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The best Android antivirus app of 2021

android antivirus apps
(Image credit: Bhubeth Bhajanavorakul / Shutterstock.com)
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Having the best Android antivirus app installed on your smartphone or tablet is essential. After all, Android is the most widely-used operating system in the world, and that means it can be a big target for malicious users.

We do so much with our Android devices - such as mobile banking and shopping - that getting malware on your smartphone or tablet could be incredibly serious indeed, which is why it's vital to install one of the best Android antivirus apps you'll find on this page.

In this article, we’re going to highlight 10 of the best Android antivirus apps in 2020 - a few of which are completely FREE apps to download.

Many of them do much more than run automatic scans, and they’ll actively try to prevent malicious web pages and files from being opened or downloaded in the first place. The easy way to protect your Android phone or tablet.

  • Check out the best Android VPN for another great way to stay safe online

The best Android antivirus in 2021 is:

(Image credit: Bitdefender )

1. Bitdefender Mobile Security

Well-featured with tight security - the best Android antivirus app

Specifications
Maximum devices covered: 1
Stand out features: Anti-theft, privacy advisor
Free or paid: Paid
Reasons to buy
+Excellent antivirus protection+Great anti-theft capabilities+Clever tie-in with smartwatch
Reasons to avoid
-Cloud-based scanning needs active internet connection

Bitdefender Mobile Security offers excellent protection for your Android device, with a raft of features including anti-theft, and top-notch antivirus capabilities. In fact, this android antivirus mobile app got full marks in the latest AV-Test roundup, and AV-Comparatives (the other major independent antivirus test lab) observed a protection rate of 99.9%. That’s impressive indeed.

Mobile Security gives you real-time protection for Google’s Chrome browser, and an autopilot feature that claims to be capable of making intelligent recommendations for security actions depending on your system and typical usage pattern.

There’s also a nifty privacy advisor tool that adds a layer of security to your smartwatch via its WearOn technology, which alerts you if you accidentally leave your phone behind - clever stuff.

Another interesting extra is a bundled VPN, although don’t get too excited. The provided version is restricted to extremely light use at just 200MB daily, but still, that could be useful in a pinch.

As mentioned, there are anti-theft capabilities here, and Bitdefender Mobile Security allows you to remotely locate and lock your device, or send a message to the phone or tablet (which could be very useful if you’ve lost it). It’s also possible to completely wipe the device remotely if you so choose.

There are a lot of features on offer here, then, and the asking price is more than reasonable to cover a single Android device for a year (plus if you want to give the app a spin before you buy, there’s a 14-day free trial available).

Head straight to the Bitdefender website to see more and sign up

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(Image credit: Futura)

(Image credit: Norton)

2. Norton Mobile Security

Provides innovative mobile defenses on the app checking front

Specifications
Maximum devices covered: 3
Stand out features: App Advisor, anti-theft features, call blocking
Paid or free: Paid
Reasons to buy
+App checker+Great anti-theft capabilities+Blocks spam phone calls
Reasons to avoid
-Full price is rather eye-watering

Norton Mobile Security for Android offers a wealth of features, including an App Advisor which is powered by Norton Mobile Insight, and vets apps for any possible privacy risks, or other unwanted behavior like being overly taxing on your battery (you can even get these evaluations before you install an application, which is very handy).

This mobile security suite also gets top marks for the protection its antivirus engine delivers going by AV-Test’s findings (the other main test lab didn’t evaluate Norton recently).

Other features include call blocking to protect against spam phone calls, Wi-Fi security that alerts you when you connect to an insecure wireless network, plus anti-theft features that allow you to remotely lock a stolen (or lost) device, or wipe all your data.

All this adds up to an impressive level of protection for your Android device – but are there any downsides here? Well, the app is pricey, or at least the recommended asking price is, but given the discount on offer at the time of writing, it’s actually the same price as Bitdefender above (making it an excellent buy currently, given that you get coverage for three Android devices, not just one).

You can sign up for Norton Mobile Security on its website

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(Image credit: Futura)

(Image credit: Avast)

3. Avast Mobile Security

A great free Android antivirus offering, but it does show adverts

Specifications
Maximum devices covered: Unlimited (free app)
Stand out features: Anti-theft, Wi-Fi security, junk cleaner
Paid or free: Free
Reasons to buy
+Lots of features+Performance boosting capabilities+It’s free!
Reasons to avoid
-Displays adverts

Antivirus giant Avast has produced another quality app which goes above and beyond being a mundane scanner, although that said, it does virus scanning very well, and is highly rated by the independent test labs.

Avast Mobile Security’s nifty features include an anti-theft system allowing you to track and remotely lock (or wipe) your Android device if it’s stolen, or if you lose it. There are also some interesting performance enhancing features including a junk cleaner to free up storage space, and a ‘RAM boost’ which aims to speed up your device.

The app used to be paid but is now free, albeit supported by ads. You can pay a small monthly or yearly premium to remove the adverts if they annoy you, though. Another very useful premium feature is ‘in-app locking’ whereby your device will ask for a PIN before opening certain apps. This prevents malware from launching apps such as internet banking automatically.

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(Image credit: Futura)

(Image credit: AVG)

4. AVG AntiVirus Free

Hugely popular Android antivirus app

Specifications
Maximum devices covered: Unlimited (free app)
Stand out features: Anti-theft
Paid or free: Free
Reasons to buy
+Quality virus protection for nothing+Impressive anti-theft measures+14-day trial of a host of Pro features
Reasons to avoid
-Shows adverts

AVG AntiVirus Free is another high-quality app for securing your Android device, and it delivers an impressive level of protection at no cost whatsoever. In fact, it uses the same well-liked antivirus engine as Avast above (remember that Avast bought up AVG back in 2016).

This isn’t the same product, though, and it doesn’t have some of the features you’ll find in Avast’s freebie offering. It is, however, still built around very robust core antivirus protection, plus anti-theft features which allow you to locate, lock or wipe a stolen (or lost) phone. Also like Avast, this app is ad-supported, but by upgrading to the premium version you can get rid of those adverts.

The paid Pro version of AVG comes with a whole load of extra features, including extended anti-theft capabilities (such as the device locking itself if the SIM card is replaced, and sounding an alarm), a Photo Vault to secure your photos, an app lock, Wi-Fi security scanner, and additional privacy settings, such as for blocking callers.

There are also a host of other features such as performance enhancement measures, which aim to kill unnecessary processes, turn off battery-draining settings, as well as deleting junk files such as those commonly found in temp and cache folders.

Note that you can try out all these Pro features for free, at least for the first two weeks when using AVG AntiVirus Free; but after that, you have to pay.

With so many features bundled in the Pro version, it’s no wonder this app is the most popular antivirus when you search for one in the Google Play store, with more than 100 million downloads, over 6.5 million reviews and an average score of over 4.5.

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(Image credit: Futura)

(Image credit: Kaspersky)

5. Kaspersky Internet Security

High quality malware defenses with an excellent free app

Specifications
Maximum devices covered: Unlimited (free app)
Stand out features: Anti-theft, Android Wear support
Paid or free: Free
Reasons to buy
+Excellent anti-theft features+Top-notch antivirus protection+Free
Reasons to avoid
-Anti-phishing protection is premium version only

Kaspersky has a reputation up there with the big players like Bitdefender, so perhaps unsurprisingly the free version of its security app has some smart features, including top-notch malware detection (going by the ratings from independent test labs).

Not only do you benefit from Kaspersky Internet Security, but there are also some heavyweight anti-theft capabilities, allowing you to find the location of your Android device if it has been lost or stolen. You can also remotely lock the phone, or wipe the data on it, or even snap a photo of the person currently using the device (which could be really useful if they’re a thief). An alarm can be remotely set off, too (that might be handy if you’ve lost the phone).

Another impressive feature is support for Android Wear which simplifies security management, plus this app is free, as we already mentioned, which is always a major boon. There is a paid version, mind, and some important features are reserved for this.

If you fork out for Kaspersky Internet Security for Android (Premium) you also get automatic antivirus scans (as opposed to having to start them manually), as well as anti-phishing protection to keep you safer online, and a few extra benefits. Still, the freebie version gives you good malware defenses for the princely sum of nothing at all!

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(Image credit: Futura)

(Image credit: Trend Micro)

6. Trend Micro Mobile Security

Superb antivirus protection and feature-rich

Specifications
Maximum devices covered: 1
Stand out features: Pay Guard, social network privacy, parental controls
Paid or free: Paid
Reasons to buy
+Stuffed with features+Pay Guard banking and shopping protection+Currently top-ranked for malware defenses
Reasons to avoid
-Far from cheap

The Trend Micro Mobile Security app not only scans new apps for malware before they are downloaded and installed, it prevents newly installed apps from accessing other applications, which can be useful for device admins and parents.

There’s also a built-in privacy scanner for Facebook which warns you if your profile settings are displaying sensitive personal information. Indeed, there are a huge number of features here, which include web protection, anti-theft, a Wi-Fi checker for making sure any wireless networks you connect to are safe, plus system tuning utilities, a full suite of parental controls, and Pay Guard ensures that any online banking or shopping transactions are fully secure.

Furthermore, both independent testing labs rated Trend Micro Mobile Security as protecting against 100% of threats, making it top of the tree in this respect at the time of writing.

There’s a lot to like here, then, but the downside is that the asking price is rather steep compared to many of the alternatives on this page. That said, you’re getting a lot for your money, and there’s a free version of the app which allows you to have the full run of all features for seven days, so you can try it all out before having to purchase a license.

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(Image credit: Futura)

(Image credit: McAfee)

7. McAfee Mobile Security for Android

Another well-featured free antivirus app

Specifications
Maximum devices covered: Unlimited (free app)
Stand out features: Anti-theft, privacy checker
Paid or free: Free
Reasons to buy
+Polices installed apps for data leakage+Several performance boosting utilities
Reasons to avoid
-Free version has adverts-Premium upgrade is pricey

McAfee is another well-known name when it comes to antivirus software, and this Android app – McAfee Mobile Security for Android – doesn’t disappoint. Besides the android antivirus scanner itself, the free version gives you quite a lot, including anti-theft features and the ability to track a lost device, or lock it (or wipe your data) remotely.

Other highlights include the ability to scan apps to check if they leak sensitive information, and lock them if necessary. McAfee also evaluates the security of any Wi-Fi networks you connect to, and comes with several features to help your phone run better, including a storage cleaner, plus memory and battery booster.

Note that the free app, as with many, shows the user adverts, but you can get rid of these by upgrading to the premium version. That also gives you phone support, plus some extra features like Safe Web protection for added security when surfing the web. However, bear in mind that the paid app is a relatively pricey proposition.

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(Image credit: Futura)

(Image credit: Sophos)

8. Sophos Intercept X for Mobile

Free antivirus app with no ads and some unique features

Specifications
Maximum devices covered: Unlimited (free app)
Stand out features: QR Code Scanner, authenticator, anti-theft
Paid or free: Free
Reasons to buy
+Free and also no ads+Lots of smart extra features
Reasons to avoid
-Not evaluated recently by independent labs-Isn’t the most user-friendly app

Sophos Intercept X for Mobile antivirus app is completely free, yet it doesn’t contain any adverts, unlike many freebie apps. So while Sophos Intercept X is certainly impressive in that respect, there is a slight question mark over its malware protection chops in that the app hasn’t been tested by the major independent labs this year. That said, it scored full marks for antivirus protection throughout AV-Test’s reports in 2019.

Sophos scans apps for malware or otherwise harmful content as they are installed and further alerts you if they might leak any sensitive information. The antivirus scanner can be scheduled to scan files and folders periodically, too.

Another nifty feature is the Secure QR Code Scanner, which as the name suggests will check any target URL for possible threats when you scan a QR code, ensuring that you can use these safely. Intercept X also benefits from an authenticator which you can use for multi-factor authentication with any app that supports Google Authenticator, and you can manage all these 2FA accounts from this central hub.

As well as some of these more unusual features, the standard anti-theft functionality is present here, so this is a well-featured effort overall. It isn’t the most intuitive or user-friendly app, mind, and the fact that it hasn’t been recently evaluated by either of the main independent test labs might be a slight concern for some (and we hope that situation changes soon).

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(Image credit: Futura)

(Image credit: AhnLab)

9. AhnLab V3 Mobile Security

An antivirus app that runs well even on older Android devices

Specifications
Maximum devices covered: Unlimited (free app)
Stand out features: Privacy advisor, performance booster
Paid or free: Free
Reasons to buy
+Works well on lesser spec hardware+Strong on the privacy front+High malware detection rates
Reasons to avoid
-No anti-theft features

AhnLab V3 Mobile Security from South Korean AhnLab is not as famous as the others on this list, but nonetheless has very high detection rates for Android malware according to AV-Test. In fact, it defended against 100% of threats, and so ranked up there with the best performers (but note that AV-Comparatives hasn’t evaluated AhnLab since 2015).

Another strong point of this app is that it runs well even on older Android devices and is generally undemanding in terms of system resource usage. Furthermore, it has a built-in booster to help speed up your phone’s performance.

Other handy features include a privacy cleaner to securely clear your browsing history, and a privacy advisor which vets the apps installed on your device, ensuring they aren’t compromising any of your sensitive details. There’s also a hidden gallery for personal photos, so privacy is definitely a strong suit with AhnLab.

All this adds up to a robust offering for a free app, for sure, although there is a piece of the puzzle missing in terms of anti-theft capabilities.

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(Image credit: Futura)

(Image credit: Avira)

10. Avira Antivirus Security

Has a smart system of categorising apps on a privacy scale

Specifications
Maximum devices covered: Unlimited (free app)
Stand out features: Identity Safeguard, permissions manager, anti-theft
Paid or free: Free
Reasons to buy
+Broad range of features+Neat Identity Safeguard feature
Reasons to avoid
-Web protection only in paid app

Avira Antivirus Security is another security app which gets a big thumbs-up from the independent testing labs when it comes to the quality of its antivirus engine. The free version is ad-supported, but has plenty of features, including a Permissions Manager which rates applications on a privacy scale to help you easily decide how worthy they are of being trusted with your data.

The integrated Identity Safeguard feature regularly checks if your email address has been leaked in any major data breaches, informing you of the details of any leak, which is pretty handy. You also get a raft of anti-theft capabilities that include the ability to locate your phone, remotely trigger an alarm, or remotely lock or wipe your Android device.

Avira’s App Lock is also on hand to protect any sensitive applications by requiring a PIN to start them, and a new addition is that a VPN is now integrated with Avira Antivirus – although you only get a tiny amount of daily data.

The premium version of the app gets rid of the adverts, and incorporates better support, the automatic blocking of malicious websites, more frequent (hourly) updates, along with microphone and camera protection to stop people abusing that hardware to spy on you.

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Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).