Here’s a fact most antivirus companies don’t want to tell you:
- Virus scanning isn’t actually possible on iOS.
Apple banned developers from publishing apps that claim to scan your iPhone for malware. This is because iPhone apps are “sandboxed”, meaning they can’t access data from other apps (with very limited exceptions).
BUT… When most experts say “antivirus” for iOS, they mean protection against other dangerous threats that require you to install an antivirus app like:
- Malicious mobile websites can trick you into giving your personal information to criminals.
- Unsafe networks.
- All the data on your iPhone can be hacked if you connect to an unsecured, public Wi-Fi network.
- Loss and theft.
- Phone theft is a huge problem, and iPhones are the most commonly stolen phones in the world.
So iPhone and iOS “antivirus” apps don’t really detect “viruses”, but iOS “viruses” will still hack your passwords and steal your identity. That’s why it’s essential to have an antivirus to protect against all of these other cybersecurity threats.
But in testing these iOS antivirus apps, I needed to be careful. There are hundreds of fake antivirus apps out there which are only designed to steal my iPhone’s information. That’s why I needed to be 100% sure I found only the best and safest antivirus app to download on all of my iOS devices.
Short on time? Here’s a summary of the best free iOS antivirus apps 2020:
- Avira Mobile Security: #1 recommended antivirus app for all iOS devices in 2020. Trusted antivirus brand, anti-theft feature, amazing phishing protection, and a performance optimizer.
- McAfee Mobile Security: Best anti-theft features out there, including CaptureCam to take a picture of the thief and restore/backup/wipe feature to keep your data safe.
- Phone Guardian: Privacy VPN for safe browsing, also includes app data collection analyzer.
- Lookout Personal for iOS: Features like Lost Message and Theft Alerts to find and protect against lost and stolen phones.
- Avast Secure & Photo Vault: Secure storage in case of theft.
It’s important to keep in mind that none of these free apps will guarantee your protection the way that paid iOS antivirus apps will. If you’re looking for advanced antivirus protection for iOS and you understand that your data and your privacy are worth more than 2-3 dollars per month, check out Norton’s fantastic iOS app.
I tested every iOS app out there and came up with the 5 best free antivirus apps that will offer your iPhone and iPad a pretty good level of protection for absolutely no money.
If you still have questions about iPhone and iOS antivirus apps, read the FAQ at the bottom of this article.
How I Ranked the Best Free iOS Antivirus Apps:
Here are the qualities I expect from an iPhone antivirus app before it can earn a place in my top 5:
- 100% Free. I recommend 100% free apps — not only a free trial.
- Guaranteed security. I tested each iOS antivirus app out there and determined whether or not it could actually keep my device safe. Many of the antivirus apps I tried actually caused security holes that left my devices more vulnerable than when I started. But these top 5 are the most secure of the bunch.
- Usefulness. Apple already provides some great security features with iOS. Each app here provides something extra — or at least an improvement on Apple’s default security features.
- Efficiency. Many antivirus apps are buggy or slow down your iOS device. I stress-tested each app and considered how much impact each one of their features had on my device’s system.
Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut:
- Norton. I don’t want to mislead you: Norton’s iOS app is great, but it isn’t free. They have Wi-Fi security protection, web protection, and device performance tools. Still, if you’re looking for guaranteed protection, it’s the best iOS antivirus app there is.
- Kaspersky. They are clearly one of the best antiviruses out there in the market, but they’re convinced that iOS doesn’t need a traditional antivirus. They’re not “wrong”, but they just haven’t put in the time to develop other necessary security features like phishing protection or a password manager.
- AVG. Some people like their iOS app. But it isn’t free. And I don’t think the paid version is any better than any of the paid versions here.
1. Avira Mobile Security — Best for Extra Features
Avira Mobile Security provides a great range of features — in fact, it offers more features than any other free antivirus app for iPhone or iPad.
I use my iPhone for shopping and banking all the time, so it’s important to make sure that I’m not visiting phishing websites which are designed to steal my personal information. I tried going to several known phishing sites and Avira Mobile Security’s Web Protection feature prevented me from visiting all of these fake websites.
Avira’s free iPhone app also includes access to an online dashboard — Avira Connect. If my phone ever gets lost or stolen, I can log into Avira Connect from another device to use Avira’s anti-theft tools. I tested this integration with my computer, and I was able to do a lot of different things from this dashboard like track my phone and send out an alert, and also download other free apps from Avira.
Avira Mobile Security also offers:
- Device Analyzer — Helps free up space to improve its performance.
- Contacts Backup — Emails you a copy of your contacts so you can still access them even if you lose your phone.
- Identity Safeguard — Checks if your email address (or the email address of any of your contacts) has been stolen in a data breach.
- Call Blocker — Lets you blacklist unwanted callers and prevent them from contacting you.
It’s also worth checking out a couple of Avira’s other free iPhone cybersecurity apps, including:
- Avira Phantom VPN — Keeps your data safe on public Wi-Fi networks, with up to 500 MB of data for free.
- Avira Password Manager — Keeps your account details organized and secure.
And Avira’s premium antivirus is one of the best antiviruses on the market, including professional protection for iOS (and 4 other devices on the same plan). Take a look at the full, in-depth Avira review over here. And there’s a great deal going on now with this 40% off Avira discount!
What I Like:
- Excellent protection against phishing.
- Powerful tools to help find lost or stolen iPhone.
- Very generous range of free features.
What I Don’t Like:
- You need to download additional apps to access Avira’s other free cybersecurity products.
- Some users report software bugs such as difficulty logging in.
Avira Mobile Security’s wide range of features make it the most versatile free antivirus app on iPhone. Its anti-phishing technology is particularly impressive. Combining Avira Mobile Security with Avira’s other free apps, including Avira Phantom VPN and Avira Password Manager, will give you the ultimate range of free security and optimization features.
2. McAfee Mobile Security — Best for Theft Protection
McAfee is a household name in the antivirus world, and just like their premium antivirus, their free iOS app is very high quality. McAfee Mobile Security includes 2 phone location features to help you find your lost or stolen iPhone. I was able to access both of these by logging into my free McAfee account on another device (including my Apple Watch!).
I tried the Remote Alarm with my iPhone on “silent” mode, and it made an incredibly loud noise. I also liked the Locate feature which showed me the current location of my iPhone on a map. These two things are nice to have, but these are already standard features on Apple’s default Find My iOS app.
I intentionally entered my PIN wrong three times on my iPad, and McAfee’s CaptureCam feature took a photo of me using the iPad’s front camera. McAfee then sent me an email of the picture along with the last known location of the device.
What’s even cooler is if someone does manage to break into your iPhone, the Media Vault feature provides an extra layer of protection for your photos and videos. Media Vault encrypts your device’s media and secures it behind an additional PIN. I set it up to automatically save new photos and videos to my Media Vault.
Finally, McAfee Mobile Security provides a 3-stage “Backup, Wipe, and Restore” process to make sure that my contact list remains private:
- Back up my contacts using McAfee’s cloud storage.
- Wipe my contacts via my McAfee account if someone steals my iPhone.
- Restore my contacts by installing the McAfee app on a new device.
What I Like:
- The best anti-theft features of any free iPhone antivirus app I tested.
- Includes a “Wi-Fi Scanner” to alert you when you connect to an unsecured network.
- Attractive and smooth-running user-interface.
- Ensures contact list remains private.
What I Don’t Like:
- Safe Web (phishing protection) and Safe Web VPN require a paid subscription.
- Free version contains ads.
McAfee Mobile Security’s anti-theft features are highly impressive. The app can locate your iPhone, protect your photos, and wipe your contact data. McAfee also ensures you’re always connected to a secure Wi-Fi network, so there’s little chance that anyone will be able to spy on you.
3. Phone Guardian — Best for Network Protection
I transmit sensitive, personal, and financial information via my iPhone every day. I check my bank account, I order food with my credit card, I send emails, I log into social media… My phone knows a lot about me. And this data is at risk unless I actively take steps to protect it. Phone Guardian focuses on protecting my outbound network traffic — the data leaving from my device.
Phone Guardian uses a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to ensure my phone is always connected to a secure network. The VPN also encrypts the data leaving my phone and reroutes my network traffic through a different, secure server. Even if someone does intercept my data, they won’t be able to read it.
Another Phone Guardian feature analyzes how my apps use my personal information. Phone Guardian tells me if an app is collecting my personal information and usage data for advertising purposes. I was shocked to see that certain apps I trusted were collecting my personal usage data, and I never would’ve know if this app didn’t tell me. But while this is a super cool feature, there is a little bit of a problem.
Because the app is free, Phone Guardian makes money by doing something similar: Collecting data about app usage and selling it for market research purposes. Privacy-conscious users should be aware of this — although the data that Phone Guardian collects is anonymized, so it won’t be sold to advertisers. This is an important distinction, but if you want a VPN that doesn’t do this, you’ll need to get a premium VPN.
What I Like:
- Unlimited, fast, and free VPN.
- Every feature available for free with no registration required.
- Fun and unique user-interface.
What I Don’t Like:
- No features except for network security and privacy.
- Some users may be concerned about Phone Guardian’s data collection practices, but it’s anonymous, so nothing is ever known about your identity.
Phone Guardian provides a fast and free VPN to keep your network traffic private. Using a VPN is important if you frequently connect to public Wi-Fi networks. Phone Guardian also helps you understand how data-hungry apps use your personal information. And while Phone Guardian also collects data from your device, it’s all anonymized, which is something that other free VPNs don’t do.
4. Lookout Personal for iOS — Best for Finding Lost iPhones
Lookout Personal for iOS offers some nice free phone-locating features that builds on Apple’s default Find My app. I tested the Locate feature by putting it in my friend’s car and having him drive really fast. I followed the phone’s exact location as I talked with him on the phone, and the map was 100% accurate. Then I tested the Scream feature (which I told him I would do), and it was so loud that it startled him!
Lookout’s Lost Message feature then sent out a message which had a short text on the lock screen with my contact details saying how I was looking for my phone. If my friend didn’t have it, a helpful stranger could’ve found it and returned it back to me.
These features are great, but what if your battery dies before you get a chance to use them? I purposely drained my battery and tested Lookout’s Signal Flare feature. It sent me an email telling me my phone’s last-known location.
Then there’s “Theft Alerts”, which is designed to detect suspicious activity on the phone. I entered my PIN incorrectly several times, tried turn off my phone, and then tried to remove the SIM card. Lookout took a photo from my front camera, and emailed it to me along with my phone’s last known location.
Note: You can choose which activities will trigger Theft Alerts — after all, you might not want to receive a Theft Alert every time you turn your phone off.
What I Like:
- Smart features such as Scream, Lost Message, and Signal Flare.
- Theft Alerts feature is highly customizable.
- Attractive and easy-to-use interface.
What I Don’t like:
- Many features are only for premium users.
- Apple Watch integration no longer supported, unlike McAfee.
Lookout Personal for iOS is a good choice if (like me) you frequently misplace your phone in public. In fact, I really think it’s the best iOS app for recovering lost iPhones and iPads — and the anti-theft features will also help if your phone gets stolen. But the theft protection is not as strong as others on this list like McAfee.
5. Avast Mobile Security for iOS — Best User-Interface
Avast’s iOS offering is pretty good overall, but I really like the Identity Guard feature, which will notify you if your personal information gets leaked online. While this is nice, it only protects 1 email address on the free plan, and regular premium antiviruses like McAfee and Norton do this better for cheaper.
But one thing I did appreciate was Avast’s Wi-Fi Security feature. This automatically checked all of my Wi-Fi connections for vulnerabilities. It told me about:
- Weak router and Wi-Fi passwords.
- Other router vulnerabilities, such as incorrect configuration or out-of-date software.
- Evidence that an unauthorized person had hijacked an unsecured Wi-Fi network.
This feature is important if you travel a lot like me and often connect to a lot of unknown Wi-Fi networks.
The app also includes a Photo Vault which gave me an extra layer of security to the media stored on my devices. I keep all of my galleries locked up behind an additional PIN (not the same PIN!), so even if someone does break into my iPhone or iPad, they won’t be able to view my photos and videos.
What I Like:
- Clean and lightweight user-interface which is really simple to use.
- Excellent Wi-Fi protection to help keep you safe from hackers.
- Identity Guard means you can act quickly if your personal information is leaked.
What I Don’t Like:
- Lots of ads.
- Photo Vault storage space is limited to 40 photos or videos for free users.
Avast Security & Photo Vault can help keep your personal information, network traffic, and private media safe. It’s a great choice if you’re looking for a decent free mobile security app that won’t slow down your device.
Antiviruses for iOS — Frequently Asked Questions
Apple says iOS is secure. Do I really need an antivirus for my iPhone?
Apple is right. And wrong. “Antivirus” is the wrong word to use because these apps are not really detecting viruses. But Apple’s built-in security measures can’t protect us from our own browsing habits. Phishing is a huge problem, theft is a huge problem, and browsing on unsecured networks is a huge problem.
For me, there’s really no reason not to install an antivirus apps on my iPhone. Not only are our iPhones valuable assets, they also contains some of our most sensitive personal information.
Will iPhone antivirus apps work on my iPad?
In most cases, yes. iOS apps will work for most iOS devices, including iPads. But still, you should check with each product to make sure that the app offers the protection you want. There may be certain features which will only work on iPhones.
What kind of antivirus features do I need to stay protected?
Again, “antivirus” is a weird word for Apple products. While the threat of a traditional virus is low, there are all sorts of other threats that will compromise your cybersecurity.
Avira Mobile Security offers the most generous range of free features, including phishing protection, data breach alerts, anti-theft tools, anti-spyware protection, and more. It’s definitely worth downloading from the App Store. Alternatively, for a great set of anti-theft features, you can also give McAfee Mobile Security a try.
If you really care about keeping your iPhone secure, check out SafetyDetectives’s best premium antivirus apps for iOS in 2020: