5 Free Android Security Apps: Keep Your Smartphone Safe

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Lookout Mobile Security


Price: Free

Other versions: Lookout Mobile Security for the iPhone (free); Lookout Premium for Android ($2.99/mo. or $29.99/yr.) adds phishing protection; backup for photos and call history, data transfer to a new phone, remote wipe/lock, support

Lookout Mobile Security offers free malware protection, contacts backup, and remote locating and alarm for both phones and tablets. Upgrading to the premium account ($2.99/month or $29.99/year) adds browser protection, an app privacy manager, backup of images and call history, and remote locking and wiping.

In addition to automatically scanning apps you install and update, malware protection includes full scans of the installed apps; the SD card, however, isn't scanned. You can set Lookout to do these full scans on a daily or weekly basis and optionally specify the day and time. The backup functionality also lets you specify when to perform daily or weekly backups of your contacts to Lookout's servers; if you're a premium user, you can back up your pictures and call history as well.

By default, Lookout appears on the notification bar and menu, displaying its status and offering a quick way to open it. The app's interface is simple and straightforward. The main screen shows the status of each feature. Though you can click on the Security or Backup icons to see the most recent activity, the app doesn't give you any thorough activity logs. To configure the app settings, you tap the Menu and Settings icons.

Lookout lets you access the status of your Lookout features and get a full activity history on its website; you can also initiate backups and restores, access the remote recovery tools (such as locating, locking and wiping), and enable or disable each feature. There's also a mobile version of the site that offers the same features.

You can find the approximate location of your device on a Google map and see the phone number currently configured on your phone (so you will know if someone replaces your SIM card). However, the remote locking feature doesn't provide a way to display a custom message on the device like some other security apps do.

Bottom line

Lookout provides a useful security app for both Android phones and tablets, along with a user-friendly website. It doesn't offer as many features as some security apps, but what it does provide is solid. It offers remote locking and wiping, but only if you use the premium service.

Norton Mobile Security Lite


Price: Free

Other versions: Norton Mobile Security ($29.99/yr.) adds anti-theft and anti-loss features, phishing protection, call and text blocking

Norton Mobile Security Lite provides free malware protection and remote locking. The premium service ($29.99/year) adds browser protection and call and text blocking, along with remote locating, a remote alarm, remote camera control to take snapshots and remote wiping. There is a tablet version ($29.99/yr.) coming (the date hasn't been announced) that will support the remote anti-theft functionality for Wi-Fi-only devices as well.

In addition to performing malware scans on app downloads and updates, you can run app and SD card scans on demand or schedule scans daily, weekly or monthly. Though Norton checks for virus database updates weekly by default, it can be changed to daily (or monthly).

By default you won't see an icon in the notification bar or menu unless the app detects a security issue, but you can enable it so you always know your security status.

Norton Mobile Security Lite has a very simple and straightforward interface. Unless you purchase the premium service, there are only two main shortcuts accessible on the main screen of the app: one for the anti-theft and another for anti-malware. But hitting the device's Menu button gives you a few more shortcuts, such as to view the activity log or access the update or notification settings.

The remote functions for the free version can be initiated only via SMS commands. The premium service offers a plug-in for the app that in turn lets you perform remote functions on your device using a Web browser. The free version lacks any SIM card protection or remote change notifications.

Bottom line

The free version of this app is the most basic of the five I reviewed. Norton Mobile Security doesn't offer as much as other free apps; you get much more if you sign up for the premium service, which comes at a recurring cost. That premium service does offer remote camera control, but most of its other features are available in other free apps.

Last Page: One more app and conclusions...

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