If you don't have one of the best Android antivirus apps installed on your smartphone or tablet, you're at greater risk of infection from corrupted apps and other kinds of malware.
But your options for protection are far from limited. The best Android antivirus apps offer not only top-notch malware detection and prevention, but also a range of privacy and anti-theft features. Some of them are free.
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These apps can often 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.
Many of the Android security apps have both free and paid versions, but not all freemium antivirus apps are created equal.
We've rounded up apps from the biggest names in mobile antivirus protection — Avast, Bitdefender, Kaspersky, Lookout, McAfee, Norton, 360 Security 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 security apps have on overall 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 with a wide range of features.
Norton Mobile Security ($30 per year) has even better protection. Unfortunately, Norton quietly killed the free tier of Norton Mobile Security in December 2019, along with its anti-theft features, so we can't recommend it as highly as we used to.
— T-Mobile says a breach exposed customer data such as phone numbers and call info.
— Google booted 164 Android apps downloaded by 10 million users for showing banned ads.
— An automated financial scam using the Telegram messenger app has spread from Russia to western Europe.
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. But there's scant third-party lab-test data on Lookout's antivirus efficiency, so we don't know really how well it protects against malware.
We can't really recommend Qihoo 360 Security. It gives free users tons of features, but has so many ads that you'll gladly pay to get rid of them. It slowed our test phone more than any of the best Android antivirus apps, and 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.
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The best Android antivirus app you can get
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 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 in early December 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. 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.
Read our full Norton Mobile Security review.
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. 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 $24 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 on Android is $48 per year, paying an extra $16 on top of the premium tier for unlimited data for is not a bad deal.
Read our full Avast Mobile Security review.
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 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.
Like Avast, McAfee offers 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, and a useful "Guest" feature lets other people safely use your phone for a short time.
You'll get some good stuff with the free version of McAfee Mobile Security, such as anti-theft features, 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 an app locker, 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 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.
360 Security, which seems to have been recently rebranded as Safe Security, gives you all of its features -- including an app lock, performance booster, system cleaner, anti-theft, photo locker, and Wi-Fi scanner -- for free.
But there some catches. Many of those features don't work well, or at all. The interface is cluttered. And you'll be overwhelmed by ads, ads and more ads, some of which go full-screen.
Trading up to the ad-free version doesn't entirely reduce the clutter, and still displayed tabs that promoted games and news.
All of this would be more compelling if we had a better idea of how well 360 Security, which is backed by Chinese antivirus company Qihoo 360, protected against malware. Unfortunately, it doesn't often submit itself to independent lab tests.
360 Security also slowed our system functions to a crawl during scans. As of now, we can't recommend 360 Security, free or paid.
Read our full 360 Security 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||Qihoo 360 Mobile Security|
|Price per year||Free; $12; $24||$15||Free||Free; $15||Free; $30; $100||Free; $30; $80||$30||Free; $12|
|Minimum Android support||5.0 Lollipop||4.1 Jelly Bean||4.1 Jelly Bean||4.2 Jelly Bean||4.4 Jelly Bean||4.2 Jelly Bean||4.1 Jelly Bean||4.2 Jelly Bean|
|Ads||Free version||No||No||No||No||Free version||No||Free version|
|App lock||Premium only||Yes||Yes||Premium only||No||Premium only||No||Yes|
|Anti-theft||Partly premium||Yes||Yes||Yes||Partly premium||Yes||No||No|
|App advisor||Yes||Yes||No||No||Partly premium||Yes||Yes||No|
|URL screener||Yes||Yes||Yes||Premium only||Premium only||Premium only||Yes||Yes, but iffy|
|Wi-Fi scanner||Yes||Yes||No||No||Premium only||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|VPN||Costs extra||Unlimited data costs extra||No||No||Premium only||Costs extra||No||No|
|Wear OS support||No||Yes||No||Yes||No||Yes||No||No|
Why you should use an Android antivirus app
The best way to keep your Android device safe is to keep its software up to date. Every 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, most Android phone models stop getting Android OS upgrades after two years, and some 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 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 also show you a lot of ads.
Those 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.