Android users who want to (and really should) keep their phones secure got a bit of a bonus today (Jan. 28), as antivirus maker Avast removed premium pricing from Avast Mobile Security and made all of the app's features free.
Avast Mobile Security has been our Editor's Choice among Android antivirus apps for the past two years, but until today, users had to pay $2 per month, or $20 per year, to access all its features.
Those premium features include a privacy advisor that checks apps for leakage of personal data, and an "app lock" that prevents use of designated apps without a PIN. Both are now free. But other features, such as an on-device firewall and a network usage meter, have been discontinued. (In an FAQ on its website, Avast said the firewall worked only on rooted devices, and the network meter was rarely used.)
In our most recent review of Avast Mobile Security, we wrote that the app offered "an unparalleled level of user control, excellent malware protection and a truly staggering number of anti-theft and privacy-protection features." Unlike most Android security-app makers, Avast has specialized features for rooted Android phones, such as a lost-or-stolen device tracker that will survive a factory reset.
However, we also noted that Avast's security solutions were unusually modular and complex, and that's still the case. Avast Mobile Security primarily protects against malware infection; a separate app, Avast Anti-Theft handles the securing and retrieval of lost or stolen phones. A third app, Avast Mobile Backup, used to automatically back up devices; it has disappeared from Google Play, and we've asked Avast representatives what happened to it. (Update: Avast Mobile Backup has been discontinued.)
Also available to Android users are Avast Battery Saver, Avast Cleanup & Boost, the password manager Avast Passwords, Avast Ransomware Removal, which removes certain kinds of Android ransomware, and Avast Wi-Fi Finder, which locates reasonably safe open networks. (A similar app for iPhones is called Avast SecureMe.)
Like Avast Avast Mobile Security and Avast Anti-Theft, all are completely free and can be installed and used individually, yet integrate well with each other. But if you're not an Android power user, the sheer number of options and configurations might be overwhelming.
The only paid mobile offering the company retains is Avast SecureLine, a virtual-private-network (VPN) client app that can be tried out for a 7-day free trial. After that, it's $2.59 per month, or $20 per year, for each mobile device (including iOS ones). SecureLine is also available for Windows PCs and Macs, but that'll cost $80 per year (currently discounted to $60) for each computer.
Customers who'd paid for the premium version of Avast Mobile Security will receive a compensatory subscription to SecureLine for Android for the length of their remaining Avast Mobile Security premium subscription.