The best Android antivirus app, based on our testing, is Bitdefender Mobile Security ($15 per year), which offers nearly flawless malware protection with a wide assortment of other features. The freemium Norton Mobile Security has even better protection and offers the essentials to free users who don't want to pay the premium price of $30 per year.
Avast Mobile Security and McAfee Mobile Security each offer a rich assortment of features, even in their free versions, and do fairly well in malware-detection tests. But Avast's anti-theft and call-blocking features didn't work well for us, and both apps show a lot of ads unless you trade up to their paid plans.
By contrast, the free version of Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus shows no ads, and its call-blocking and anti-theft features work well. Its malware protection is a hair better than Avast's or McAfee's, but it lacks creature comforts many other apps offer, such as a Wi-Fi network-security scanner.
You'll be taking a bit of a chance with Lookout Security & Antivirus. It was one of the first mobile antivirus apps, it has a good reputation among Android users, with a compelling identity-protection option. But there isn't a lot of third-party lab-test data on Lookout's antivirus efficiency, so we don't know how well it protects against Android malware.
We can't really recommend the two other antivirus apps we reviewed. Qihoo 360 Security gives free users tons of features, but there are so many ads that you'll want to pay to get rid of them. It also slowed down our test device much more than any other Android antivirus app, and as with Lookout, we don't have much data on how well 360 Security protects against malware.
The last app, Google Play Protect, comes installed on every Android phone that runs Google Play. Sadly, it's terrible at protecting against malware. You absolutely need something else.
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 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.
Latest Security Alerts and Threats
— A new Trojan horse is infecting Android phones via corrupted apps, and on many phones, it can't be removed. ADVICE: Don't buy cheap off-brand phones, and always run one of the best Android antivirus apps.
— Scammers are ripping off college students and teenagers by pretending to be affiliated with the CashApp money-transfer service's random giveaways. ADVICE: Don't respond to Twitter and Instagram posts that promise free money -- especially if the posters ask you to send them a little money first "in good faith."
— Google tossed 42 Android apps from the Google Play Store after researchers discovered the apps were full of adware. ADVICE: Check the list at the end of this ESET blog post to see if you have any these apps, and delete them if you do. Running one of the best Android antivirus apps wouldn't hurt either.
How We Tested
To gauge security protection, 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.
1. Bitdefender Mobile Security
Best Paid Option
Price per year: $15, no free version | Minimum Android support: 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich | Ads: No | App lock: Yes | Anti-theft: Yes
Bitdefender's Android security app has nearly flawless malware protection, a very light performance impact, a VPN client, Android Wear watch integration and robust privacy-protection tools, including an app lock, a Wi-Fi scanner and anti-theft features. There's no freemium option, however, and the separate Bitdefender Antivirus Free for Android app only scans for malware. But at $15 per year, Bitdefender Mobile Security is well worth the expense.
2. Norton Mobile Security
Best Freemium Option
Price per year: Free; $30 premium version | Minimum Android support: 4.1 Jelly Bean | Ads: SafeSearch | App lock: No | Anti-theft: Yes
Norton Mobile Security offers the best malware protection of any Android antivirus app, and its malicious-website blocking and excellent anti-theft features are free. The best paid feature is the unique App Advisor, which checks apps in the Google Play store for security and privacy risks even before you install them. But you'll have to pay $30 per year to use it.
3. Avast Mobile Security
Price per year: Free; $12, $24 premium versions | Minimum Android support: 4.1 Jelly Bean | Ads: Free version | App lock: Premium only | Anti-theft: Partly premium
Avast Mobile Security & Antivirus is one of the most full-featured Android security apps, with everything from a privacy adviser to a VPN client to a customizable blacklist. But while Avast's malware protection is good, some of its anti-theft functions didn't work for us, its call-blocking feature didn't work at all and the ads in the free version are annoying and intrusive.
4. Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus
Price per year: Free; $15 premium version | Minimum Android support: 4.1 Jelly Bean | Ads: No | App lock: Premium only | Anti-theft: Yes
Kaspersky's Android app offers very good, if not perfect, malware protection, a small system impact and a call blocker that actually works. There are no ads in the free version, and the paid version is inexpensive. But it feels stripped-down overall, with fewer features than most of its rivals.
5. Lookout Security & Antivirus
Price per year: Free; $30, $100 premium versions | Minimum Android support: 4.4 Jelly Bean | Ads: No | App lock: No | Anti-theft: Partly premium
Lookout was one of the first Android antivirus apps, and its ease of use, clean interface and lack of ads explain its continued popularity. The free tier is bare-bones, and the premium tier charges $30 per year for features you'd get for free with most Android antivirus apps. At $100 per year, the "premium plus" plan is actually a fairly cheap identity-protection service. But we don't really know how well Lookout protects against malware, and its active scans are slow and heavy.
6. McAfee Mobile Security
Price per year: Free; $30 premium version | Minimum Android support: 4.2 Jelly Bean | Ads: Free version | App lock: Premium only | Anti-theft: Yes
Like Avast, McAfee offers a ton of features, and a free version full of ads and upsell suggestions. The malware protection is decent, and a useful "Guest" feature lets other people safely use your phone for a short time. You'll get some good stuff without paying, such as anti-theft features and a Wi-Fi security scanner. But the paid app is a bit pricey at $30 per year, and the VPN client costs even more.
7. Google Play Protect
Price per year: Free | Minimum Android support: 4.1 Jelly Bean | Ads: No | App lock: Yes | Anti-theft: Yes
Google Play Protect comes built into Android, but its dismal malware detection makes the strongest possible argument for using a third-party Android antivirus app. Google Play Protect's interface is minimal, there are no ads and the system impact is light, but for your own sake, please use something else.
8. Qihoo 360 Security
Price per year: Free; $12 premium version | Minimum Android support: 4.1 Jelly Bean | Ads: Free version | App lock: Yes | Anti-theft: No
Qihoo's 360 Security gives you everything for free, but the catch is that you'll be overwhelmed by ads, ads and more ads. Trading up to the ad-free version would be more compelling if we had a better idea of how well 360 Security protected against malware, and if it didn't slow system functions to a crawl during scans. As of now, we can't recommend 360 Security, free or paid.
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||Free; $30||Free; $12|
|Minimum Android support||4.1 Jelly Bean||4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich||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||SafeSearch||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||Yes||No|
|App advisor||Yes||Yes||No||No||Partly premium||Yes||Premium only||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||Premium only||Yes|
|VPN||Costs extra||Unlimited data extra||No||No||Premium only||Costs extra||No||No|
|Wear OS support||No||Yes||No||Yes||No||Yes||No||No|