In 2007, a small security firm called Flexilis demonstrated the vulnerabilities of smartphones, and in the process helped pioneer the field of mobile security. Two years later, the company rebranded itself as Lookout Mobile Security and offered a complete anti-malware suite for Android devices.
The latest iteration of Lookout Security and Antivirus provides excellent malware protection, comprehensive anti-theft tools and a user-friendly interface, all for $29.99 per year, but it lacks the robust privacy-protection tools of cheaper competitors.
Setup and Interface
Installing Lookout was a snap. I just downloaded the app from Google Play and then entered my email address and a password to create a Lookout account. I appreciated that I never had to leave the app during the setup process, which took less than two minutes to complete.
Navigating Lookout's interface proved intuitive. The top half of the home screen is a scrollable activity log that displays recent activity, such as scan results and updates. The bottom half of the screen is divided among six buttons: Security, Backup, Missing Device, Theft Alerts, Safe Browsing and Privacy Advisor. A green checkmark next to each button lets you know if the features associated with that button are enabled. Tapping on each button opens a submenu with additional tools and feature-specific information.
The Security menu, for instance, has a "Scan Now" button above an activity log that displays recent scan results, while the Privacy menu's dashboard shows the installed apps that track your location, read your identity information or access your messages, contacts or accounts.
A button with three vertical dots at the top right corner of the home screen opens a drop-down options menu for Settings, Account, Help, Share, About and For Business. (The last option takes you to the Web page for Lookout Enterprise Mobile Security).
From the Settings menu, you can adjust the scan and backup settings, set up scheduled scans and enable or disable specific protection and anti-theft features.
Detection and Performance
Tapping on the "Scan Now" button in the Security menu launches a manual scan that looks at your installed apps for suspicious behavior. (The scan dialogue displays the icon of the app it's currently scanning, which is a nice touch.) You can also set up a scheduled scan to run either daily or weekly, as well as the specific day and time when the scan should run.
For real-time protection, Lookout automatically scans downloaded apps and files, and blocks access to Web pages that contain malware or are known phishing sites. The Safe Browsing feature works with the stock Android browser and Chrome for Android, but it didn't scan websites when I used Opera or Dolphin, even after I set either one as the default browser.
To assess Lookout's Android security performance, we turned to the respected AV-TEST independent security lab in Germany. According to the lab's most recent evaluation of Lookout Security and Antivirus, done in November 2013, the app detected 99.4 percent of 1,460 malware samples.
This beat the industry average of 90.5 percent, as well as Bitdefender Mobile Security (98.7 percent) and McAfee Mobile Security (91.4 percent). However, Lookout couldn't match the detection performance of Norton Mobile Security (99.6 percent) or Kaspersky Mobile Security (99.7 percent). (AV-TEST did not evaluate Avast Mobile Security or AVG AntiVirus Free in its November 2013 tests.)
To measure Lookout's impact on system performance, I simultaneously ran a scan and the Geekbench 3 Android benchmark on my Huawei Ascend Mate 2 phablet running Android 4.3. Before I installed the app, the phone notched a score of 1,519. After installation, the Ascend Mate 2 achieved a score of 1,505. When I ran a full scan with Lookout at the same time, the score dropped to 1,467.
This was faster than the full-scan scores of AVG AntiVirus Pro (1,415), McAfee Mobile Security (1,455), Norton Mobile Security (1,456), Avast Mobile Security (1,460) and Kaspersky Internet Security for Android (1,464), but fell that of behind Bitdefender Mobile Security (1,496). Still, these scores are close enough that most users won't notice any difference in performance.
Anti-Theft and Data Protection
If you lose your device or it's stolen, Lookout lets you remotely lock the device, wipe its data, locate it via GPS or cause it to emit a loud alarm (even when the ringer is on silent). You do this by sending a command to the device from the Web console at lookout.com. Unlike many Android antivirus apps, however, Lookout doesn't allow you to send commands to the device via SMS message.
The suite also boasts a "signal flare" feature that automatically saves your device's location before it runs out of battery power. You can then locate the device from the Web console.
My Huawei Ascend Mate 2 responded quickly to the anti-theft commands. Lookout located the phone with pinpoint accuracy as soon as I opened the console, and successfully locked the phone a few seconds after I clicked on the Lock button.
Another important anti-theft feature is Theft Alert. Whenever someone removes your device's SIM card, Theft Alert secretly takes a photo with the front-facing camera and then sends you an email with the picture and your device's location. Lookout also sends Theft Alerts when the lock-screen password is entered incorrectly three times in a row, when Airplane Mode is enabled, when the device is turned off or when Device Admin is disabled for the app.
Theft Alerts performed excellently in my experience. Lookout snapped a photo of my face when I turned on Airplane Mode, and then sent me an email with the picture and my current location as soon as I re-enabled Wi-Fi. The feature proved equally reliable when I deliberately mistyped my lock screen password several times.
That being said, I wish that Lookout would send an email with the new telephone number when the SIM card is replaced, as McAfee Mobile Security, Bitdefender Mobile Security and Kaspersky Internet Security for Android all do.
If you can't recover your device, Lookout's Backup tool can save you from losing all of your data. Using the utility, you can save your contacts, call history and photos to the company's servers. (The app doesn't let you back up your videos, unfortunately.) You can also set up scheduled backups to run daily or weekly. Lookout offers 2GB of storage, which should be more than enough for most users' needs.
Lookout's privacy protection is limited to a Privacy Advisor that examines your installed apps' permissions and behavior for potential threats. Scan results appear in the Dashboard, which displays the number of apps that track your location, read your identity information or access your messages, contacts or accounts.
Tapping on each result opens a submenu listing the specific apps in that category; tapping on a specific app displays the private information the app can access. A button at the bottom of the screen takes you to the App Info screen in the Android settings menu.
Although Privacy Advisor is helpful, I would have appreciated the inclusion of a call and text filter and an app locker that prevents people from using specified apps unless those users enter your PIN. Lookout's privacy protection feels rudimentary compared to McAfee Mobile Security, Bitdefender Mobile Security and AVG AntiVirus Pro, all of which offer such features.
You can access Lookout's Web console by logging in at lookout.com. This opens the dashboard, with tabs for Home, Find My Device, Backup and Download, Account and Settings, and Help on the left. The Home screen shows your available devices and a log of recent activity.
In the Find My Devices tab, a map displays your device's current location, and buttons at the top of the screen let you send Lock, Wipe and Scream commands to your device. You can see any data you've backed up in the Backup and Download tab.
Premium vs. Lite
Lookout Security and Antivirus can be downloaded for free from Google Play, and the free version features the full anti-malware capability of the premium edition, the Backup tool (only your contacts can be saved), and the Scream, Locate and Signal Flare anti-theft utilities. The Lock and Wipe anti-theft utilities are available only in the premium version, as are Theft Alerts, Safe Browsing and Privacy Advisor.
You can upgrade to the full version by tapping on the Get More button at the top of the home screen or on any of the premium features, which opens a Google Play prompt to subscribe to the service. You can purchase either a one-year subscription for $29.99 or a monthly subscription for $2.99.
Lookout Security and Antivirus is a solid anti-malware app for Android devices. It offers nearly flawless malware protection, and its simple setup and user interface will make it a snap to use, even for smartphone neophytes. Moreover, the app's excellent anti-theft tools will ensure that even if your device is lost or stolen, you'll still be able to protect your personal data.
Unfortunately, Lookout has fallen behind the competition in some respects. Although the Privacy Advisor tool is helpful, the app lacks other privacy-protection features, such as a call and text filter or an app locker that prevents others from using specified apps. I was also disappointed that Lookout doesn't let you activate anti-theft commands via text message, which is a feature that nearly every other Android antivirus app offers.
At $29.99 per year, Lookout costs twice as much as Bitdefender Mobile Security, Kaspersky Internet Security for Android and Avast Mobile Security. We prefer Avast Mobile Security over all the others because it offers much more robust anti-theft and privacy protection, excellent malware detection and unparalleled customization. Nevertheless, if ease of use is one of your top concerns when shopping for mobile security, Lookout Security and Antivirus should definitely be on your list.
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