Short on time? Here’s the best free Android antivirus in 2021:
I tested all of the free antivirus apps in the Google Play Store — after weeks of testing, I only found a few products which I’m confident can keep Androids well-protected against malware.
Most of the free Android antivirus apps I tested were ineffective against malware, filled with annoying ads, or falsely advertised as free — a lot of “free” apps are really just free trials or very limited versions of the premium apps. Some were even fake apps designed to harvest user data!
While I did find a few good free apps, no free app is going to provide all of the security tools you need to keep your Android 100% safe. If you’re looking for an antivirus that can fully protect you and your devices, you’ll need a premium product (I recommend Norton’s fantastic Android app).
But if you only need basic protection, there are a few free Android antivirus apps that are pretty good — offering free real-time or on-demand virus scanning, free anti-theft protections, and a handful of good extra features to strengthen your Android’s mobile security.
Here’s a summary of the best free Android antivirus apps in 2021:
- 1.🥇 Avira — Best free Android antivirus in 2021.
- 2.🥈 McAfee — Excellent antivirus with anti-theft features and a Wi-Fi scanner.
- 3.🥉 BullGuard — Cloud-based antivirus with a privacy monitor and anti-theft.
- 4. Panda Dome — Good malware scanner with Android smartwatch compatibility.
- 5. Kaspersky — Intuitive app with a good scanner (but no real-time protection).
- Bonus. Traced — Privacy-focused app with a good Wi-Fi network scanner.
- Frequently Asked Questions about Antivirus Apps for Android.
How I Rated the Best Free Antivirus Apps for Android:
- 100% free. Many antivirus companies try to trick users with a free trial. Users get comfortable using the app and then forget that they need to cancel before the trial is over, so they end up paying. If you know you’re going to buy a mobile antivirus from a reputable company, a free trial is a great way to test out the service before you buy it. Otherwise, it’s just a marketing tactic to get you to download the app and hope that you forget to cancel before the trial period is over. All of my top 5 free antiviruses here are actually free.
- Security. I downloaded hundreds of Android-specific malware files, sketchy apps, and even ransomware files to ensure that the antivirus apps I recommend are able to detect and remove all types of malware. I also tested internet security features like anti-phishing protection and Wi-Fi scanners to ensure these products can keep Androids safe from the latest web-based threats.
- Performance. Nothing is worse than a security app that drains your battery and kills your Android’s performance. I made sure all of the apps I recommend can increase your security without crashing your phone or tablet.
- Ease of use. I tested each feature to ensure that these apps make their features easy to access and understand for all users. All of the apps on this list also provide good integration with Android OS and Chrome OS.
Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut:
There are many antivirus apps for Android that didn’t make it into my top 5. Here are a few well-known brands you may have been expecting to see on this list:
- Norton. Norton’s Android antivirus is one of the best and most affordable options out there. But Norton doesn’t offer a free plan. Still, if you want premium protection for your mobile phone or tablet, it doesn’t get better than Norton.
- TotalAV. TotalAV offers a good set of free features for Android, but it lacks real-time malware protection. However, TotalAV’s paid Android antivirus includes some pretty good features, including real-time protection, app locking, and a secure VPN.
- Bitdefender. I really love Bitdefender’s full-scale antivirus suite, but its free Android app is only a simple antivirus scanner. While it’s really easy to use, it’s just not better than the rest of the products on this list.
- Avast/AVG. There are a few review sites that are still recommending Avast and AVG, but SafetyDetectives is not one of them. While Avast and AVG maintain a widespread web presence, they were implicated in some pretty serious privacy violations. You can go here to read more about the full story of how they were secretly selling user data.
🥇1. Avira Antivirus Security for Android — Best Free Antivirus for Android in 2021
Avira Antivirus Security for Android is my top free Android antivirus in 2021 — it has an excellent virus detection and removal engine along with a wide range of additional security features, all inside an intuitive dashboard.
During my tests, I tried to download a huge range of Android malware samples to my Samsung Galaxy S20 — including viruses, trojans, and spyware. All of the malware files were detected, blocked, and removed from my phone — and because Avira’s scanner is cloud-based, there was very little strain on my battery life or system resources.
In addition to real-time malware protection, Avira’s free Android app provides far more features than any other competitor, including:
- Anti-theft protection.
- App privacy scanner.
- VPN (100 MB daily limit).
- App lock.
- Data breach scanner.
- Wi-Fi scanner.
- Device optimizer.
Avira’s anti-theft features are really useful — after logging into Avira’s online dashboard, I was able to track my phone’s location in real time while my partner took it for a drive around our neighborhood. I was also able to trigger a very loud alarm.
Avira’s privacy scanner is really good, too. It analyzed all of the apps on my device and notified me which ones had access to my contacts, images, and browsing data. I was pretty surprised to find some free games on my device were actually harvesting my data even when I wasn’t playing them!
Avira’s free plan is by far the best on the market, but it does have some limitations — like most free Android antiviruses, it doesn’t provide anti-phishing protection. To get anti-phishing protection as well as microphone and camera protection, you need to upgrade to Avira Antivirus Security Pro for Android. There’s also Avira Prime Mobile, which adds a secure password manager and a VPN with unlimited browsing data. Avira’s premium mobile protections are also all bundled with the excellent Avira Prime antivirus package, which offers coverage for up to 5 devices, including Android, Windows, macOS, and iOS.
Avira provides the most features of any free Android antivirus — and they’re all very good, easy to use, and work as promised. Avira’s antivirus scanner detected all of the malware samples in my testing, and its anti-theft protections, app privacy scanner, and Wi-Fi scanner are all really good internet security tools. I like Avira’s VPN a lot, but 100 MB is a pretty small daily limit. In addition to these free tools, Avira’s paid mobile plans also add anti-phishing protection, a VPN with no limitations, and even a password manager. Avira’s paid plans all have a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
🥈2. McAfee Mobile Security Free — Excellent Antivirus Protection with the Best Android Theft Protection
McAfee Mobile Security Free offers some great free features — but I particularly love McAfee’s theft protection tools. McAfee’s anti-theft features can be accessed from McAfee’s convenient online dashboard — if your phone gets lost or stolen, McAfee provides the following tools:
- CaptureCam — After 3 failed PIN codes, CaptureCam takes a selfie from the front-facing camera.
- Alarm — If you lose your device, you can trigger a very loud alarm via your online dashboard.
- Remote wiping — If your device gets stolen, you can remotely delete your sensitive data.
- GPS location — If you can’t find your device, you can see it on a map with the device’s GPS.
McAfee’s free antivirus app also includes a good array of additional features, including real-time malware protection, Wi-Fi network scanning, device optimization tools, and an app privacy scanner that’s similar to Avira’s. I was impressed with all of McAfee’s features, although during my tests McAfee missed one spyware app that Avira detected.
McAfee’s free Android plan is pretty good, but it lacks some of the important features that are included in McAfee’s paid plans — McAfee Mobile Security Standard adds anti-phishing protection, app locking tools, and file backup tools. And McAfee Mobile Security Plus also has a VPN (no limits) and an advanced ad-blocker.
While McAfee’s paid Android plans are a bit more expensive than some competitors’ premium apps, if you bundle the Android antivirus app with one of McAfee’s 2-year Total Protection plans (up to 10 devices across all operating systems), it’s one of the best-value antivirus packages of 2021.
McAfee’s free antivirus app provides real-time malware scanning, Wi-Fi network monitoring, app privacy reports, and the best anti-theft features on the market. The remote alarm and automatic selfie capture feature are super easy to access, customize, and use from McAfee’s online dashboard. McAfee’s free app isn’t bad, but it doesn’t provide access to some important features — including anti-phishing or a VPN, both of which come with McAfee’s premium Android antivirus app. All McAfee paid plans have a 30-day money-back guarantee.
🥉3. BullGuard Mobile Security & Antivirus Free — Good Cloud-Based Antivirus Protection
BullGuard Mobile Security & Antivirus Free provides low-impact cloud-based antivirus scanning as well as good anti-theft features. In my testing, BullGuard was able to block the vast majority of malware I tried to download onto my Samsung Galaxy, including viruses, spyware, adware, and trackware files. And because BullGuard’s scanner fully operates in the cloud, BullGuard didn’t drain my phone’s battery like most other products did.
BullGuard’s anti-theft tools are pretty good, too. You can lock, wipe, and locate your device, as well as trigger a loud scream from BullGuard’s online dashboard. However, the device locator wasn’t as accurate as Avira’s, and BullGuard’s scream feature wasn’t nearly as loud or scary as McAfee’s.
BullGuard’s free app also offers automatic device locking if your SIM card is removed, as well as Wi-Fi network scanning and data backup options.
BullGuard’s Premium Mobile Security software also provides strong parental controls — allowing parents to remotely monitor photos that are sent and received, show which apps each child has downloaded, and track device location. Users can also separately purchase BullGuard’s VPN.
BullGuard’s free Android antivirus is a good app — it’s got cloud-based virus scanning, decent anti-theft features, and a Wi-Fi scanner. BullGuard detected almost every single piece of malware on my device, including spyware and data-stealing apps. BullGuard’s premium Android antivirus adds some pretty good parental controls. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee on BullGuard’s paid plans.
4. Panda Dome Free Antivirus for Android — Good Antivirus Scanning with Great Smartwatch Compatibility
Panda Dome Free Antivirus for Android offers decent antivirus protection, anti-theft features, an app privacy scanner, and a VPN — and most of these features can be operated remotely from an Android Wear smartwatch!
Panda’s real-time scanner didn’t block as many malware files as Avira or McAfee, but it did detect most malware samples, including all ransomware and spyware — and I got notifications on my smartwatch every time Panda detected a new piece of malware.
Panda also includes anti-theft features like remote location tracking, data wipe, and device locking. However, its remote selfie cam and alarm features are only available in the paid version of Panda Dome for Android.
Panda Dome also comes with a free VPN, but it only includes 150 MB per day, which is barely enough for light browsing. To get the unlimited version of the VPN, you need to upgrade to Panda’s comprehensive Panda Dome Premium antivirus suite.
Panda;s free Android antivirus app provides real-time malware scanning, anti-theft tools, and convenient compatibility with Android smartwatches. I liked being able to perform malware scans, wipe data remotely, and even track my device’s location from my smartwatch. However, you’ll have to upgrade to Panda’s paid Android plan to get remote selfie capture and alarm tools, along with a spam blocker and app locking tools. Users looking to get a VPN with unlimited data should consider the Panda Dome Premium antivirus package.
5. Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus Free — Easy to Use with Decent On-Demand Virus Scanning
Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus Free is a decent free internet security app for Android users — and because it only provides a couple of free features, it’s very easy to use. You only need to enable a couple of permissions when you install the app and press the Scan button when you want to check your device for viruses.
Kaspersky also has free anti-theft protection — which includes remote data wipe, app locking, and a selfie capture function like McAfee’s CaptureCam. Kaspersky also offers a remote alarm to help locate your device and discourage thieves, and the “Find My Phone” feature locks your phone and allows you to check its location on the Kaspersky website, your smartwatch, or the Kaspersky desktop app.
Kaspersky even offers the ability to initiate scans from a smartwatch, which is pretty cool — but its smartwatch integration isn’t as good as Panda Dome’s.
Kaspersky’s real-time protection, anti-phishing and web-filter functions, and app locking tools are only available to premium customers.
Kaspersky offers decent free malware detection and anti-theft protections, but not much else. Unlike the other apps on this list, Kaspersky’s free plan doesn’t have real-time malware scanning — this essential feature is reserved for paying users, which also get access to good web protection and app locking.
Bonus. Traced — Privacy-Oriented App with Good Network Monitoring
Traced is a completely free internet security app for Android — it provides good malicious app detection, advanced network monitoring features, anti-phishing protection, and an intuitive app privacy scanner.
Most antiviruses collect scan data (and even browsing data sometimes) for security purposes, so privacy-minded users will appreciate that Traced doesn’t gather any user data while it’s running. In fact, unlike most of the apps on this list, Traced doesn’t ask for Accessibility or Location permissions, which I really appreciate (the less my apps know about me, the better).
Traced uses machine learning to detect malicious apps without excessively draining battery life — it blocked all of the ransomware and cryptojacking apps in my testing, but it missed a small percentage of the spyware apps on my device.
Traced also provides one of the most helpful Wi-Fi network monitoring features of any Android app. Every time you connect to a Wi-Fi network, you receive a detailed report about each network’s security profile, along with instructions on whether or not you should connect to that network.
Traced lacks helpful features like anti-theft protection, a VPN, or parental controls, but it provides good internet security for Android devices (without tracking user data), and it’s completely free (and it doesn’t contain ads).
Traced is a completely free Android antivirus app with a strong focus on user privacy. It comes with good app scanning and anti-phishing, its Wi-Fi monitor provides excellent network protection, and it doesn’t collect any user data.
Frequently Asked Questions — Android Antiviruses
Are antivirus apps safe?
The ones on this list are all safe. But it’s important to know that scanning for malware requires deep-level access to the most sensitive parts of your device. Malicious antivirus apps can easily compromise your privacy and security and steal your info.
I’ve thoroughly tested these apps, and they’re all legitimate, safe, and work exactly as promised. Each app comes from a brand with a strong reputation for creating excellent cybersecurity products. My top pick, Avira Free Antivirus Security for Android, is produced by a company with millions of users worldwide and decades of experience in the cybersecurity industry.
Why does Android need an antivirus?
Your Android phone or tablet probably contains sensitive data like personal information, banking information, social media, personal pictures and files, etc. It’s also a relatively expensive item, thus attracting thieves.
And when compared to other platforms like iOS, Android isn’t all that secure of an operating system. Android OS is notable for having tons of indie developers, coders, and modders around the globe. Unfortunately, this also makes Android a playground for hackers.
Ransomware, spyware, cryptojacking software, surveillance apps, and other malware compromise Android users every single day. Android users also face risks from phishing sites, smishing links, and even pickpockets.
To keep your device safe from all of these threats, you need to have a good Android antivirus with real-time protection, web protection, anti-theft tools, and other additional features. My favorite Android antivirus is Norton, but it’s not free. If you want a free antivirus, go with Avira.
What kind of features can you get with an Android antivirus app?
In addition to detecting and removing malware, a free Android antivirus app can:
- Keep your personal information private (I recommend Avira Free Antivirus Security for Android).
- Prevent loss or theft of your device (McAfee Mobile Security has some particularly effective anti-theft tools).
- Ensure you’re connected to a secure Wi-Fi network (McAfee can also do this).
Most antivirus apps also offer additional paid premium features, and for every free app out there, there are dozens more premium apps. If your phone contains sensitive info that you don’t want getting out, it’s always better to go with a low-cost premium option like Norton.