Tom's Guide Verdict
Whether you get the free, Premium, or Ultimate version of Avast Mobile Security, you’ll get a program with low system overhead during scanning and good protection for less than the others. However, it’s slow to scan for threats.
Free version with lots of extras
Low performance hit on scanning
Ultimate version inexpensively provides VPN access
Free version has ads
Slow to scan
Why you can trust Tom's Guide
Avast Mobile Security combines good protection for Android devices with a low impact on performance. While the Free version is ad-sponsored and goes beyond the basics, the Premium version adds several goodies and the Ultimate edition puts it all together by adding Avast SecureLine VPN. It is slower than the others to completely scan a device but Avast Mobile Security is one of the best Android antivirus apps you can buy. Our Avast Mobile Security review will help you decide if it’s worth it and which level of protection you should choose.
Avast Mobile Security review: Costs and what’s covered
URL protection: Yes
PUA and malware scanning: Yes
Ad blocking: No
Remote data wipe: Yes
SIM card lock: No
VPN/Unlimited use: Yes with Ultimate version
Lost phone locator: Yes
PW manager: No
Wi-Fi Scanner: Yes
Call blocking: No
Text blocking: No
Guest mode: No
App advisor for app stores: No
App locking: Yes
Photo vault for sensitive images: Yes*
Compatibility: Android version/Chromebooks/WearOS Version 5+/N/N
Free version/Cost: Yes/Premium: $12 per year/Ultimate: $24
(*up to 10 images for free version; unlimited for paid versions)
Avast Mobile Security comes in three flavors that suit different tastes and budgets. It starts with the free app that you pay for by watching ads. In addition to malware scanning, Mobile Security Free adds luxuries like Avast’s Photo Vault but only holds 10 images. It also has Hack Alerts to see if your email address or passwords have shown up online and the Malware Force Uninstaller can remove pesky unwanted apps.
The first step up is Avast’s Mobile Security Premium for $12, which is a bargain compared to the likes of Malwarebytes’ premium plan. It adds the ability to lock apps, a bottomless Photo Vault for storing encrypted images as well as scam protection that alerts you to dangerous texts, emails and messaging apps. Its anti-theft provisions include the ability to locate a lost or stolen phone.
At the top of Avast’s Android offerings is Mobile Security Ultimate, which adds unlimited access to the company’s SecureLine VPN. On its own, SecureLine VPN costs $90, making Ultimate’s price of $24 a year a bargain.
There’s another entry point to Avast security that might provide better value for large families. The $90 Avast Premium Security package includes protection for 10 PCs, Macs, iOS systems as well as the Premium Android version.
Regardless of which version you get, Avast Mobile Security runs on Android version 5 or higher, but lacks WearOS watch or Chromebook support; only Avast’s browser-based Web Shield works with Chromebooks. The company’s Security & Privacy app for iPhones and iPads includes Network Inspector, Web Shield and Identity Protection. Its Photo Vault can hold 40 images but because of Apple’s restrictions, there’s no malware scanning.
Avast Mobile Security review: Malware protection
Avast Mobile Security Free compares favorably to competing products, with one exception. Unlike Lookout’s free version, Avast Mobile Security Free is ad sponsored and annoying. Still, it provides a good assortment of defenses for absolutely nothing.
All Avast Mobile Security apps include the company’s Web Shield URL protection that uses a site’s reputation to signal a threat. Recent updates have sped it up so that you likely won’t notice any slowdown. The Web Shield plug-in works with the Avast Secure Browser, Microsoft Edge and Opera as well as Firefox and UC Browser which were added recently. It lacks the ability to block ads but caught the three malicious sites I tried to load.
The app scans a device’s apps and files for signs of an existing infection. Just tap the large Scan button on the interface’s main page and it goes through the system, including any installed microSD cards. Plus, its Smart Scan and App Shield can help keep Potentially Unwanted Apps (PUAs) off your devices. Avast also has a way to remove malware that exploits accessibility permissions called Malware Force Uninstaller.
Avast Mobile Security review: Malware detection
With perfect scores for two AV-Test reports in a row, Avast Mobile Security is among the most effective at spotting and stopping malware. In the most recent January 2022 survey, Mobile Security not only achieved the top score in attacks (using 2,895 samples) but in the widespread category (with 2,964 samples) as well.
It didn’t deliver any false positives, putting Avast Mobile Security on par with Bitdefender Mobile Security and Norton 360: Mobile Security and no annoying misidentifications of safe software as dangerous. Both are in a different league compared to Google Play Protect which scored 80.7 percent on new malware and 90.0 percent on older more widespread attacks back in January.
When it came to the most recent tests by AV Comparatives, Avast Mobile Security scored 99.6 percent with a single false positive. This is down slightly from its 99.9 percent showing in the previous survey. It was roughly halfway between Bitdefender’s perfect 100 percent score (with no false positives) and Malwarebytes at 98.1 percent (with one false positive). Still, all offered more protection compared to Google Play Protect: 81.7 percent success rate and 12 false positives.
This only tells part of the story though as Lookout, McAfee and Norton did not participate in either third-party malware evaluation.
Avast Mobile Security review: Security features and tools
Avast Mobile Security Free continues to be one of the most thorough free Android security packages with full scanning and a bunch of extras, like App Lock. The paid version yields excellent Scam Protection but it doesn’t have an ad blocker.
Its Anti-Theft feature can be triggered after a set number of incorrect PIN entries. The device can be locked, located on a map and the phone can sound an annoying alarm. If the phone is not retrievable, its data can be wiped remotely.
Many of these features require using an Avast Account, but one of my favorite features is being discontinued with the next update: the Camera Trap, which remotely snaps a selfie shot of a thief from the phone, will be removed.
While Mobile Security Free has discontinued its call blocker and lacks a guest mode, you can lock any app. The Mobile Security trio continue to include Network Inspector which warns against unsafe Wi-Fi networks.
Its Web Shield and Scam Protection can help with online hygiene, although using the Ultimate version’s VPN can fill in the gaps. Avast SecureLine VPN requires a separate installation and hasn’t been fully integrated into the Mobile Security app yet.
It's active in 34 countries and has 16 servers in the U.S. but only two south of the border (Mexico and Brazil). The VPN can also make a device appear in any of these places to stream geo-blocked content. A recent addition adds the ability to use an Avast account and a paid subscription to stream content securely to an Android smart TV, Nvidia Shield TV or a Xiaomi Mi Box TV.
Using a Galaxy Note 20, it took less than 2 seconds to connect to a local server (oddly named Gotham City). I downloaded at the rate of 165Mbps from my 200Mbps connection, making it one of the most efficient VPNs around.
While the free version of Mobile Security includes Photo Vault, it’s restricted to only 10 photos. The paid version offers unlimited encrypted storage locally with no online option.
There are some useful App Insights optimization tools available that range from freeing up storage to getting rid of junk files to looking at which app is using the most resources.
It took a single tap to get started and the app found 463MB of wasted space in a minute and removed it all with another tap.
Avast Mobile Security review: System impact
To gauge how much performance the app and its scanning engine use, I set up a series of tests running Android 12. With the phone plugged in and before Avast’s Mobile Security was loaded, I ran the GeekBench 5 Compute benchmark to provide a performance baseline of 3,677.
After loading Mobile Security, the benchmark fell to 3,558 and lowered performance potential by 3.2 percent. This is on a par with Norton 360: Mobile Security’s 3.3 percent decline and nearly double the effect that Google Play Protect (1.8 percent) or McAfee Mobile Security (1.8 percent) had.
Avast has one of the most efficient scanners around. While running a scan, the GeekBench 5 Compute benchmark score went down a further 0.4 percent for a Regular Scan and 0.7 percent for a Deep Scan, showing a miniscule performance loss. Only Google Protect’s 0.3 percent drop was better.
A Regular scan took 31.4 seconds and looked at 679 files and 480 apps. That’s on par with Bitdefender Mobile Security’s 26.9 seconds but well behind Google Play Protect’s 5.2 seconds or McAfee Mobile Security’s 8.2 seconds.
Avast Mobile Security review: Setup and support
Avast has streamlined its installation process since our last review. The 22.2MB setup starts with a slideshow of major features that can be skipped and lets you choose between the free and paid versions which can be paid for with a credit card, PayPal or gift card.
The app then activated itself. From start to finish, it took 5 minutes to get the app and install it.
A major upside of Avast Mobile Security is that it doesn’t require creating an account. You will need one to use some features, like Anti-Theft.
If you’re in a bind, Avast’s tech support desk can be called, emailed or reached by using the chat window 24/7. There’s a link from the app to the support desk but the online support pages don’t have a specific link for the Android app.
Avast Mobile Security review: Interface
Other than a new logo, there have been few design changes to Avast Mobile Security. The interface only runs in portrait mode and the main page has a large Scan button and several sub-apps. In addition to making better use of your phone’s memory you can also clean up junk files, check internet speeds and launch the VPN.
The Scan spot is generally green, but if the app finds anything amiss, an ominous red bar will appear at the top of the page.
There’s access to the Network Inspector to check out local Wi-Fi networks and advise which are potentially dangerous. If you’re traveling, it can be set to automatically scan and evaluate all public Wi-Fi networks.
Those who opt for the Ultimate package get Avast SecureLine VPN. If you dig a bit, you’ll find the VPN servers which can also be assigned automatically.
Further down, you can run a speed test and set up hack alerts to see if your email address or passwords have leaked online. There’s also a place to set up Scam Protection for warning about dangerous emails, text messages and messaging app notes.
There’s a helpful side menu that lists Avast Mobile Security’s features and provides access to the recently added dark mode.
While the Free version of Mobile Security doesn’t allow scan scheduling, both the Premium and Ultimate packages do.
It’s easy to schedule scans to run daily or weekly but there’s no monthly option.
Avast Mobile Security review: Bottom line
With the choice of a free ad-supported version as well as upgraded mobile security apps, Avast has something for everyone. It offers good malware protection and very low overhead scanning but can be slow to scan a phone. While Bitdefender Mobile Security offers better protection, Avast Mobile Security has a place for those who are also looking for a VPN in addition to a mobile antivirus.
Brian Nadel is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in technology reporting and reviewing. He works out of the suburban New York City area and has covered topics from nuclear power plants and Wi-Fi routers to cars and tablets. The former editor-in-chief of Mobile Computing and Communications, Nadel is the recipient of the TransPacific Writing Award.
My comment concerns only the paid Ultimate version. Avast was good to me, combining everything I had previously paid for ongoing lesser subscriptions for different devices into one credit for an Ultimate subscription covering 10 devices. It was a deal as my wife and I now have a single plan for two computers, two tablets, and two cell phone which will last for over two years. Also, when the PC version of Avast wouldn't start on my computer recently, Avast tech support did a good job of getting it running again, explaining the likely reason that it broke and remedying the problem. In two years, things may be different, but I'm happy with Avast for now.Reply