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The best Android antivirus apps in 2022

Best Android antivirus
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Putting one of the best Android antivirus apps on your Android smartphone or tablet can help protect them from corrupted or malicious apps and other kinds of malware.

There are a wide range of choices available to suit both your budget and your desired protection level. In addition to excellent malware detection and prevention, the best Android antivirus apps also include privacy and anti-theft features. While most of these apps have a free service tier that allow you to test them out before paying for an annual subscription, some are entirely free.

Some of the best Android antivirus apps on this list will backup your contacts and other important data, track your phone or tablet via GPS, take a picture of a phone thief using your device’s camera and even allow you to use your Wear OS smartwatch to find your phone.

We’ve rounded up the best offerings from the biggest names in the mobile antivirus business – Avast, Bitdefender, Lookout, McAfee, Norton and even Google itself – and rated their Android apps based on setup, interface, usability, extra features and of course, their ability to protect your devices from the latest cyber threats.

To determine the level of protection offered by each app, we used data from the independent German testing lab AV-Test which rates most major security apps on their ability to detect malware and other threats. We also used the Geekbench 5 app to measure the impact each of these apps have on overall Android performance.

What are the best Android antivirus apps?

Based on our tests, the best Android antivirus app today is Bitdefender Mobile Security ($15 per year) which offers nearly flawless malware protection and a wide range of features.

While Norton Mobile Security (starting at $15 per year) has even better protection, Norton has discontinued the excellent free tier of Norton Mobile Security and its anti-theft features, so you’ll need to pay something to protect your devices.

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Both Avast Mobile Security and McAfee Mobile Security offer a lot of features for free and do fairly well in malware-detection tests. However, Avast’s anti-theft and call-blocking tools didn’t work well and the free versions of both apps show a lot of ads.

Lookout Security & Antivirus was one of the first mobile antivirus apps and has a compelling identity protection option. Still though, there’s little third-party lab testing data on the efficiency of Lookout’s antivirus, so we don’t really know exactly how well it protect against malware.

Google Play Protect on the other hand is pre-installed on every Android phone with Google Play. Unfortunately, It’s not the best at protecting against malware but it has certainly improved over the years.

For malware protection on other platforms, be sure to visit our pages on the best antivirus software and the best Mac antivirus.

Editor's note: Future, the parent company of Tom's Guide, has chosen to stop doing business with Russian companies, including Kaspersky. We remain committed to helping our readers to source and find the best products and will offer multiple alternatives in the categories affected. 

The best Android antivirus app you can get

Best Android antivirus: Bitdefender Mobile Security

Bitdefender Mobile Security (Image credit: Bitdefender)
Best paid option

Specifications

Price per year: $15; free alternative is separate app
Minimum Android support: 5.0 Lollipop
Ads: No
App lock: Yes
Anti-theft: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Top malware protection
+
Affordable premium version
+
Many useful features
+
Small system impact

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive unlimited VPN option

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. A newly added feature, Scam Alert, flags possibly malicious links in SMS text messages, messaging apps and screen 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.

Best Android antivirus: Norton Mobile Security

Norton Mobile Security (Image credit: Norton)

Specifications

Price per year: $15, $50 or $105; no more free version
Minimum Android support: 8.0 Oreo
Ads: No
App lock: No
Anti-theft: No

Reasons to buy

+
Flawless malware detection
+
App Advisor beats the competition
+
Intuitive design

Reasons to avoid

-
No more anti-theft functions
-
No more free tier

Norton Mobile Security, aka Norton 360, offers the best malware protection of any of the Android antivirus apps we tested. Unfortunately, it no longer has anti-theft functions, nor its contacts backups and Link Guard malicious-link blocker. 

Norton also killed Norton Mobile Security's free tier, which was the best among all the Android antivirus apps we'd recently tested. That's been replaced with a security-only app for one device that costs $15 a year.

For $50 a year, a medium-priced tier called Norton 360 for Mobile adds unlimited VPN service and "dark web" monitoring of your personal information. The most expensive plan, Norton 360 Deluxe, $105 per year, is actually part of Norton's antivirus lineup and lets you protect up to five Android, Windows, Mac or iOS devices. 

All of these subscriptions can be paid for right through the Norton app, which has a 14-day free trial period.

Norton's killer feature is the 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. 

Best free antivirus: Avast Free Antivirus

Avast Mobile Security (Image credit: Avast)

Specifications

Price per year: Free; $20, $40 premium versions
Minimum Android support: 6.0 Marshmallow
Ads: Free version
App lock: Premium only
Anti-theft: Partly premium

Reasons to buy

+
Inexpensive premium version
+
Lots of features for free

Reasons to avoid

-
Unreliable anti-theft features
-
Too many ads in free version

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. (It's since been removed.) 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 $20 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 is $60 per year, paying an extra $20 on top of the premium Android antivirus tier for unlimited VPN data is not a bad deal. 

Read our full Avast Mobile Security review.

Best Android antivirus: Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus

Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus (Image credit: Kaspersky)

Specifications

Price per year: Free; $20 premium version
Minimum Android support: 5.0 Lollipop
Ads: No
App lock: Premium only
Anti-theft: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Strong malware protection
+
Call blocking works
+
No ads in free version

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited features overall
-
Free version won't auto-scan new apps

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.

Best Android antivirus: Lookout Security & Antivirus

Lookout Security & Antivirus (Image credit: Lookout Mobile Security)

Specifications

Price per year: Free; $30, $100 premium versions
Minimum Android support: 5.0 Lollipop
Ads: No
App lock: No
Anti-theft: Partly premium

Reasons to buy

+
Strong identity-protection option
+
Good user interface

Reasons to avoid

-
Few free features
-
Not much malware-protection data
-
Heavy, slow scans

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.

Best Android antivirus: McAfee Mobile Security

McAfee Mobile Security (Image credit: McAfee)

Specifications

Price per year: Free; $30 & $80 premium versions
Minimum Android support: 7.0 Nougat
Ads: Free version
App lock: Discontinued
Anti-theft: Discontinued

Reasons to buy

+
Some decent free features
+
VPN if you're ready to pay a lot

Reasons to avoid

-
Too many ads in free version
-
Pricey premium tiers
-
So-so malware protection

Like Avast, McAfee offers (or used to offer) 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. 

In the summer of 2021, McAfee Mobile Security phased out many of its most useful functions (opens in new tab), including its App Lock, Guest Mode, Anti-Theft, Memory Booster and Storage Cleaner features. It's not really clear why this was done, other than to "adjust our product portfolio."

You'll get some good stuff with the free version of McAfee Mobile Security, such as 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 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.

Best Android antivirus: Google Play Protect

Google Play Protect (Image credit: Google)

Specifications

Price per year: Free
Minimum Android support: 4.4 Kit Kat
Ads: No
App lock: Yes
Anti-theft: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Built right into Android
+
Small system impact
+
Good anti-theft tools

Reasons to avoid

-
Awful malware protection
-
Few features

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.

Best Android antivirus app comparison chart

Avast Mobile SecurityBitdefender Mobile SecurityGoogle Play ProtectKaspersky Mobile AntivirusLookout Security & AntivirusMcAfee Mobile SecurityNorton Mobile Security for Android
Price per yearFree; $12; $24$15FreeFree; $15Free; $30; $100Free; $30; $80$30
Minimum Android support5.0 Lollipop5.0 Lollipop4.4 Kit Kat5.0 Lollipop5.0 Lollipop7.0 Nougat6.0 Marshmallow
AdsFree versionNoNoNoNoFree versionNo
App lockPremium onlyYesYesPremium onlyNoDiscontinuedNo
Anti-theftPartly premiumYesYesYesPartly premiumDiscontinuedNo
App advisorYesYesNoNoPartly premiumYesYes
URL screenerYesYesYesPremium onlyPremium onlyPremium onlyYes
Wi-Fi scannerYesYesNoNoPremium onlyYesYes
VPNCosts extraUnlimited data costs extraNoNoPremium onlyCosts extra No
Wear OS supportNoYesNoYesNoYesNo

Why you should use an Android antivirus app

In order to keep your Android smartphone or tablet safe, you should keep its software updated to the latest version. This is because each new version of Android is more secure than its predecessor, and each monthly Android security update fixes newly found flaws.

However, unless you have a Google Pixel or Android one phone, you won’t get these updates and upgrades right away. Most device makers need extra time to make sure that changes to Android won’t break their devices or software.

The time between updates can be a couple of weeks though it can also take months. To make matters worse, some Android phones stop getting Android OS upgrades after two years and a few never receive monthly security patches at all.

This is 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 your device doesn’t yet (or never will) have. They also stop new attacks that Google Play Protect won’t catch, even on Pixel devices. 

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 may also show you a lot of ads.

Such 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 each of the best Android antivirus apps, we used the latest bimonthly testing results from AV-TEST (opens in new tab), 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 (opens in new tab), 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 5 benchmarking app on a Samsung Galaxy Note 20 smartphone running Android 12. For each app, we ran Geekbench without an antivirus app installed to establish a baseline before running it with one of the review apps installed as well as during each app’s full scan.

We also took a closer look at the number and usefulness of each app’s features and evaluated which features were reserved for paid users. Additionally, we assessed the user interface and installation process of each Android antivirus app on this list.

Editor's note on Kaspersky

Kaspersky antivirus products have been banned from U.S. government agencies and U.S. defense contractors, and we can understand why. Because the company is Russian and antivirus software can peer deep into a PC, using Kaspersky software would create an unacceptable risk for persons and organizations involved in national security and critical infrastructure.

Furthermore, the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has led most Western companies, including our own, to stop doing business with Russian companies. We have suspended our affiliate-sales relationship with Kaspersky.

We still think Kaspersky software is generally 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 those from the United States and other countries around the world.

We don't know whether the economic sanctions on Russian companies will result in Kaspersky software becoming unavailable or unreliable for users in Western countries. The Kaspersky company has moved many of its operations outside Russia, so it's possible there will be no effect on the software's operations.

Whether you choose to use Kaspersky software is up to you. We can only make recommendations on how well antivirus programs work and how easy they are to use. There is certainly antivirus software available that comes with fewer geopolitical issues attached.

Anthony Spadafora
Anthony Spadafora

Anthony Spadafora is the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to password managers and the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. Before joining the team, he wrote for ITProPortal while living in Korea and later for TechRadar Pro after moving back to the US. Based in Houston, Texas, when he’s not writing Anthony can be found tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.