus softwares — especially their powerful free version. As it turns out, their free mobile version also lives up to the name the software has created for it elsewhere.
One of the biggest negatives for me, on any free app, are ads. They are understandable, but they are simple awkward and ugly, spoiling the look of mile screens in one pop. AVG has a clean, minimal interface tarnished by ads. I have a handful of screenshots from the testing:
Stepping beyond these ads, you realise the true power and capability AVG packs. It offers real-time scanning of settings, media and files; it monitors and stops apps slowing down your phone; it has safe browsing, and data and storage monitoring, all in the free version.
The paid version also delivers what AVG calls its ‘mobile app locker and confidentiality’ with which you can lock apps and security settings to secure your device. You also get app backup that is especially useful when you are moving phones; AVG also provides one-on-one extended support via email for pro users. And then there is the typical habit of getting rid of ads in the paid version that AVG follows too.[hr_padding]
Not only does it (AVG) scan apps, it also scans every other file in your phone. This keeps your phone from being infected by photos, music, any any way else.
So what is your conclusion? No free app’s advertisements ever made me a pro consumer, so that choice is out. There are several free software to back up your Android apps when you are moving phones. AVG has a clean interface, very few buttons to click, and scans apps before installation. (This is why, if you have several antivirus apps on your Android phone and you download an app, AVG is always the first to scan it.)
Therefore, if you are big on app locking and/or security options locking, the free version of AVG not only annoys you with ads, but gives you every single option a mobile antivirus can be expected to give a user. AVG is arguably the most feature-rich of the three competitors on our list today.
Will you go in for AVG or still hang around with Lookout? Or will our final contender perhaps change your mind?Download AVG Antivirus from the Play Store [hr_top] [hr_padding]
Webroot Security and Antivirus
The bar has been set high for antivirus software by the last two apps we saw. The question now is not whether Webroot can live up to it — it should — rather, what can Webroot give us that is new?
Webroot automatically scans apps, files and folders on your phone. It also packs remote access and a device lock/wipe (paid version only)/scream feature to deal with lost devices in the free version. This comes with a pre-install app scan for malware, similar to AVG.
The app also has call blocking for suspicious calls and SMS blocking for suspicious messages — especially ones with links in them.
Here are test screenshots:
A great (but paid) feature of Webroot is its ‘App Inspector.’ This thoroughly scans all apps for battery drainers, lying money mongers, location trackers — you get the point.[hr_padding]
This is the best Anti-Virus I have used to date. The best part is because it is lightweight and Cloud based you can run it on anything from netbooks to Powerhouse Desktops.
This app also silently runs in the background and has a good lot of definition updates (which reminds you of Kaspersky going ‘definitions outdated’ every other day) and which, if not set to automatic update — preferably with a wi-fi connection — can start to get really irritating, for all it is worth.
So if you love to stay absolutely updated, carry some great little features for a small price (about $20) then Webroot may be the antivirus you are looking for. Will you install Webroot today? What is your decision? Head over to the verdict section for a conclusion to this Android antivirus face-off.Download Webroot Security & Antivirus from the Play Store [hr_top] [hr_padding]
The bottom line
It is quite obvious from what we saw just now that these three are our top performing antivirus apps for a reason. But at the end of it all, you will be choosing just one of them. To help you weigh your options and decide, here is a bottom line concluding review of the three.
If you look at a lifetime of mobile security backed by a team working to give you secure cloud backup and powerful antivirus protection for the growing mobile platform world, you ought to go with Lookout’s paid version (a recurring $30 every year.)
Frankly, the free version of Lookout will just not do. It is a mere teaser of what you get for your money, and while the latter is worth it, the free version is pointless as a daily antivirus guardian.
If you would rather tolerate a couple of advertisements to get a complete bundled antivirus software that works straight out of the box and carries all the features of a paid app along with the legacy of the desktop platform, AVG has got to be your choice. It is free, fast, powerful and guaranteed to keep you safe.
AVG Free’s only drawbacks (apart from the ads) are the one-on-one support, which you will rarely need, and the lack of backups across devices, for which you have other fully free apps anyway, and, given that backing up is just an instantaneous, passing task, you would not be losing much with AVG.
If you are looking for an extremely up-to-date app with shameless updates that come at awkward hours with just one aim in mind — to keep your phone absolutely safe — then Webroot is your answer. Webroot also intelligently balances free and paid features so a very basic phone user will be safe with the free version of Webroot, but an advanced user will do better with the paid version, which costs only a one-time payment of about $20.
When it comes to choosing an Android antivirus for one’s device, one can never be too careful. Sometimes an antivirus is worth paying for if you are a hardcore user, but, with the mobile platform still growing — and the mobile virus field also still growing — I would personally recommend waiting and using a free app for now.
Unlike the desktop platform, mobiles are yet to acquire many famous, devastating viruses floating around that are common enough to pose a real threat. Until then, using antivirus software is mere prudence. If you believe shelling out some money will take you to the helm of mobile security, by all means give out generously; but if you need security and little else, there is hardly anything to get from a paid app that a free app alternative would not give you.
What did you settle for? Which Android antivirus do you have on your phone now? Share it with us in a comment below. And while you are securing your phone, why not find out how you can make it run thrice as fast, like a brand new phone? [vhb] [hr_padding]