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The best Android antivirus apps in 2021

Best Android antivirus
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you're an Android user, you need to have one of the best Android antivirus apps installed to protect your phone or tablet from corrupted apps and other kinds of malware.

However, your choices are far from limited. The best Android antivirus apps offer not only top-notch malware detection and prevention, but a range of privacy and anti-theft features. Most have a free tier, and some are entirely free.

Some of the best Android antivirus apps will 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.

We've rounded up the biggest names in mobile antivirus protection — Avast, Bitdefender, Kaspersky, Lookout, McAfee, Norton and 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 on their ability to detect malware and other threats. We also used the Geekbench 4 app to measure the impact these apps have on overall Android 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 and a wide range of features. 

Norton Mobile Security (starting at $15 per year) has even better protection. Sadly for us, Norton has discontinued the excellent free tier of Norton Mobile Security and its anti-theft features, so you'll have to pay something to get any protection.

Latest Android alerts and threats

— Google has deleted 151 scam Android apps, but 10 million people will have to remove them manually.

— New Android malware roots phones using five known security flaws, using apps that seem to work fine.

— Several apps found in the Google Play Store were found to be harboring the Joker malware.

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. Yet there's little third-party lab-test data on Lookout's antivirus efficiency, so 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. You should rely on something else.

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

The best Android antivirus app you can get

Best Android antivirus: Bitdefender Mobile Security

Bitdefender Mobile Security (Image credit: Bitdefender)

1. Bitdefender Mobile Security

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)

2. Norton Mobile Security

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)

3. Avast Mobile Security

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)

4. Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus

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)

5. Lookout Security & Antivirus

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)

6. McAfee Mobile Security

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, 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)

7. Google Play Protect

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

Ideally, to keep your Android device safe, you should keep its software updated. Each 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, some Android phone models stop getting Android OS upgrades after two years, and a few 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 device 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 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 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.

Paul Wagenseil

Paul Wagenseil is a senior editor at Tom's Guide focused on security and privacy. He has also been a dishwasher, fry cook, long-haul driver, code monkey and video editor. He's been rooting around in the information-security space for more than 15 years at FoxNews.com, SecurityNewsDaily, TechNewsDaily and Tom's Guide, has presented talks at the ShmooCon, DerbyCon and BSides Las Vegas hacker conferences, shown up in random TV news spots and even moderated a panel discussion at the CEDIA home-technology conference. You can follow his rants on Twitter at @snd_wagenseil.