Thinking of investing in an antivirus package for your Android, but not sure if you actually need one or which one to choose? Then you are in the right place, as we have created this handy guide that provides detailed answers to both questions.

Do you need an Android antivirus program?

Android devices are an attractive target for malware developers. Google has enhanced Android’s built-in security with every version of the world’s most popular mobile operating system, but there’s still a market for third-party antivirus software, as legitimate packages can help protect your device.

However, please do not install only random “antivirus” applications from the Play Store. In April 2022 CheckPoint researchers found a set of “anti-virus” applications on Google Play that, in case they were hidden malware: Trojans designed to steal banking information.

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A good sense of security is to use only reputable app stores and avoid side-loading (manually downloading and installing) APK files from other sites, unless you’re really sure what you’re doing.

However, threats can and do appear on Google Play. S rated 3739 new applications uploaded every day, malware periodically sneaks up. These Trojans seem desirable, but they can steal your data, fill your device with ads, or otherwise co-opt your phone for their own purposes.

Installing reputable apps alone is a good bet, but some malicious apps garner hundreds of thousands of installs, so popularity is no way to judge. So, although you don’t need to install antivirus software for Android, it may be a good idea, especially if you tend to try a lot of random applications.

Choosing the best antivirus program for Android

There are many antivirus applications for Android, but not all are created the same. Here is our guide to distinguishing true defenders from dangerous counterfeits.

Google Play Protect is the built-in protection against Android malware. Third-party tools always complement Play Protect instead of replacing it.

Play Protect itself performed worse in recent tests than AV test and AV Comparatives compared to its competitors, protecting against 81.7% of malware in AV Comparatives tests in 2021, 80.7% of malware in AV-Test real-world exposure tests and 90% of malware in a set of examples of recent Android malware. A number of third-party malware protection tools have achieved 100% protection in all of these tests.

Based on data from these test houses, here are the three best third-party antivirus apps for Android. All three received 100% protective results in all tests from the two test houses, without false positive results.

AVG antivirus and security

Result of scanning AVG Mobile AntiVirus & Security

This is a free custom antivirus program for Android, with additional paid upgrade levels available for purchase in the app and elsewhere. AVG is a subsidiary of Avast and the products use the same machine to detect mobile devices as well as desktops.

Additional features include dangerous network detection, web shield activated by your phone’s accessibility settings, PIN-protected access to sensitive applications, and anti-theft protection. There’s also “RAM boost”, which is still inactively processing the background to make your phone more responsive, and “garbage collection” tools for deleting temporary files and installers that require additional permissions.

AVG’s default scan found a threat in both the installed program and the downloaded APK. I am also pleased to note that it informs me that USB debugging is enabled. I tested it on a phone I use to develop applications, but most people don’t need this mode activated.

You can subscribe to AVG Pro to remove ads and activated scheduled scans, and AVG Ultimate to give you all that, plus an AVG Secure VPN subscription. You can also activate paid versions using a code or sign in from an AVG subscription on multiple devices. Download AVG AntiVirus & Security from Google Play Store.

Bitdefender Mobile Security

Result of a Bitdefender Mobile Security scan

You receive a 14-day free trial of this paid custom antivirus package if you do not yet have an active Bitdefender subscription. It opens with a subscription agreement that you must make before you can log in or create an account, but you do not agree to any payments here, so you can take the time to familiarize yourself with the app and its features.

In addition to scanning malware on demand and during installation for your Android device, features include web protection in supported browsers, fraudulent SMS alerts, anti-theft tools, and parental controls in the form of family policies. On-demand scanning generates a slightly annoying stream of notifications if you have many applications installed, but Bitdefender is generally easy to live with. I was pleased to find that I found a potential threat in the downloaded APK as well as in the installed program.

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The application is included in the Bitdefender Total Security subscription – just enter your existing subscription code. Download Bitdefender Mobile Security from the Google Play Store.

G Data Mobile Security

Result of G Data Mobile Security scan

This is a paid antivirus application for users, available as a pre-purchase from the Google Play Store or as a light version, including a 30-day trial and in-app purchases. You need to create an account before you can use the app, but it’s a simple matter of entering your name and email address if you start from a mobile phone – a password is automatically generated and sent to you by email.

Features include reputation-based browser protection against malicious and fraudulent sites, anti-theft and anti-theft tools, and checking application permissions. In a very cursory test, the default scan of G Data detected a potentially unwanted program when installed, but not as a passive APK located in my downloads folder.

The application is included in G Data Internet Security subscriptions for multiple devices. Download G Data Mobile Security from the Google Play Store. If you want to try before you buy, G DATA Mobile Security Light includes a 30-day trial period.

If you want to dig into the data yourself, start with my guide to understanding the results of anti-virus tests, then look at the data on AV test and AV Comparatives.

Read our Security Guide for more tips on living a safer life online.

Do you need Antivirus for Android?

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