Short on time? Here’s the best free Android antivirus in 2021:
- Bitdefender: Easy to use with simple, effective scans. Get the free download here.
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.
I was surprised to learn that most free Android antiviruses were either fake, ineffective, filled with ads, or not actually free. Aside from the risk of downloading random Android apps (something you shouldn’t do!), the biggest problem is that many cybersecurity companies only want to make money — they don’t want to give out something that works for free.
Free mobile antiviruses don’t usually have necessary features like real-time protection and malware removal — internet security companies always try to “trick” you into paying for the premium version to get access to these features. And while many of these premium apps are fairly inexpensive, I believe that Android users should still be protected when using free antivirus apps.
All that said, if you’re like me and you keep a lot of sensitive info on your Android phone or tablet — passwords, credit card info, etc. — you really should invest in a low-cost premium antivirus with mobile protection.
But if you only need basic protection, there are a few free Android antivirus apps which are pretty good — offering free real-time virus scanning, free theft protections, and a handful of free extras to strengthen your Android’s mobile security.
Here’s a summary of the best free antivirus Android apps in 2021:
- 1. Bitdefender: My #1 free antivirus for Android in 2021.
- 2. Avira: On-demand malware and virus scanning with a special focus on privacy protection.
- 3. ESET: Virus scans, GPS location feature, and anti-phishing protection.
- 4. McAfee: Excellent anti-theft features.
- 5. Kaspersky: Malware protection and anti-theft functions.
- Frequently asked questions about antivirus apps for Android.
How I Rated the Best Free Antivirus Apps for Android:
Here’s what I look for in a free antivirus app for Android:
- 100% Free. Antivirus companies try to trick us with a free trial. We get comfortable using their service and then we forget that we need to cancel before the trial is over and we end up paying anyway. If you know you’re going to buy a mobile antivirus from a reputable company like Norton, 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. All of my top 5 free antiviruses here are actually free. No free trials.
- Highly Secure. I only recommended Android apps from reputable cybersecurity brands, and I individually tested each one of them in line with our extensive testing procedures to guarantee that they can provide high quality security.
- Efficient. I stress-tested each of these apps and only recommended the ones that are simple, bug-free, and won’t slow down your device.
- Features. Even if some advanced features require a subscription, I’ve personally checked that all of the important features of these top 5 apps are available for free users.
Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut:
There are many free antivirus apps for Android available 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 app is one of the best low-cost premium options out there. Norton promotes several free features, but the Android app only works as a 30-day free trial. Still, if you know you’re not looking to compromise on your Android’s security, getting Norton for free for 30 days is a pretty great deal.
- Malwarebytes. This popular malware cleanup tool for Android now includes anti-ransomware and anti-phishing protections, but it’s still lacking many of the extra features of the other top antivirus apps on my list.
- Avast/AVG. There are a few review sites that are still recommending AVG — and their parent company Avast — 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 in 2019. You can go here to read more about the full story of how they were secretly selling user data.
1. Bitdefender Antivirus Free — Best Overall Free Android
Bitdefender’s Antivirus Free completely protects Android phones and tablets from malware — including viruses, spyware, and ransomware.
Using Bitdefender Antivirus Free is extremely easy — just launch the app and tap the Scan button to start the virus scanner. I’ve had this app on my Android for months now, and I’ve only had to hit that button once because the Autopilot feature automatically scans all of my new apps and downloads in real-time.
While Bitdefender’s free app doesn’t include anti-theft, account security, or safe browsing tools, it’s my pick for best free Android antivirus app because of its powerful, fast, and highly secure real-time malware scanning engine.
But if you need more advanced features, you should try Bitdefender’s premium Mobile Security for Android, which is one of the cheapest Android mobile security apps available. You can also claim a free 30-day trial of Bitdefender’s Total Security plan (read our full Bitdefender review here) and use the full-featured premium Android app for free during the trial.
Bitdefender Antivirus Free is a no-nonsense free Android antivirus app. It’s the perfect choice if you need an antivirus that sits quietly on your device without consuming battery life or resources while still providing good protection. It won’t annoy you with ads, pop-ups, or annoying notifications, and it’s available completely for free.
2. Avira Antivirus — Best for Privacy Protection
Avira Antivirus provides on-demand and real-time malware protection for Android devices.
One thing I really love about Avira’s Antivirus is the focus on privacy protection. Avira’s privacy-related features include:
- Permissions Manager. Keep track of how apps access your data.
- Identity Protection. Check if your email address has been stolen in a data breach.
- App Lock. Add additional security to your most private apps.
Other free features from Avira Antivirus include tools to protect against loss and theft and a VPN with up to 100 MB of data per day.
Paying users can access premium features such as safe web browsing and camera protection.
Avira’s trusted antivirus technology will keep your device free from viruses, spyware, and ransomware. It’s a great choice if you need your info to remain private and are concerned about identity theft.
3. ESET Mobile Security & Antivirus — Best for Safe Browsing
ESET Mobile Security & Antivirus provides a generous range of free features which lets us:
- Scan devices for viruses and other malware.
- Locate devices via GPS.
- Safely browse the web.
But my favorite feature from ESET is phishing protection.
Every day, fake phishing websites trick thousands of people into giving up their passwords, personal information, and credit card details. And since I use my phone to buy most things, I love that ESET’s anti-phishing feature integrates into the mobile browser to prevent me from visiting these phishing websites.
For network security, security auditing, and advanced anti-theft features, check out the powerful ESET premium Android app.
ESET Mobile Security & Antivirus offers effective, ad-free virus scanning and phishing protection. It’s a great choice if you use your mobile device to browse privacy-sensitive websites.
4. McAfee Mobile Security — Best for Theft Prevention
I love that McAfee Mobile Security offers so many great free features — including real-time malware protection and device optimization — but I particularly love McAfee’s theft protection tools.
McAfee’s free Android app includes:
- CaptureCam — which takes a photo from your front-facing camera if someone’s trying to break into your phone.
- Remote wiping — to delete sensitive data if your phone gets lost or stolen.
- GPS location — for finding the exact location of a lost or stolen phone.
McAfee’s premium app includes a virtual private network (VPN) and an ad blocker. I don’t think the ad blocker makes it worth the upgrade because there are plenty of free ad blockers out there. But I do like McAfee’s VPN, and if you don’t yet have a premium VPN (you should never use a free VPN!), upgrading to McAfee’s premium Android app could be a cost-effective way to get yourself a good VPN.
While McAfee’s premium app is more expensive than competitors’ premium apps, if you bundle the Android app with one of McAfee’s Total Protection plans (up to 10 devices across all operating systems), it’s one of the best-value antivirus packages of 2021.
McAfee Mobile Security brings McAfee’s powerful antivirus engine to Android, combining it with some helpful features to prevent loss and theft, which is a particularly important feature if you own a high-end Android device or store sensitive information on it.
5. Kaspersky Internet Security for Android — Strong Malware Protection w/ Anti-Theft Features
Kaspersky Internet Security for Android is a powerful free option for Android users, but it’s a better paid product. It provides the essential features of a mobile antivirus, including:
- Malware scanning. Scans device for viruses, erases malicious files, and scans incoming data for known threats with Kaspersky’s highly-respected malware scanner. This scanner caught 100% of malware during my testing.
- Anti-theft. Includes remote data wipe, app locking, and a camera capture function so you can see who’s looking at your phone. It’s even got a remote alarm, so no matter where your phone is, it won’t go unnoticed.
- Location detection. 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.
This is strong antivirus software, and I also like the gimmicky ability to initiate scans from my smartwatch. However, the anti-phishing and web-filter functions that support safe browsing are only available to premium customers.
I recommend Kaspersky Internet Security for Android to users that are looking for strong malware detection and anti-theft protections, but not much else. As we saw in our full review, the premium version includes the kind of online protections that are essential for mobile cybersecurity, but the free version just doesn’t have as many features as the top programs on my list. The smartwatch compatibility is pretty cool, and since it’s a free app, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Frequently Asked Questions — Android Antiviruses
🤔 Are antivirus apps safe?
Android antivirus apps are not always safe, especially free ones.
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 the 5 apps on my list. Each one comes from a brand with a strong reputation for creating excellent cybersecurity software. For example, my top free antivirus provider, Bitdefender, has over half a billion total users worldwide.
🤔 Why does android need an antivirus?
Your Android device is a valuable possession that contains highly sensitive data. And when compared to other platform providers like iOS, Android is not a secure operating system.
In addition to visiting malicious websites, various Android apps can easily access all areas of your device. Even many of the apps available on the Google Play Store have been known to contain malware.
🤔 Which Android devices will these apps work with?
Most of the Android antivirus apps on this list will work with any Android smartphone or tablet running Android 5.0 (released in 2014) or above.
McAfee is the only app on this list that works with Android 4.1 (2012) or higher.
🤔 What kind of features can you get with an android antivirus app?
In addition to detecting and removing malware, a free Android antivirus application can:
- Keep your personal information private (I recommend Avira Antivirus for privacy protection).
- Protect you from malicious websites (ESET Mobile Security provides a free anti-phishing tool).
- 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 you know that 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.