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.
AVG’s free antivirus app offers a lot of great features that other apps charge for, like a virtual private network (VPN) so you can surf the web securely and anonymously. It also has a Secure Search function that acts like your own personal internet security detail, checking out each site you visit for suspicious code before letting you access it. Secure Search also gets rid of any cookies or data you might have picked up along the way, giving you a safe browsing experience.
We liked the app’s simple, easy-to-use interface with straightforward options like “Clean Junk” and “Check Speed”—though if you want to clean junk off your device, you’ll have to install the free AVG Cleaner app. We didn’t like the lengthy system scans that took more than a minute to complete, but they did their job well and didn’t disrupt the use of other apps. AVG Antivirus FREE includes a 15-day free trial of AVG Pro, which gives you added security options. You’ll have the option to upgrade to Pro with an in-app purchase after the 15 days are up, but at around $25, it costs nearly twice as much as similar paid antivirus apps for Android.
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 That’s Worth a Look
ESET Mobile Security & Antivirus
ESET offers 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
Kaspersky is 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.
Avast Mobile Security
Like its sister program AVG, Avast offers a lot of great features, including a VPN, call blocking, and the ability to remotely disable your device if it gets lost or stolen. Unfortunately, we found that unlike AVG, Avast’s anti-theft functions worked inconsistently. Also, virus scans ran a little bit slower than we’d like—each took 45 seconds to a full minute—but we do like that you can schedule scans. We found that having the app installed and working in the background didn’t affect phone performance, but scanning put a bit of a drag on device operations. Avast’s strongest feature is its Privacy Advisor tool, which will check your apps’ permissions and show you which ones might be pushing the privacy boundaries. From there, you can decide whether to change permissions or delete intrusive apps.
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 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.
Written by Kasey Tross
Kasey Tross is a stay-at-home mom with four energetic kids, and she's married to a security expert, so safety is a top priority in the Tross home. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, hiking, playing the flute, helping out at church, and eating far more chocolate than she should. Learn more