With smartphones and tablets becoming more popular and more powerful every week, it’s important to remember that, like PCs and laptops, it’s possible to come across viruses and malware on mobile devices. There are, however, antivirus apps available for Android to help make sure your phone or tablet doesn't get infected. Here, we share our pick of the best antivirus apps for Android.
Do you need Android antivirus?
Unlike Apple devices, which only allow downloads from the iOS App Store to protect users from bogus apps, Android will let you install APK files that could be infected with viruses and malware created by cyber criminals.
There is also less of an approval process for the Google Play Store, so dangerous apps can make their way onto the store from time-to-time. And even when they've been pulled from Google Play, they can reappear.
Phishing emails and dodgy ads are important to look out for too, so no matter what platform you are on, it’s good to have an antivirus program installed.
Security software test lab AV-Test has millions of different pieces of Android malware in its database - malware that is typically used to steal your valuable personal data from your phone without your knowledge.
In addition to the traditional protection offered by an antivirus app, you might find that the app you choose has features such as anti-theft to allow you to lock and/or wipe data from a stolen handset, or even take photos or audio recordings of the thieves.
Another useful feature commonly found in security apps for Android is call blocking. If your phone is constantly plagued by nuisance calls or spam texts, you might be able to block the callers so that they don’t interrupt your day.
Some apps include schedulers in their call-blocking facilities, so you can divert all calls from the office to voicemail at evenings and weekends, for example.
Some suites also include app managers that allow you to password protect access to the web browser - invaluable for parents who routinely hand their phone over to children to play games and worry that they might stumble onto something they shouldn’t, or run up horrendous bills by purchasing apps.
Less useful are backup facilities found in many of these suites. Some merely back up contracts, which is generally already supported when you sign in with your Google account on an Android or iOS device. Others offer a tiny amount of space for storing your photos and files.
So in answer to the original question, it's a good idea to get antivirus for your phone for all of the reasons listed above. There are plenty of options, and we've gathered the best here to help you choose one.
It's important to make sure you're getting an antivirus app you trust, such as those listed here, because recent tests carried out by AV-Comparatives found that less than a third of all Android antivirus apps actually work.
The site tested 250 apps and found that only 80 of them managed to detect at least 30% of malicious apps without any false alarms.
Best Android antivirus 2019
Bitdefender Mobile Security
Available with a 14 day free trial, Bitdefender Mobile Security managed a perfect score in both real-time malware and discovery of malware on Android platforms during AV-Test's January 2019 test.
It's also our pick of the best Windows antivirus, and if you sign up to the full package for your PC you'll be able to use it on your mobile device as well at no extra cost.
It has anti-theft features, works with wearable devices, gives you web security alongside a privacy advisor and most importantly has a very effective malware scanner. There is also a new VPN feature available.
However, you won't be able to block calls, backup data or have any parental controls.
Norton Mobile Security
A second option, also popular among PC users, is Norton Mobile Security. It scored 100% in AV-Tests latest report, and costs £9.99/$14.99 for the year.
You'll get your usual antivirus features as well as controls to safeguard your online privacy, lost or stolen device recovery and some backup capabilities.
You can share a single account with multiple devices to, too, even if they're not Android. Alternatively, signing up for the £29.99/$49.99 for the Deluxe version gets you access to Norton Security for five devices, adding PC and Mac into the mix.
Norton Security Deluxe is our second pick among all of the antivirus options available for Windows as well as mobile.
Sophos Mobile Security
A top scorer in AV-Test’s latest report, Sophos Mobile Security for Android is free, and includes antivirus features including app scanning, spam protection and privacy protection that can detect apps that are accessing personal data such as your address book.
Additionally, loss and theft protection features include remote locking and wiping your device, the ability to trigger a remote alarm and the ability to locate your device if you’ve lost it.
You can get Sophos Mobile Security for Android for free here.
Avast Mobile Security
Avast's Mobile Security app for Android is completely free, and managed perfect scores in the latest AV-Test.
Features include app locking, call blocking, app permissions and a firewall, so you'll stay safe from malware, viruses and spying eyes.
AVG Antivirus Free for Android
Similarly, AVG is a free option that managed a perfect score in the latest tests. AVG and Avast are owned by the same company so it's not surprising that they use the same tech in the background and therefore scored the same.
The downside here is that, if you want the additional features such as App Lock, Camera Trap, Device Lock and App Backup you'll need to get the Pro version after your 30 days free trial is over.
Kaspersky Internet Security for Android
Another option worth considering is Kaspersky, which offers great mobile antivirus too. It scored just below 100 percent in AV-Test, at 99.9% for real time detection and 100% for the latest Android malware discovered in the last 4 weeks.
It offers a huge range of features in addition to the antivirus itself, including has find my phone, anti-theft, anti-phishing, call blocker and a web filter too.
A free version is available with limited features, and the premium version is £9.99/$9.99 for the whole package.
Alternatively, the Total Security option for three devices is £34.99/$24.95 and includes your mobile devices plus your PC or Mac.
McAfee Mobile Security
McAfee’s Mobile Security app scored just shy of 100% in AV-Test’s latest report, making it a solid option if you’re looking for a free way to secure your Android device.
It includes the usual antivirus features such as protecting against viruses, spyware and malicious sites or apps, but also adds anti-theft features, performance boosting tools and a battery optimizer, and privacy tools that let you limit information apps are collecting from you.