If you’re like most people, your phone is like an extension of your brain, and getting an invasive virus on your Android device can feel almost as scary as getting one in your head. Antivirus software is kind of like a hazmat suit for your phone: it protects against malware and allows you to download new apps with confidence. Many antivirus apps can also help protect your privacy, find your phone if it gets lost, and keep your device safe from theft.
If you’re looking for a strong antivirus program but you don’t need extra features like anti-theft and call blocking, Bitdefender is a great choice. Bitdefender Free only scans for malware, but it uses the same tech as Bitdefender’s paid version, Mobile Security. Its reliance on cloud-based services means there’s little to no impact on your device during scans, but keep in mind that you’ll have to have a reliable, ongoing Wi-Fi connection for the antivirus to keep working in the background.
Because Bitdefender is so simple, there’s nothing to configure, so setup is a breeze. If you decide later on that you do want additional features, like anti-theft and real-time scanning as you browse, you can upgrade to Mobile Security. It runs about $15 a year, and Bitdefender offers a two-week free trial so you can try before you buy.
Top independent testing scores for protection and usability
Automatic virus scans on new apps
Minimal system impact
Same antivirus tech as paid version
Two-week free trial of paid version
Requires internet connection
Lacks anti-theft features
Norton Security & Antivirus Free: Best for Multiple Devices
Norton Security and Antivirus doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of other antivirus apps, but it may feel familiar—Norton Antivirus is a solid choice for PCs as well. (Read our Best Anti-Malware and Antivirus Software Guide to find out more about Norton Antivirus Basic and other top software to protect your PC.) But if you think Norton just reconfigured a PC antivirus program to work as an Android app, think again—Norton Security and Antivirus is designed to spot Android-specific threats and stop them in their tracks.
The app is easy to use and has clear menu selections and commands. Its malware detection is top-notch when it comes to anticipating threats. And unlike some antivirus programs that run silently in the background, if Norton detects an issue, it will alert you and let you decide how to proceed. The Premium version is only about $15 a year and will give you some additional features, like app locking and Wi-Fi scanning.
30-day free Premium trial
Android-specific malware protection
Ongoing security notifications
Antivirus protection across devices
No automatic scans in free version
Poor customer support
More Android Antivirus Options
ESET Mobile Security & Antivirus
ESEToffers fast virus scanning and a user-friendly interface. We like the color-coded push notifications that show priority at a glance: red for threat detection, yellow for a task to be completed, and green for all clear. While the free version doesn’t have as many security features as the paid version, it does give you access to an online web portal that shows the GPS coordinates of your device if it gets lost—even if it isn’t connected to the internet. We also like the ability to schedule scans for times when the device is connected to a charger. We weren’t able to find data on how ESET performed in real-world tests, but the app has a user rating of 4.7 out of 5 on Google Play, and ESET’s other products get high marks, so we think it’s a safe bet.
Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus
Kasperskyis another antivirus service with a solid reputation for malware protection—it received perfect scores from AV-TEST for protection and usability and has great user reviews. It has all the standard features of a good antivirus program, including anti-theft features, call blocking, and anti-phishing protection. Its main standout feature is its support for your Wear OS smartwatch. You can use your smartwatch to find your lost phone simply by saying “Find my phone.” You can also check the protection status of your device and run virus scans using your watch.
McAfee Mobile Security
Like Norton, McAfee is a veteran of antivirus software, and its Android app is another feather in its cap. Mobile Security has all the features of other top antivirus apps, along with a few unique features of its own, like Kids Mode and anti-theft uninstall protection. Kids Mode takes app locking a step further: it lets you set specific apps as safe for your kids to access and make others off-limits. It’s a great feature for anyone who wants to let their kids play on their phone without risking an unsupervised Amazon shopping spree or awkward Facebook posts. The anti-theft uninstall protection keeps a thief from being able to uninstall your phone’s antivirus and antitheft apps. It may also prevent your child from accidentally uninstalling the app. The only thing we don’t like is that the free app is ad-supported, and if you want to ditch the ads you’ll have to pay about $25 a year for the Premium version.
In December 2019, two browsers (Mozilla and Opera) removed Avast extensions from their stores due to data privacy concerns. We no longer stand by Avast’s services and have updated our recommendations to reflect this. Note that this also implicates Avast subsidiaries AVG Online Security and AVG SafePrice.
In the Google Play store, why does it look like all the antivirus apps for Android are free?
Most antivirus apps are free to download, but the version you download won’t be the one you keep unless you want to pay for it after the free trial is up. Free trials last between 14 and 30 days. Once the trial period ends, use in-app purchases to continue with the full-featured app. Otherwise, you’ll automatically revert to the stripped-down free version.
Do antivirus apps for Android phones also work on Android tablets?
Yes. Android antivirus apps are designed to provide antivirus protection for any Android device, but keep in mind that some security features may not work on tablets that don’t have SMS text messaging capabilities.
What is the difference between real-time protection and virus scanning?
If a virus is like a messy toddler, real-time protection is like following along behind the toddler, picking up and putting things away as they scatter, and stopping them before they make too big of a mess. Virus scanning, on the other hand, is like leaving the toddler alone in a room for a few minutes and then returning to clean up the aftermath. Real-time protection keeps you from downloading malicious apps and stumbling upon unsafe websites, but it can take more effort from your device and may interfere with your phone’s normal functions. If you don’t want that side effect, you can opt for scheduled scans, but these won’t give you the same level of continuous antivirus security.
What should I do if I lose my phone?
Once you’ve exhausted all normal methods of searching—calling your phone, searching where you last used it, etc.—it’s time to employ your anti-theft features. Log in to your mobile security web portal and use your phone’s GPS to locate the device. If you believe your phone has been stolen, you should immediately activate the app’s remote wiping and snapshot features to protect your data and get a photo of the thief. Then use the web portal to send a text message with instructions for returning the phone.
Besides installing antivirus apps for Android, what else can I do to secure my devices?
Use caution when installing apps on your phone. Not every app in the app store is trustworthy. Also, be sure to check an app’s permissions before installing it, and regularly audit your apps’ permissions to ensure your privacy. Many apps will ask for permissions they don’t need, and there’s no reason to make your phone unnecessarily vulnerable. As a bonus, eliminating some permissions may cause apps to use less battery life so your phone will stay charged longer. Check out our Best Identity Theft Protection Services Buyers Guide and The Best Password Manager for All Your Devices to learn more about products that can help protect your sensitive data.
How We Chose the Best Antivirus for Android
To determine the best antivirus service for Android devices, we studied the features of each antivirus app and read user reviews to learn more about how well each performs in real-world situations. We also checked test results from independent testing lab AV-TEST. Check out our methodology to learn more about how we evaluate and review products.
Kasey is a trained Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) member and a freelance writer with expertise in emergency preparedness and security. As the mother of four kids, including two teens, Kasey knows the safety concerns parents face as they raise tech-savvy kids in a connected world, and she loves to research the latest security options for her own family and for SafeWise readers. Learn more