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5 Best Android Antiviruses 2021: Security for Phones & Tablets

Ben Martens Ben Martens
Updated on: December 1, 2021
5 Best Android Antiviruses 2021: Security for Phones & Tablets

Short on time? Here’s the best antivirus app for Android in 2021:

  • 🥇BullGuard: Advanced malware protection, Wi-Fi monitoring, anti-theft protection, parental controls, and VPN (separate purchase). Download the mobile app here.

I downloaded, installed, and tested all of the most popular Android antivirus apps in the Google Play Store to find the best protection for both my smartphone and my tablet. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that most Android antivirus apps are really bad — failing to detect sophisticated or new malware, significantly reducing battery life, or even harvesting user data for advertisers.

But, there are also some really good internet security apps in the Google Play Store that offer a broad range of useful features, such as:

  • Real-time malware protection.
  • Anti-phishing & web attack protection.
  • Virtual private network (VPN).
  • Anti-theft protection.
  • Parental controls.

After weeks of testing, I’m confident in saying that these 5 apps are the best of the best, and they can be downloaded and installed onto almost all Android smartphones and tablets (Chromebook users can look here for my favorite Chromebook-compatible apps in the Google Play Store).

Quick summary of the best Android antivirus apps in 2021:

  • 1.🥇 BullGuard — Best Android antivirus of 2021.
  • 2.🥈 Bitdefender — Best for lightweight scanning (with an excellent VPN).
  • 3.🥉 Norton — Best for additional internet security protections.
  • 4. McAfee — Best for anti-theft tools.
  • 5. TotalAV — Best for device optimization.
  • Bonus: Avira — Good privacy protection.

1. 🥇 BullGuard — #1 Overall Pick for Best Android Antivirus of 2021

1. 🥇 <a href="https://www.safetydetectives.com/go/vendor/android/663/?post_id=9433&alooma_btn_name=Affiliate+Link+-+890434" title="BullGuard" rel="sponsored noopener norefferer" target="_blank" data-btn-name="Affiliate Link - 890434" data-btn-indexed="1">BullGuard</a> — #1 Overall Pick for Best Android Antivirus of 2021

BullGuard Mobile Security is my favorite Android antivirus — and almost all of its security features are completely free. BullGuard provides an excellent malware scanner, comprehensive anti-theft tools, really good Wi-Fi network monitoring, and advanced parental controls (premium only).

During my tests, I ran BullGuard’s malware scanner against a wide range of Android malware files, including viruses, worms, spyware, and ransomware. BullGuard’s malware scanner removed 100% of the malware files from my Android device after a scan that took just a couple of minutes. BullGuard was installed on my phone for more than a week, and during all that time, it ran quietly in the background without draining my battery or slowing down my device.

BullGuard’s anti-theft protections are some of the best on the market, providing remote data wipe, location tracking, and a very loud alarm. I was able to easily access all of these features using BullGuard’s online dashboard — and I was particularly impressed with the location tracker, which pinpointed my phone with about 30 feet of accuracy!

I also really like BullGuard’s premium parental controls — allowing me to easily limit my daughter’s device usage, filter her browsing, and even get alerts when her device leaves a safe location.

BullGuard Mobile Security is available as a free download (but the parental controls are only available for paid users). BullGuard’s premium mobile app is also bundled with the Internet Security and Premium Protection plans, which offer coverage for 3-10 PCs, Androids, or Macs. BullGuard also offers a separate VPN app, which includes 256-bit AES encryption, a built-in kill switch, a zero-logs policy, covers up to 6 devices, and works with popular streaming sites.

Bottom Line:

BullGuard Mobile Security is an excellent internet security app for Android that offers real-time malware protection, advanced anti-theft tools, and Wi-Fi network monitoring — for free. In my tests, BullGuard’s cloud-based malware scanner blocked and removed all of the malware from my Android phone, and it barely affected my phone’s performance and battery life. You can get the excellent parental controls as part of BullGuard’s premium plan, and you can also buy BullGuard’s VPN as a separate purchase. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee on all of BullGuard’s paid plans.

Try BullGuard Now

Read the full BullGuard review here >

2.🥈 Bitdefender — Lightweight Malware Scanner with a Fast VPN

2.🥈 <a href="https://www.safetydetectives.com/go/vendor/android/192/?post_id=9433&alooma_btn_name=Affiliate+Link+-+890441" title="Bitdefender" rel="sponsored noopener norefferer" target="_blank" data-btn-name="Affiliate Link - 890441" data-btn-indexed="1">Bitdefender</a> — Lightweight Malware Scanner with a Fast VPN

Bitdefender Mobile Security provides a lightweight antivirus app for Androids with tons of helpful features. Bitdefender’s cloud-based scanning engine uses machine learning to detect the latest malware threats — when I tested the scanner, it removed all of the malware from my phone and tablet in just a few minutes. And the real-time protection blocked every piece of malware I tried downloading to my devices.

Bitdefender also comes with really good anti-phishing protection. It was able to detect a handful of phishing sites that browsers like Chrome and Firefox failed to flag in my testing. Bitdefender’s anti-phishing protection is also more accurate than most competitors, including TotalAV.

One of my favorite things about Bitdefender’s Android app is the VPN. During my tests, I was able to stream HD video with no interruptions when I was connected to a local server in the US, and I experienced only minor lag when I connected to a distant server in Europe.

While the free version of the VPN only offers 200 MB of daily data, and automatically selects the closest server to you, upgrading to Bitdefender’s paid VPN gives you unlimited data and access to 30 servers around the world. Unfortunately, Bitdefender’s VPN was unable to access popular streaming sites like Netflix in my testing — if you’re looking for a VPN that works with Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and other streaming platforms, take a look at ExpressVPN.

Bitdefender Mobile Security also comes with good anti-theft features, an app lock, and data breach scanning, and it’s a good choice for users that just need protection for one Android device. If you’re looking for PC, Mac, or iOS coverage as well, Bitdefender’s Total Security package covers up to 5 devices.

Bottom Line:

Bitdefender Mobile Security provides lightweight and effective antivirus protection for Androids, along with some great extra features. Bitdefender’s malware scanner scored 100% in my device scanning and real-time protection testing. I also really like Bitdefender’s VPN, which provides 200 MB of daily data usage (however, most users will need to upgrade to the paid VPN, which provides unlimited data). You can buy Bitdefender as a standalone Android app, or get it as part of the Bitdefender Total Security bundle. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee on all of Bitdefender’s subscriptions.

Try Bitdefender Now

Read the full Bitdefender review here >

🥇3. Norton — Excellent Antivirus Protection with Tons of Extra Features

🥇3. <a href="https://www.safetydetectives.com/go/vendor/android/210/?post_id=9433&alooma_btn_name=Affiliate+Link+-+890447" title="Norton" rel="sponsored noopener norefferer" target="_blank" data-btn-name="Affiliate Link - 890447" data-btn-indexed="1">Norton</a> — Excellent Antivirus Protection with Tons of Extra Features

Norton Mobile Security is a comprehensive internet security app with a reliable anti-malware scanner and a lot of additional features. Norton’s virus scanner detected and blocked all of the malware on my Android phone without slowing down my device.

In addition to malware scanning, Norton also includes more security features than almost any competitor. Norton has:

  • App advisor.
  • Anti-phishing protection.
  • Wi-Fi monitoring.
  • Identity theft protection (US only).
  • VPN.

I really like Norton’s app advisor feature that scans apps in the Google Play Store and warns you about malicious apps before you download them to your Android device. Norton’s anti-phishing protection is also very good — it blocked the vast majority of the phishing and risky sites I tried opening, including some very sketchy shopping sites.

US users will also appreciate Norton’s built-in identity theft monitor, which can track a wide variety of personally identifying information (PII) — such as emails, social security numbers, credit card numbers, ID numbers, and addresses.

The only thing I don’t like about Norton’s Android app is the VPN. It significantly slowed down my internet connection, which wasn’t a big problem when I was just browsing the internet, but the slow speed made it impossible for me to stream video content. Plus, I was really disappointed that Norton’s VPN wasn’t able to access streaming services during my tests.

Norton Mobile Security covers one Android device, but if you also need protection for PC, Mac, or iOS, then Norton’s premium bundles are a great option.

Bottom Line:

Norton Mobile Security is a reliable Android antivirus with tons of additional security features. Its antivirus scanner is one of the best on the market, detecting 100% of the malware during testing. I’m also a big fan of Norton’s anti-phishing protection and US-only identity theft monitor, but I don’t like Norton’s VPN. Norton 360 is available for mobile users as a standalone app or bundled with Norton’s desktop antivirus packages, and there’s a generous 60-day money-back guarantee on all of Norton’s plans.

Try Norton Now

Read the full Norton review here >

4. McAfee — Best Anti-Theft Tools for Lost or Stolen Devices

4. <a href="https://www.safetydetectives.com/go/vendor/android/203/?post_id=9433&alooma_btn_name=Affiliate+Link+-+890453" title="McAfee" rel="sponsored noopener norefferer" target="_blank" data-btn-name="Affiliate Link - 890453" data-btn-indexed="1">McAfee</a> — Best Anti-Theft Tools for Lost or Stolen Devices

McAfee Mobile Security provides excellent malware protection, along with some of the best anti-theft features on the market today. McAfee’s scanner was able to detect all of the malware files I downloaded to my Android tablet, but the scanning process affected my battery life much more than BullGuard or Bitdefender.

McAfee’s free Android app offers a Wi-Fi network scanner and device clean-up tools. It also includes an excellent anti-theft suite that can:

  • Locate lost devices with GPS tracking.
  • Trigger a very loud (and scary) alarm.
  • Remotely wipe all the data.
  • Send an “If found, please return to …” message to a phone’s lock screen.
  • Automatically photograph any user that fails to enter your device’s PIN.

I found McAfee’s anti-theft tools to be extremely easy to use — once I had set up my device, I could access all of McAfee’s anti-theft features from a secure web dashboard.

McAfee Mobile Security is a good option for users looking to protect only their Android device, but if you want coverage for 5, 10, or unlimited devices across all operating systems, I recommend you take a look at McAfee’s low-cost internet security suites.

Bottom Line:

McAfee is a secure antivirus app for Android with an excellent set of anti-theft protections. McAfee’s malware scanner is excellent at detecting and removing malware, the anti-theft protections let you remotely track your phone as well as wipe all data and even take a picture of the thief. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee on all of McAfee’s plans.

Try McAfee Now

Read the full McAfee review here >

5. TotalAV — Best Device Optimization for Old or Slow Androids

5. <a href="https://www.safetydetectives.com/go/vendor/android/318/?post_id=9433&alooma_btn_name=Affiliate+Link+-+890459" title="TotalAV" rel="sponsored noopener norefferer" target="_blank" data-btn-name="Affiliate Link - 890459" data-btn-indexed="1">TotalAV</a> — Best Device Optimization for Old or Slow Androids

TotalAV’s Android antivirus provides secure anti-malware protection, good additional features, and excellent device optimization tools. TotalAV detected 99% of the spyware, ransomware, viruses, and worms on my Android device during testing, but the real-time scanner did affect my phone’s battery.

TotalAV’s device optimization tools scanned my tablet for duplicates, junk, and cache files — the app cleaned up over 5 GB of much-needed disk drive space. It also helped me significantly speed up my processing power by identifying and deleting CPU-draining apps.

TotalAV includes a few more decent security features:

  • VPN.
  • Anti-phishing protection.
  • Secure browser.
  • App locker.
  • Data breach monitoring.

TotalAV’s VPN provides access to almost 100 servers around the world, but it’s not as fast as standalone competitors like ExpressVPN or CyberGhost VPN. However, the anti-phishing protection and secure browser (which uses DuckDuckGo’s secure search technology) are helpful and intuitive additions to TotalAV’s security protections.

TotalAV Mobile Security is available as a standalone purchase, or bundled with any of TotalAV’s internet security suites, which provide excellent antivirus protection for PC, Mac, Android, and iOS.

Bottom Line:

TotalAV for Android has good anti-malware protection and excellent device optimization tools. TotalAV’s antivirus scanner detected all of the malware in my testing, but the real-time protection drained my battery. TotalAV’s device cleanup tools removed 5GB of junk files from my devices, improving their speed and performance. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee on all of TotalAV’s plans.

Try TotalAV Now

Read the full TotalAV review here >

Bonus: Avira — Good Privacy Protection

Bonus: <a href="https://www.safetydetectives.com/go/vendor/android/191/?post_id=9433&alooma_btn_name=Affiliate+Link+-+890465" title="Avira" rel="sponsored noopener norefferer" target="_blank" data-btn-name="Affiliate Link - 890465" data-btn-indexed="1">Avira</a> — Good Privacy Protection

Avira Antivirus Security for Android provides a fast cloud-based malware scanner alongside a vast array of features for Android users. Avira’s malware scanner detected all of the malware files in my testing, but I was a bit disappointed with how quickly it drained my battery during scans.

Here are Avira’s additional features:

  • Anti-phishing protections.
  • Breach monitoring.
  • VPN.
  • Microphone and camera monitor.
  • System tune-up tools.

All of Avira’s security features are well-designed, but the app is a little bit pricey compared to the other competitors on this list. However, Avira’s free mobile app includes a lot of the features listed here, which is why it’s my number 1 free Android app for 2021.

If you’re looking for cross-platform protection for a lot of different devices (including Android, PC, Mac, & iOS), the Avira Prime package covers up to 5 devices.

Bottom Line:

Avira Antivirus Security for Android is a full-featured antivirus app for Androids, with more features than most competing brands. Avira detected the majority of the malware in my testing, and its anti-phishing protection, system tune-up tools, and VPN are all good. Avira also offers an excellent free Android security app, and there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee on all of its paid plans.

Try Avira Now

Read the full Avira review here >

Android Antivirus Malware Detection Rate VPN Free Version Money-back Guarantee
1.🥇BullGuard 100% No (available as a separate app) Yes 30 days
2.🥈Bitdefender 100% Yes (200 MB/day; upgrade available) Yes 30 days
3.🥉Norton 100% Yes (unlimited browsing data) No 60 days
4. McAfee 100% Yes (unlimited browsing data) Yes 30 days
5. TotalAV 99% Yes (unlimited browsing data) Yes 30 days
Bonus. Avira 100% Yes (100 MB/day; upgrade available) Yes 30 days

Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut:

  • Kaspersky. Kaspersky’s Android app provides comprehensive security features, but it’s more expensive than other Android apps that offer similar features.
  • Sophos. Sophos offers decent antivirus tools for many users. And while the Sophos Android app is pretty good in terms of features, the interface isn’t as intuitive and easy to use as the other apps on this list.
  • Avast/AVG. Avast (which also owns AVG) has been caught stealing and selling user data. We don’t recommend Avast/AVG on this website anymore. You can read more about the allegations and our decision here.

How I Rated the Best Android Antivirus Apps of 2021

  • Malware detection. The Google Play Store is littered with apps containing data-stealing malware. I tested each app here to ensure it protected against a wide range of threats — including ransomware, spyware, viruses, and other malware.
  • Internet security. I tested all of these antivirus apps with various web-based attacks to ensure their internet security protections were up to date.
  • Ease of use. I checked that each of these apps was easy to set up and use, with intuitive settings and accessible extra features.
  • Features. Beyond virus scanning and protection, I made sure the apps listed here included necessary features to protect against all forms of malware — things like a VPN, Wi-Fi protections, and device optimization tools.
  • Value. I looked at the cost of each product and compared it with its included security features to find which apps offered the best value.

Do I need an antivirus on my Android?

Yes! And now that you know you need one, it’s important to understand why you need an antivirus on your Android. Hackers specifically target Android devices for two reasons:

  • Android’s built-in security is not nearly as good as iOS’s.
  • Android users think they can “get by” without downloading an antivirus.

Android’s open-source, developer-friendly design makes it an exciting platform for both creative coders and malicious hackers. Ransomware, spyware, and crypto-mining attacks have all affected millions of Android users in the last few years, which has resulted in millions of dollars lost, hundreds of thousands of identities stolen, and a shocking amount of computing power given away to hackers.

But now that you know you need an antivirus, you need to choose between potentially losing all of your data or getting a secure antivirus app. My top choice is BullGuard, but all of the apps on this list offer excellent protection for Android devices.

Which Android antivirus is the best?

It depends on what you need. My favorite is Bullguard’s Android app — including real-time scanning, Wi-Fi network scanning, and an optional secure VPN that can increase browsing privacy.

But all of the other Android antiviruses on this list are good, too. McAfee has excellent anti-theft features, Bitdefender offers a really good VPN, Norton comes with a ton of internet security features, and TotalAV has great device optimization tools and is very easy to use.

Will an Android antivirus slow down my device?

It depends on the app. While some are more lightweight than others, all 5 on this list are highly efficient and won’t significantly affect performance.

If you’re running a slow or old Android, TotalAV might help you clean it up and make it run faster. And Bitdefender’s antivirus engine is based on the cloud, so it doesn’t occupy any device CPU during scanning.

What’s the best free Android antivirus app?

Avira Antivirus Security for Android is the best free Android antivirus, but it won’t fully protect you against all malware.

You won’t get:

  • Phishing protection.
  • Camera and microphone protection.
  • A good VPN.
  • A password manager.

There are a few other free Android antivirus apps out there, but they’re all missing essential features, too. Buying all of the necessary protections individually will get expensive, especially when many cybersecurity companies lock their VPNs behind a really expensive paid subscription plan.

It’s always smarter to buy a low-cost premium option like BullGuard or Bitdefender than trying to pick and choose individual features from various free plans.

About the Author

Ben Martens
Ben Martens
Senior Editor
Updated on: December 1, 2021

About the Author

Ben Martens is a cybersecurity journalist with a background in internet ethics, malware testing, and public policy. He resides in Oregon, and when he's not advocating for the rights of internet users, he's walking with his dog and inventing stories with his daughter.