With smartphones and tablets becoming more powerful and more popular each day, 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, so we share our pick of the best here.
If you're looking for antivirus for your PC, visit best antivirus 2018.
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.
If you still need persuading, another reason you might opt to install an antivirus app on Android is that your phone likely isn't as up to date in terms of security patches as you think. Security Research Labs has published the results of an in-depth study in which it claims several big-name vendors are guilty of saying they've rolled out important patches when they haven't.
The worst offenders on its list are Alps, TCL, Oppo and ZTE, which it says have missed four or more critical and high severity patches on the claimed patch date. With two to four misses are HTC, BlackBerry, Asus, Fairphone, LG, Huawei and Lenovo. With one or two are OnePlus, Wiko, Xiaomi, Nokia, Motorola and Honor. Those in the good books with either zero or just one missed patch are Google, ZUK, LeEco, Samsung, Sony and BQ.
BitDefender Mobile Security
Available with a 14 day free trial, Bitdefender Mobile Security managed an almost perfect score in both real-time malware and discovery of malware on Android platforms during AV-Tests January 2018 test.
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 (find out more in our article: What is a VPN?)
However, you won't be able to block calls, backup data or have any parental controls.
Bitdefender is our pick of the best Windows antivirus, too.
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 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 protect your tablet, too, even if it's an iPad.
Also scoring 100% in AV-Test's report is PSafe. Unlike other products in this round-up, PSafe only makes security software for mobile, so you'll be getting a tool designed exclusively with smartphone security in mind.
It's free to download, and you'll get anti-hacking, app lock, performance boosters and other features in addition to the antivirus protection. The free version is ad supported, though. If you want to remove the ads, you'll need to pay $4.99 per month (around £3.60), reduced to $1.99 per month if you commit to a year. (around £1.40)
There's also the option of the ad-free version of PSafe that comes with a VPN for $12.99 per month (around £9.30) or $4.99 (£3.60) per month if you opt for a year.
Avast Mobile Security
Avast's Mobile Security app for Android is completely free, but that hasn't stopped it from scoring very well in AV-Test's latest report. It detected 99.9% of the latest Android malware in real-time, and 100% of the latest Android malware discovered in the last 4 weeks.
Additional features include app locking, call blocking, app permissions and a firewall, so you'll stay safe from malware, viruses and spying eyes.
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 99.6% 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 for the whole package.