The Best Android Anti-Virus Apps: How to Remove an Android Virus
Mobile phones are ubiquitous, and the majority of us keep some extremely important, not to mention private, data on our devices. That means that protecting your phone has to be a number one priority. With all that data floating around, the last thing you want is to lose it or to have your data compromised. Which is why you might be thinking about installing an anti-virus app on your phone. Which anti-virus app is right for you? What should you be looking for? We’ve got everything you need to know about the best Android anti-virus apps right here.
Table of Contents
Why Do I Need an Anti-Virus App?
We’ll be completely honest with you, you may not want to install an anti-virus app at all. Phone viruses and malware are nowhere near as prevalent as computer viruses and malware, meaning that many people decide to take the risk and not protect their phones. However, Android is now the most popular phone operating system in the world, and that means that rates of viruses and malware are rising.
A decent anti-virus app will help protect all the data on your phone from harm (meaning corruption, identity theft, or even your phone just refusing to work anymore meaning all data on it is lost). However, an anti-virus app will also almost certainly make your phone run a little slower. There are pros and cons here, but it all comes down to how much are you willing to risk the data on your phone? If you’re a casual user with little personal data on their mobile, you might opt to skip the anti-virus. If you’re a big phone user that keeps everything on their mobile, then an anti-virus app could be a lifesaver.
What Are My Options?
Like many things in life, your options are going to come down to money. There are tons of anti-virus apps on the market, but a basic breakdown puts every app into one of two categories, either free or premium:
Free Anti-Virus Apps
The benefit of a free app is, obviously, that it’s not going to cost you anything. This means that you can try the app out without risk. The downside is that many free apps are ad supported, which can be annoying and can slow down your phone a little. Plus, if you’re looking for more advanced features you might end up making in app purchases or opting to pay for a premium version anyway.
Pros: No charge, little risk, a great way to try out several apps to decide which is best for you.
Cons: Free apps are often ad-supported. And you might end up paying for higher level features anyway.
Best For: Those who have never used an anti-virus mobile app before, those that don’t know exactly what they’re looking for yet.
Premium Anti-Virus Apps
Opting for a premium app can get you better security and higher level features, keeping your data even safer. You’re also more likely to get frequent updates with a premium app (important since viruses change quickly). However, the downside is that you’re going to have to pay, which could be a deal breaker, especially if there’s no free trial so you can test the app first.
Pros: Premium apps generally have better security and more features, and are likely to get updates more often.
Cons: You’re going to have to pay, and if there’s no free trial you could be paying for something you haven’t even tested.
Best For: Those that know exactly what they’re looking for, those that are looking for certain features in particular, or those with highly sensitive data on their mobiles.
What Should I Keep In Mind When Choosing?
There are so many anti-virus apps out there that the choice can be a little overwhelming. There are several things that you should keep in mind when you’re looking at all your options:
What are you looking to do with an anti-virus app? If you’re looking for just general security, then a free app is going to be fine. If you’re looking to protect online banking, credit card apps and financial or sensitive data then you’re looking for higher security levels, which means paid apps.
If you decide to go with a premium app, just how much are you willing to pay? Be aware that some security apps are subscriptions rather than one-offs, so read the fine print carefully. Prices do vary quite a bit, so it’s helpful to know going in how much you’re willing to spend (and not to get tempting into paying more than you can afford).
You also need to keep in mind the kind of phone you’re running. Top end, new mobiles are capable of running almost any anti-virus apps. However, if you’re running something older you’ll want to ensure that the app is compatible with your mobile. If you’re running low on memory space then you’ll be looking for a small file size, and if you’re already having problems with speed on your phone then again, small file size and a “lighter” app will help prevent further issues.
The App Itself
When looking at any app there are a couple of things you should be looking at. One is the file size (for the reasons mentioned above). The other is update history (you should be able to see at least the last handful of updates listed on the Google Play Store page or simply look at the version number to give you an idea of how many updates have occurred). You want an app that gets frequent updates simply because new viruses come and go all the time and you want your chosen app to recognise the most up to date threats.
What About Extra Features?
Because there are so many anti-virus apps around many developers have chosen to add extra features to help persuade you that their app is best. Whether or not you need any of these extras is up to you, but some of them can be very useful. The most commonly offered extras are:
- Anti-Theft Features: Including things like being able to remotely wipe your data or to block the phone entirely should it get lost or stolen
- Call/Message Blocking: To stop spam mail and marketing or nuisance calls
- App Locking: This requires you to enter a code before opening an app, which can be inconvenient. However, it’s designed to stop viruses or malware automatically opening apps such as online banking apps, which is very handy if you keep all your financial info on your phone
- Browser Security: Much like the anti-virus you run on your computer, many phone anti-virus apps will also run on your phone’s web browser and prevent malicious websites from opening
- Download Scanning: To scan anything you download to your phone for viruses before you open a file
- Camera Traps: This uses your phone’s front camera to snap a picture of anyone that tries to unlock your phone and fails (handy for getting pictures of thieves)
- Android Wear Support: If you use a smartwatch then some anti-virus apps also contain support for your Android Wear device, meaning your watch as well as your phone is protected
Some apps also include a VPN which makes browsing the web more anonymous (and can help access websites that are blocked to you because of your location)
A Word of Warning
It’s important that you know that anti-virus apps are only as good as the person that sets them up. Installing an app and opening it isn’t enough. Once you’ve downloaded your app, you’ll need to go in and check out the settings. You’ll need to set how often the app scans for viruses (weekly? daily? more often?). You’ll also need to check in with the app periodically to see what’s been found and to check if there are any problems. Anti-virus apps really aren’t just “set and forget,” you will need to do a little “maintenance.”
How We Selected Our Top Apps
Before we get to specific apps though, first we should let you know how we chose our best of the list. We looked at the obvious, including price, security levels, extra features, file size and whether or not an app affected the speed of phones. We tried out the apps ourselves, and we checked out user reviews to see what kind of experience others had had. And we spend most of our time around mobiles, techs, developers, and pros in the tech industry, so we got plenty of expert feedback as well!
Now, let’s get down to the important part. Which Android anti-virus apps should you be checking out?
The Top 8 Android Anti-Virus Apps
A Closer Look
You should now be a little clearer about your options and what you’re looking for, so let’s move on to some awesome app recommendations to help you get the best anti-virus protection for your phone.
Avast Mobile Security (Free/Premium)
Price: Free/monthly or yearly subscriptions available
Free Trial: Simply download the free app and then upgrade if you need to
Most Notable Feature: Remote wipe/lock
Avast is one of the biggest names in anti-virus software, so it should be no surprise that the company offers a mobile app. The free version of Avast Mobile Security offers a ton of features, including virus scans, call blocking, app locking, firewalls, browser protection, anti-theft measures such as remote wiping and locking, and even a WiFi speed test.
Upgrade to the subscription-based pro service and you’ll get a few more bells and whistles. You’ll be able to remove ads, use a camera trap to catch photos of people attempting to unlock your phone, check the last known location of your phone and more. But Avast is a real feature-packed app, pro or free.
There are a couple of downsides though. This is one of the larger anti-virus apps around and may slow down your phone. Also, this isn’t paid once and forget, this is a subscription-based model so you’ll be paying yearly or monthly, and Avast are cagey about printing their prices online…
- Tons of features
- Remote wiping and locking ability
- Free version offers plenty of protection
- A larger app could mean slower phone
- Subscription pro version means you’ll be paying more over time
McAfee Mobile Security (Free/Premium)
Price: Free/£2 a month
Free Trial: Simply download the free app and then upgrade if you need to
Most Notable Feature: Scans apps to see if they leak sensitive info
Another well-known name when it comes to anti-virus software is McAfee, and they also offer an app for Android. You’ll get great anti-virus and malware protection, as well as anti-theft protection (remote wiping and remote locking, as well as camera trap), and the ability to track and locate your phone and even to set off an alarm on your phone (which might detract thieves, or alternatively will help you find your lost phone). And you can manage all your phone related business from the online McAfee site as well, which is convenient. Plus, McAfee is one of the few apps that scans other apps to see if they’re leaking data and shuts them down if so.
Upgrade to premium for £2 a month and you’ll get no ads, app lock, web browser security, and a VPN. You’ll also be able to activate a guest mode which will stop other users from being able to open apps on your phone without your permission.
The downside? Well, there’s that monthly subscription model again. And McAfee also isn’t a particularly light app so it could slow down your phone more than you’d like. However, if you want top-notch security, McAfee is a good choice.
- Remote wiping, locking, and camera trap
- Scans apps to see if they’re leaking sensitive data
- Can add VPN and web security with the pro version
- Monthly subscriptions mean you pay more over time for the pro version
- Could slow down your phone more than you’d like
Bitdefender Mobile Security (Premium)
Price: £10 a year
Free Trial: 14 day free trial
Most Notable Feature: Built-in VPN
Bitdefender is a premium app, meaning you will have to pay. But you do get a 14-day free trial to test things out. Plus, at just £10 a year, Bitdefender works out cheaper than a lot of other premium anti-virus apps. And you get loads of features for your money as well.
Obviously, you get mobile scanning and download scanning. You also get a VPN for up to 200 MB of data a day (which should be fine for most people). You get web security and Android Wear support for your smartwatch, remote locking and wiping as well as device tracking, app locking, and an account privacy setting that will help you identify whether a password-protected account has been breached. Not bad at all for just £10 a month. Best of all, this is a very light app and is designed to prevent loss of speed, so performance should be excellent.
The downside? There’s no permanently free option, unfortunately, which could be a dealbreaker for some. And there’s no automatic virus scanning, you’ll need to manually schedule your scans, so don’t forget! Other than that though, this is an awesome little app, and none too pricey for the offered features.
- Includes VPN
- Light and efficient, shouldn’t affect speeds too much
- Lots of features
- No permanently free version
- No automatic scanning
AVL Pro (Free)
Free Trial: N/a
Most Notable Feature: Super light and fast
Despite the misleading “pro” in the name, AVL Pro is actually a completely free app. It’s also one of the lightest anti-virus apps around, meaning you shouldn’t see speed decreases and the app won’t take up tons of space on your phone.
There aren’t tons of features here. AVL Pro is minimalist and simple. It scans for viruses and malware, which is exactly what you want it to do. It will also analyse your apps so you can see exactly what each apps is doing in terms of permissions, data leakage, and so on. And if you’re a techie at heart, AVL also supports plug-ins so you can modify the programme to work for you.
Okay, there’s no anti-theft protocols, no remote locking, no app locking, really no extras at all. However, if you want simple, efficient, effective anti-virus software, then AVL Pro is perfect for the job.
- Light and fast
- Gives a detailed analysis of apps
- Allows plugins
- No real extra features
- No anti-theft settings, so no remote wiping or locking
Norton Security and Antivirus (Free/Premium)
Price: Free/£14.49 yearly subscription
Free Trial: Simply download the free app and then upgrade if you need to, 30 days free trial for the pro version
Most Notable Feature: App advisor tells you not just about security concerns, but also privacy concerns for your data
Another familiar name in the security field is Norton. Norton’s free antivirus software is pretty solid. You get real-time and scheduled anti-virus and malware scanning, web browser protection, call blocking, remote wipe and lock and camera trap, and WiFi scanning to ensure public WiFi spots are safe to use.
Upgrade to pro and you’ll get even more. Pro Norton includes alerts for known spam number calls, alerts if someone on the same WiFi network is spying on you, protection against ransomware, app advisor to tell you not just about security concerns but also privacy concerns with your apps, and much, much more. Yes, it’s pricey, but Norton offer packages for multiple devices, meaning if you protect more than just your phone you’ll save cash, and you’ll get a free 30-day trial as well.
Norton is pretty expensive though, but you get lots for your money, maybe too much for the casual user. And it’s not small either, with some customers complaining about their phones slowing. But if you want the best of the best with loads of security features Norton is going to be an excellent bet.
- WiFi scanning
- Alerts for privacy concerns as well as security concerns
- Pro version offers serious security features
- Pro version is pretty pricey
- May slow phones down
AhnLab V3 Mobile Security (Free/Premium)
Price: Free/in-app purchases
Free Trial: N/a
Most Notable Feature: Supports even older and slower phones
If you’re running an older phone or a budget model where speed and memory size are an issue, then this is the anti-virus app you’ve been looking for. AhnLab V3 is small, light, fast, and supports even older Android versions, making it the best bet for those with a phone more than a couple of years old. And it’s packed full of features as well.
Not only does V3 scan for viruses, you get real-time scanning, a speed booster and a battery saver as well, meaning you should get great performance. There’s an app lock, browser security, QR scanning protection, call blocking, and even a privacy filter that you can switch on if you want further protection. You get a hidden gallery so others can’t see your photos or downloads, and a free ten day trial of V3’s anti-malware feature.
As for the bad news, well, there’s no remote locking or wiping or camera traps. And after that 10-day free trial, there’s no anti-malware scanning either, you’ll need to pay for that feature through in-app purchases. But if you don’t have the most up to date phone, V3 could be a great download for you.
- Real-time scanning
- Supported by older phones
- Plenty of great features, including a privacy filter
- Doesn’t support remote locking or wiping
- Anti-malware scanning requires an in-app purchase
How to Remove an Android Virus
Mobile phone viruses are fairly similar to computer viruses in that they can steal or destroy your data, or even leave your device unusable. Fortunately, they’re not common, and they’re pretty easy to remove if you know how. That’s why today we’re looking at how you can identify and remove a virus from your Android phone. So, let’s get started…
Do You Really Have a Virus?
We’ve got to be honest and say that the chances that you’ve actually got a virus on your Android device is very slim indeed. What’s far more likely is that you’ve seen a pop-up ad, either in an app or online, that’s telling you that you have a virus. This is a scam, and never, ever click on anything that flashes a virus warning up at you, since you’ll end up causing more harm than good.
So, how then do you know if you’ve really got a virus? Viruses are different, which means symptoms are different. But if your phone is acting strangely (lagging, opening apps without permission, refusing to let you complete certain tasks) and you’ve tried every other solution then there is a possibility that you’ve got something there. A virus is really the last option on your list though, that’s just how uncommon they are in Android devices.
Prevention is Better Than Cure
Okay, if you’ve already got a virus telling you that prevention is better than cure is closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, but still, you can use this info to avoid the situation in future. Android viruses tend to be installed through apps, and if you only get your apps through the Google Play store, you should be fine. If you’re dead set on downloading a third party app from outside of Google Play, then know that you’re running a risk. At the very least go online and check out reviews of the app you’re thinking about downloading to see if anyone else has had problems.
If you’re worried, you can also download anti-virus software for your phone. This works in the same way as it does with your computer, and the anti-virus app will scan anything that you download onto your device. This makes you safe, of course, but the downside is that running anti-virus software will probably also make your phone a little slower. The choice is really up to you, but if you consistently get apps from outside of trusted sources such as Google Play then you might want to consider running an anti-virus programme too.
Getting Rid of the Nasties
There are two ways of getting rid of a virus should you be unlucky enough to catch one, one simpler than the other. The absolute easiest way is to perform a factory reset on your phone (you should find an option to do this under the Settings menu). This will clear the virus, however, it was also clear everything else on your phone, so may not be your preferred option. There is another option though that will let you keep all your data.
The very first thing that you’re going to need to do is to switch off your phone and then restart it in “safe” mode. How to do this varies by device, but on most phones you’ll need to press and hold the power button to bring up a set of options that includes things like Power Off and Restart. If you then press and hold the option that says Power Off you should be given another set of options that includes Restart in Safe Mode. If this doesn’t work then you’ll need to do a quick online search for the model of your phone and “safe mode.”
Once your phone has restarted you should see the words “safe mode” somewhere on the screen, and this means that only the built-in functions of your phone will work, no third party apps will run at all. Since you know that a virus has to come from an app you’ve installed this means that the virus won’t be active. This will allow you to delete the culprit app, something that isn’t always possible outside of safe mode since the virus itself usually stops you from deleting the app.
Now comes the detective work. Still in safe mode go to your Settings page, press Apps and make sure you’re looking at the tab called Downloaded. One of these apps contains your virus, so look down the list for anything that doesn’t seem right. Maybe it has a strange name, or maybe it’s something that you haven’t downloaded yourself. It should be fairly easy to spot (but you can always go through this process again if you make a mistake, so don’t worry).
When you’ve identified the app, tap on its name on the list and you should get an options page which will include the ability to uninstall the app. Hit uninstall and you should be good to go. But… occasionally the uninstall button will be blanked out, or non-functional…
If this is the case back out of the menu, go to Settings, Security, then Device Administrators. Find the app you want to remove on that list and uncheck the box next to it. You should now be able to go back to your Settings, Apps page and uninstall the relevant app.
Simply restarting your phone should be enough to get it out of safe mode, and hopefully, all is well. If you still think you have a virus, this means that you deleted the wrong app! No worries though, just go back and repeat the process until you’ve found the culprit.
The chances of you getting a virus are very slim indeed, but it does happen sometimes. Fortunately, Android makes it very easy to clean your mobile, and you don’t even have to worry about losing all your data, which is pretty convenient. It should take you no more than a couple of minutes to delete that virus, and then all you need to do is be a little more careful with your downloads in future.