Best Antivirus for Android in 2020

By Damjan Jugovic Spajic November 27, 2020

We love our smartphones. We protect them with cases and hide them in our pockets. But most of the time, there’s nothing to shield them from viruses. Considering that software never develops immunity (and phone masks are no help either), we have a responsibility to keep our smartphones healthy – starting with the best antivirus for Android we can find.

  • Great free version
  • Good malware protection
  • Optimizes battery life
  • Pricy premium version
Price Varies by Region
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  • Class-leading virus protection
  • Excellent app-lock function
  • Low resource usage
  • High VPN costs above free allocation
Price $14.99/year
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  • Strong malware protection
  • Ad-free across all versions
  • Competitively priced Premium app
  • Free version doesn’t automatically scan new apps
Price $14.95/year
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  • Lots of features in the free version
  • Easy installation
  • Handy guest mode
  • Expensive VPN
Price $29.99/year
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  • Great malware and phishing protection
  • Best-in-class app advisor
  • Fast scanning
  • VPN requires a separate app
Price $14.99/year
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1. Avast Mobile Security for Android

" Best for Online Transaction Protection "

  • Android Version:
    5.0 and above
  • Ads:
    Free version only
  • App Lock:
    Premium only
  • Anti-Theft:
    Premium only
  • Wi-Fi Scanner:
    Yes

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Great free version
  • Good malware protection
  • Optimizes battery life
  • Pricy premium version

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Great free version
  • Good malware protection
  • Optimizes battery life
  • Pricy premium version
  • Android Version:
    5.0 and above
  • Ads:
    Free version only
  • App Lock:
    Premium only
  • Anti-Theft:
    Premium only
  • Wi-Fi Scanner:
    Yes

Avast is one of the most popular desktop antivirus solutions on the market, and Avast for Android aims to extend its popularity to mobile devices as well. The company offers a great ad-supported free version and two premium ad-free options.

The basic Avast mobile app performs regular scans to detect malware, detects malicious apps early, scans potentially unsafe Wi-Fi connections and URLs, and tracks your phone’s location in real-time. It also comes with performance-boosting tools such as RAM boost, battery life optimization, a junk file cleaner, and more.

For the company’s best mobile antivirus features, you’ll have to move to the Pro or Ultimate tier plans. Prices vary depending on where you are, but both subscription options offer a discount of up to 40% the first year. The Pro plan retains all features from the free version (minus the ads) while adding robust anti-theft tools such as the ability to secretly take pictures of people who steal your phone, remotely lock your phone, and remotely delete files. You also get tech support directly from the experts at Avast.

If you’re a heavy internet user on your phone and want to protect yourself with a VPN while browsing, your best bet is the Ultimate version. In addition to the best Android virus protection that Avast can offer, you’ll also get access to Avast’s Secureline VPN service. Other useful features found in all versions of the app include an Android firewall, call blocking, a photo vault for encrypting photographs on your device, and insights into app usage. 

To conclude our Avast antivirus for Android review, we should mention that the app runs very smoothly on every version of Android from Lollipop onward and doesn’t hog system resources too much – speed is compromised by less than 10% during full scans. We also think the ads in the free version take away from the professional feel of an otherwise well-designed mobile interface.

2. Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android

" Best Overall Mobile Protection "

  • Android Version:
    5.0 and above
  • Ads:
    No
  • App Lock:
    Yes
  • Anti-Theft:
    Yes
  • Wi-Fi Scanner:
    Yes

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Class-leading virus protection
  • Excellent app-lock function
  • Low resource usage
  • High VPN costs above free allocation

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Class-leading virus protection
  • Excellent app-lock function
  • Low resource usage
  • High VPN costs above free allocation
  • Android Version:
    5.0 and above
  • Ads:
    No
  • App Lock:
    Yes
  • Anti-Theft:
    Yes
  • Wi-Fi Scanner:
    Yes

Considered by many the best cell phone antivirus solution for any OS, Bitdefender for Android has a serious reputation to live up to, especially with no free version available. What does $14.99 per year get you, and how does it stack up to the competition?

First of all, Bitdefender Mobile Security offers much more than just a virus cleaner for Android. You also get effective privacy protection and anti-theft tools, first-rate reporting features, and a powerful VPN service. 

Let’s start with why many think it’s the best malware removal for Android: In professional tests, Bitdefender’s malware scan for Android devices got perfect scores, detecting every possible malware listed in the procedure. This includes tests from the well-respected German IT security institute, AV-TEST. 

Admittedly, the app is one of the slower Android antivirus scanners, but the good news is that it hardly slows down the performance of your phone even in full scan mode (4.42%). Scans are automatically performed when you install or update apps, and web protection keeps your browsers safe from malicious attack pages.

In addition to some of the best virus protection for Android, you can also make use of excellent account privacy features. After verifying your email address, for example, the software will automatically notify you of possible security breaches through services using your address.

The Mobile Security feature allows you to set a PIN on all of your mobile apps, while anti-theft features let you remotely locate, lock, or even completely wipe your device. You can also create trusted Wi-Fi zones where apps can remain unlocked.

Finally, a standard subscription gives you access to Bitdefender’s VPN service. Users without paid subscriptions are limited to 200 MB per day and won’t be able to pick which VPN server they want to connect to.

3. Kaspersky Internet Security for Android

" Best Free Antivirus for Android Smartphones "

  • Android Version:
    Varies with device
  • Ads:
    No
  • App Lock:
    Premium only
  • Anti-Theft:
    Yes
  • Wi-Fi Scanner:
    No

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Strong malware protection
  • Ad-free across all versions
  • Competitively priced Premium app
  • Free version doesn’t automatically scan new apps

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Strong malware protection
  • Ad-free across all versions
  • Competitively priced Premium app
  • Free version doesn’t automatically scan new apps
  • Android Version:
    Varies with device
  • Ads:
    No
  • App Lock:
    Premium only
  • Anti-Theft:
    Yes
  • Wi-Fi Scanner:
    No

Kaspersky is a well-known cybersecurity company with distinguished anti-malware apps for a variety of operating systems. One of those is arguably the greatest free antivirus for Android. In addition to an outstanding free app, the company is currently offering affordable deals for premium paid subscriptions.

Kaspersky has a very simple pricing scheme: You either pick the free version or you pay a yearly fee that depends on how many devices you want protected. Currently, one-year protection for a single device amounts to $14.95 at full price, while two or three devices will set you back $15.96 or $19.96. That’s a discounted rate for first-time customers. 

So what makes Kaspersky the best free Android antivirus in 2020? In a nutshell: a great set of features and an app that is completely free of annoying advertisements. That’s right: While companies such as Avast and McAfee support their free software with omnipresent advertisements, no such annoyances are to be found here.

Instead, you get superb malware detection and protection, manual scanning, fantastic anti-theft tools, Android Wear support, and call filtering. You can remotely locate, lock, or wipe your device, trigger an alarm on it, and even capture photographs of the would-be thief using the device’s front-facing camera.

However, to truly make Kaspersky’s app the best security app for Android, you’ll have to switch to Premium. This adds automatic malware scanning (real-time protection) as well as a wonderful app-locking feature. The company also adds great anti-phishing tools that protect you against dodgy sites and suspicious links sent through SMS.

The software is easy and quick to install but is middling in terms of scanning speed and system impact. In our tests, full scans took between 30 and 50 minutes, and the system performance toll was about 7%. Also, the app isn’t uniformly supported across Android versions for every device, so you’ll have to check to see if you can run it at all. 

4. McAfee Mobile Security for Android

" Best for Mobile Backups "

  • Android Version:
    4.2 and above
  • Ads:
    Free version only
  • App Lock:
    Premium only
  • Anti-Theft:
    Yes
  • Wi-Fi Scanner:
    Yes

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Lots of features in the free version
  • Easy installation
  • Handy guest mode
  • Expensive VPN

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Lots of features in the free version
  • Easy installation
  • Handy guest mode
  • Expensive VPN
  • Android Version:
    4.2 and above
  • Ads:
    Free version only
  • App Lock:
    Premium only
  • Anti-Theft:
    Yes
  • Wi-Fi Scanner:
    Yes

It would be silly to have a competition for the best Android virus scanner and not mention another giant in the world of cybersecurity: McAfee. While it faces tough competition from other phone antivirus solutions, McAfee’s app comes with unique and interesting features that make it a strong contender.

Despite its ad-supported model, the free version of the McAfee Android virus cleaner boasts more features than most of the competition. It has very quick malware detection, unique anti-theft tools, Wear OS integration, memory boosting and storage cleaning tools, an app privacy checker, and a Wi-Fi scanner.

As one of the best phone antivirus apps, McAfee boasts some incredibly thorough anti-theft features: remote locating, locking, wiping, and even a factory reset are all available when your device is stolen. The company also brings a clever twist to the traditional thief cam: Creating a fake alert on the phone, it snaps a photograph of the would-be thief when they try to dismiss the notification.

While the free plan offers lots of useful features, moving to the Premium subscription truly unlocks McAfee Mobile Security’s potential as a contender for the best antivirus on Android. For $29.99 per year per device, you get everything we’ve mentioned plus versatile app-locking features, a backup system for your device’s files, and 24/7 phone support (an upgrade from free chat support). 

You also get access to the unique McAfee Guest Mode feature. While most of the company’s competitors are content to enable PIN locking on specific apps, McAfee Mobile Security lets you create an entire Guest account with customized app privileges.

If you want the very best security for Android devices, McAfee’s VPN Guard will drive the cost up another $50 to $79.99 per device per year. Too expensive, if you ask us.

In terms of speed, McAfee Mobile Security is similar to Kaspersky’s offering. It scans a little faster, and it’s slightly more depending, imposing a performance drop of just over 8%.

5. Norton Mobile Security

" Best for Quick Malware Detection "

  • Android Version:
    6.0 and above
  • Ads:
    No
  • App Lock:
    No
  • Anti-Theft:
    No
  • Wi-Fi Scanner:
    Yes

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Great malware and phishing protection
  • Best-in-class app advisor
  • Fast scanning
  • VPN requires a separate app

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Great malware and phishing protection
  • Best-in-class app advisor
  • Fast scanning
  • VPN requires a separate app
  • Android Version:
    6.0 and above
  • Ads:
    No
  • App Lock:
    No
  • Anti-Theft:
    No
  • Wi-Fi Scanner:
    Yes

Perhaps the best-known cybersecurity company on our list, Norton unsurprisingly makes one of the most impressive antivirus apps for Android. Unfortunately, there is no free version, the software has no anti-theft features, and VPN has to be bought separately. That said, Norton Mobile Security has what is arguably the best virus scanner for Android – on par with Bitdefender Mobile Security – as well as a class-leading app advisor.

Norton offers its regular plan at $29.99 per year for up to three mobile devices, with occasional discounts to $14.99, which is certainly the best premium deal on the market. You also get a 30-day money-back guarantee, allowing you to test all the features before committing.

What’s included in the package? Anti-theft protection got axed in 2019, but Norton Mobile Security still offers an automatic SIM lock, call blocking, spam call detection, a system security advisor, privacy reports, and unsecured Wi-Fi detection. Most importantly, it’s the best antivirus app for Android bar none when it comes to advisory features regarding smartphone apps.

Norton monitors not only unusual app behavior but also battery and data usage, sorting apps into groups based on how they rank across all three categories. System and privacy advisors give you an idea of how safe and private your apps are.

Like Bitdefender, Norton’s virus scan for Android catches 100% of the most common viruses on AV-TEST regularly. It has failed to hit 100% only a couple of times since 2017.  

A top antivirus for Android, it has both the fastest quick scan and the least hobbling deep system scan (just 4% impact) of any software we’ve tested.

Our Methodology

We evaluated our candidates based on several criteria to figure out which is the best antivirus for Android.

Cost and Value

The three most common pricing models for antivirus apps are completely free, freemium, and paid. In general, free apps tend to pay for themselves through advertisements, while freemium offerings typically have a limited set of features that can be expanded by paying for the full version.

Here we assess the overall value of each mobile antivirus solution compared to the competition and explore the pricing models of the best mobile security software on the market.

Features

We evaluate both the standard and bonus features you can find in phone virus protection software. These include everything from app advisors and app-locking tools to advanced features such as anti-theft protection, URL and Wi-Fi scanners, and even VPN for your phone. Malware protection is the most important aspect, of course: Detecting harmful software early and being able to get rid of it painlessly are core demands for any decent Android virus protection.

User Experience

The best Android antivirus app is more than just a functional piece of software that has excellent malware detection and removal capabilities. We go over everything from how easy the software is to install to the quality of the user interface. We also consider which versions of Android the antivirus software runs on and how much the software hogs your phone’s system resources.

Although virus scans are much less system-intensive than they used to be, smartphones tend to have weaker hardware than desktop computers and laptops. It’s important that anti-malware apps don’t completely stifle your device’s performance as they keep it safe from threats.

Best Antivirus for Android in 2020 – Top Five Picks

  1. Avast Mobile Security
  2. Bitdefender Mobile Security
  3. Kaspersky Internet Security for Android
  4. McAfee Mobile Security
  5. Norton Mobile Security

FAQ

Do you really need antivirus for Android?

Yes! Open support for third-party apps on Android makes it a prime target for malware attacks. Most people tend to ignore the importance of having an Android security app, thus risking the loss of crucial personal data such as contacts and bank account details if their phones get compromised.

How can I tell if my phone has a virus?

The easiest way is to track your phone’s behavior. If it suddenly has trouble opening apps, crashes on demanding tasks, or becomes generally unstable, there’s a good chance it may be infected. Any good antivirus for Android will be able to detect malware before it’s had a chance to cause damage.

How do I run a virus scan on my Android?

The process is generally very simple. You’ll usually need to download an antivirus app, possibly register an account (if it’s a paid service), and then simply run it on your device. Some companies offer automated set-and-forget solutions, but you can always do manual scans as well.

Is there a good free virus scanner and remover?

Yes, there are plenty, though free versions always come with caveats. The best antivirus for Android will almost always be a paid solution, but some great free options include the offerings from Avast, Kaspersky, and McAfee.