5 Best Android Antiviruses [2020]: Security for Phones & Tablets

Scott Jackson
Published on: June 6, 2020
5 Best Android Antiviruses [2020]: Security for Phones & Tablets

Short on time? Here’s the best antivirus app for Android in 2020:

I downloaded, installed, and tested 37 of the best Android antivirus apps in the Google Play Store to find the best protection for both my smartphone and my tablet.

I learned very quickly that most of Google Play’s antivirus apps are really bad — the vast majority of them will not fully protect against cyber attacks. And even some “reputable” cybersecurity brands fail to offer decent levels of protection against most malware.

Fortunately, there are also some really good internet security applications in the Google Play Store that offer a broad range of features, including virus scanning, real-time protection, and mobile browser security. There are also many antiviruses which come with extra cybersecurity features like a password manager, parental controls, and a virtual private network (VPN).

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.

Here’s a summary of the best Android antivirus apps:


🥇1. Norton Mobile Security — Best Overall Protection for Android Phones + Tablets

🥇1. Norton Mobile Security — Best Overall Protection for Android Phones + Tablets

When I first started looking into Norton Mobile Security, I got a little overwhelmed by all the things it offers. Some of the features that caught my eye:

  • Complete malware protection. Highly reactive virus detection engine which guarantees protection from all viruses, spyware, ransomware, and cyber attacks.
  • App advisor. Scanning function which analyzes Google Play Store apps for privacy and malware concerns.
  • Surveillance app protection. Behavioral sensor which sends a notification if any apps are trying to access device location or other sensitive information.
  • Wi-Fi security. Network guard which stops hackers who are using the same Wi-Fi network from spying on browsing activity and stealing data.

I downloaded the app onto both of my test devices — an LG smartphone and a Samsung tablet.

The first thing I did was test the anti-malware engine. Norton detected 100% of the malicious apps that I’d purposely downloaded onto both devices. These perfect detection rates are identical to the ones found during our full Norton review.

I really liked App Advisor — it gave me a warning against downloading apps which I knew were malicious. The web security features were also particularly effective, blocking all of the known phishing sites that I tried to access on both the default Android browser and the Google Chrome app.

Norton offers a range of separate free mobile security apps for Android, including App Lock, Norton Password Manager, and a device optimization tool. Although I really like each individual app, I would prefer it if Norton combined all these tools into one easy-to-use app.

There’s also a VPN app, but this requires a separate subscription. If you need protection for PC, Mac, or iOS and want to access the Secure VPN, parental controls, and cloud storage, Norton 360 Deluxe is a much better value for the money (and includes the Android app in the package). However, if you only need Android antivirus protection, Norton’s Mobile Security app protects up to 3 devices for 1 year, and it will definitely keep your Android safe.

Download Norton Mobile Security

🥈2. McAfee Mobile Security — Best Anti-Theft Tools for Lost or Stolen Devices

🥈2. McAfee Mobile Security — Best Anti-Theft Tools for Lost or Stolen Devices

McAfee’s Mobile Security app has powerful anti-theft tools — some of the best I’ve seen on any Android antivirus.

I downloaded the app, created a McAfee account, and visited my online dashboard where I activated the anti-theft features. I could now:

  • Accurately locate my device.
  • Sound an alarm to help me find my device.
  • Remotely wipe all the data.
  • Send an “If found, please return to..” message to appear on my smartphone’s lock screen.
  • Take a picture from my Android’s camera to identify a potential thief who’s got my phone.

Overall, McAfee’s mobile anti-theft tools are pretty advanced while also being easy-to-use. I liked how I could send a message to my lock screen, so if my device was lost and someone found it, they’d know how to get in touch with me.

The malware scanner performed really well when I tested it — detecting and removing 99% of the malware samples and malicious apps I purposely installed on my smartphone (similar results as our full McAfee review). I also liked McAfee’s performance optimization tools, as they saved me around 3 GB of storage space on my LG test phone which was clogged up with unused junk files. While the optimization features are decent, I think other mobile antiviruses like TotalAV (#5) do it better.

The one thing I don’t like about McAfee’s Android app is the additional cost of upgrading to get the integrated Safe Connect VPN. I just don’t think it’s worth it. NordVPN is cheaper and offers a lot more.

While there may be better mobile VPNs out there, McAfee has a broad range of anti-theft features and essential protections to secure Android devices. It’s got a 30-day money-back guarantee, so there’s no risk in trying it out and seeing how well it works for you.

Download McAfee Mobile Security

🥉3. Avira Mobile Security — Best Privacy Protection (with Free Features)

🥉3. Avira Mobile Security — Best Privacy Protection (with Free Features)

Avira has been one of the most consistent brands in the cybersecurity world for decades, so it’s little surprise that they’ve made it onto this list.

My favorite thing about Avira’s Android app is its extensive range of mobile security features — most of which are 100% free. I found everything super easy to use and set up, and seconds after installation, I was protected.

The free features include:

  • Cloud-based scanning. Database files are hosted on Avira’s cloud server, so there’s no slowdown in device performance during system scanning.
  • Privacy advisor. Apps that can share browsing data, access the camera, or otherwise compromise cybersecurity are closely inspected.
  • Identity protection. If email accounts have been breached, you’ll get a notification telling you about the problem.
  • Phantom VPN. 500 MB of free VPN data per month for private browsing and unblocking geo-restricted streaming content.

The free VPN is okay in terms of speed, but 500 MB per month is just enough for me to check my emails and do some light browsing. The unlimited VPN can be purchased in-app, but again, NordVPN is better. If you’re really looking for an Android antivirus with an unlimited VPN, Norton 360 is a much better choice.

That said, the other free features are good and pretty easy to use. Avira’s Mobile Security Pro includes camera and microphone protection — blocking unauthorized access to the camera and mic. I ran a known camera network hacking protocol from my computer over my Wi-Fi network, and Avira stopped the attack dead in its tracks.

While I would like to see Avira offer phishing protection for free, the price of their Pro version is quite low. 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.

Download Avira Mobile Security

4. Bitdefender Mobile Security — Best for Simple + Powerful Malware Protection

Bitdefender Mobile Security — Best for Simple + Powerful Malware Protection

Bitdefender’s machine learning and cloud-based scanning engine is phenomenal — it instantly detected and blocked 100% of the malware test samples on both my phone and my tablet. It was by far the most responsive Android antivirus app in terms of threat detection, and only Norton Mobile Security matched Bitdefender’s perfect detection rate.

Aside from flawless malware protection, Bitdefender’s Android app also includes:

  • Autopilot. Continuously scans devices and usage habits for anything suspicious.
  • Account privacy. Checks to see if online account credentials have been leaked in a data breach.
  • App lock. Option to lock all apps — social media, banking, messaging, etc. — behind a secure PIN code.
  • Integrated VPN. Offers decent speeds and 200 MB of free data per day.

Bitdefender’s free VPN offers twice as much free data as Avira’s VPN, and it’s decent in terms of speed. There is an option to unlock the premium VPN, but again, NordVPN is better.

My only real issue with Bitdefender is that the app would unexpectedly crash sometimes when I was using it — which was annoying. That said, the company pushes out updates constantly, and it only crashed on my phone and not my tablet, so this isn’t likely to be a big issue for most people.

If you also need protection for other devices — Windows, Mac, or iOS — it’s a much better deal to get a 30-day free trial of the Total Protection package which includes premium protection on 10 devices (including Android). But if you’re only looking to secure one Android device, Bitdefender Mobile Security is a good choice.

Download Bitdefender Mobile Security

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

TotalAV — Best Device Optimization Tools for Old or Slow Androids

Other apps in my list offer device cleaning and optimization tools, but I think TotalAV does it the best.

I 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 processing power by identifying and deleting CPU-draining apps with the Manage Apps feature.

TotalAV includes a decent range of security features:

  • Antivirus scanning engine.
  • Real-time malware protection.
  • Integrated VPN.

The antivirus scanner and real-time protection performed well in my tests, detecting all-but-one of the malware samples on my device. This near-perfect result is consistent with our in-depth TotalAV review.

The Safe Browsing VPN worked pretty fast for me, and it let me choose from a wide range of server locations around the world. Again, the cost of upgrading the VPN is pretty expensive — while I like the VPN, it’s nowhere near as good as… yep, NordVPN.

TotalAV’s mobile app only comes included in TotalAV’s premium packages for 3-6 devices (PC, Mac, and iOS, too) but you can download a free version of the app — which is not good enough — and upgrade via the app’s interface. That said, I had trouble with the payment portal on the app on both of my devices, and I needed to sign up on the website.

It might not have the best malware scanner on the list, but if you’re looking to speed up your device with a powerful set of device optimization tools, you should 100% take advantage of TotalAV’s 30-day money-back guarantee and try it out.

Download TotalAV

Android Antivirus Real-time Protection? Phishing Protection? Malware Detection Rate Standout Features
1.🥇Norton Mobile Security Yes Yes 100% Wi-Fi security, Google Play Store app analyzer, behavioral app scans
2.🥈McAfee Mobile Security Yes No 99% Anti-theft functions like remote data wiping and photo capturing, performance optimizer,
3.🥉Avira Mobile Security Yes Yes 100% Many free features, included VPN
4. Bitdefender Mobile Security Yes Yes 100% Streamlined malware scanning engine
5. TotalAV Yes (not on free plan) No 99% Powerful performance optimization

Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut:

  • BullGuard. BullGuard offers especially great antivirus protection for PC gamers. Their Android app also has comprehensive mobile security features, too, but it’s just a bit too expensive when compared on its own to other Android apps that offer similar features.
  • Sophos. Sophos offers decent antivirus tools for many users. And while the Sophos antivirus app is pretty good in terms of features, I found the user experience to be a bit difficult and not intuitive like all the other apps on my list.
  • Avast/AVG. Avast (which also owns AVG) has been caught in a scandal where they stand accused of 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.

What I Looked For in the Best Android Antivirus Apps of 2020:

In line with our testing methods, here are the things I looked for while ranking these antivirus apps:

  • 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 were 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:

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

You likely keep all kinds of personal information on your Android device — photos, messages, work documents, app usage data, browsing history, contact and location information, social media passwords, and credit card numbers. With hackers hiding behind every nook and cranny of the internet, your unsecured Android is a prime target for cyber crime.

But now that you know you need an antivirus, you need to choose between potentially losing all of your data or spending a few bucks a month to build yourself an iron fortress of cybersecurity. There are many good Android antivirus apps out there, and all of them will offer you strong protection against malware.

🤔 Which Android antivirus is the best?

It depends on what you need.

My favorite is Norton’s Mobile Security app — including real-time scanning, Wi-Fi network scanning, and an app advisor which analyzes Android apps for security risks. If you need to also protect another device like a PC or Mac, Norton’s 360 Deluxe package is a much better deal.

  • If you’re looking for a security app that comes with dynamic anti-theft features, try McAfee Mobile Security.
  • If you aren’t protecting anything sensitive and only need a free Android antivirus, you could get Avira Mobile Security.
  • If you don’t want anything fancy — just a simple antivirus which is super easy to use — I’d recommend Bitdefender Mobile Security.
  • If you need to clean and optimize an old or slow Android device, TotalAV is probably your best bet.

Luckily, all of the products on this list have a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try all of them and see which one is best for you.

🤔 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 affect performance.  

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

The other antiviruses on this list — Norton, McAfee, and Bitdefender — also won’t slow down your system, and they all will radically improve your device’s functionality.

🤔 What’s the best free Android antivirus app?

Avira Mobile Security is the best Android antivirus for its free features, but you’re not going to be fully protected against all malware.

You still won’t get:

  • Phishing protection.
  • Camera and microphone blocking.
  • A good VPN.

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 smartest to buy a low-cost premium option like Norton Mobile Security than trying to pick and choose individual features from various free plans.

About the Author

Scott Jackson
Scott Jackson
Internet security researcher

About the Author

Scott Jackson is an internet security researcher who has spent the last two decades working as an IT technician, programmer, and cybersecurity consultant with more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies. He spends his time researching hacking trends and helping make sure that people stay safe on the internet.
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