Pros: Intuitive user interface; Help boxes make learning features easy; Top-notch Web interface
Cons: Doesn't back up apps; Not as many customization options as competitors
Verdict: Lookout Mobile Security's app for Android and iOS offers an intuitive interface and 2GB of online backup.
Lookout has made quite a name for itself in the mobile security market. The company's Mobile Security app has garnered millions of downloads and a good deal of critical acclaim. But as more established players in the security software arena enter the mobile game, Lookout finds itself having to compete with the likes of McAfee and Kaspersky. The good news is that the app offers top-notch protection and an easy-to-use interface. Read on to find out if this $29 app is strong enough to keep the big dogs at bay.
Editors' Note: Review updated to reflect the need to disable Better Protection in order to uninstall app.
Setup & Interface
Installing Lookout Mobile Security was easy enough. We simply downloaded the app from the Android Market to our Droid Bionic and tapped install. Once installed, we quickly ran through the program setup, which requires you to enable the app's security, backup and location features. The entire process took less than two minutes.
Lookout's user interface is attractive and straightforward. The homescreen offers a tabbed list of its main features, including Security, Privacy Advisor, Safe Browsing, Backup and Missing Device. At the front of each tab is a large green checkmark indicating that the corresponding feature is active. Disable the feature, and its checkmark will be replaced by a gray minus symbol. When Lookout detects a piece of malware, its Security tab will light up with a large red bullseye. Tap the tab and Lookout will give you a description of the malware and how it could impact your phone.
Tap the menu button from Lookout's homescreen and you'll be brought to the app's menu page. Here, we could make basic changes to the app's scan schedule and disable or enable certain features, but that's about it. Other mobile security suites, such as Kaspersky's Mobile Security 9, let you select whether the app should scan all of your device's memory, specific folders or a certain type of file.
Detection & Performance
To test the effectiveness of Lookout's virus scanner, we downloaded the well-known EICAR test virus to our Droid Bionic. The software has been on the market since 2006 and should be easily picked up by any antivirus software worth its salt. Sure enough, Lookout was able to detect the software as soon as we finished downloading it, and told us not to install it onto our Bionic.
In addition to providing a warning, Lookout also provides a detailed description of the malware and gave us the option to delete it or keep it. Lookout also identified apps that it suspected may be malicious, telling us which ones tried accessing our personal information.
From a performance standpoint, Lookout is virtually undetectable. To test the app's impact on our Bionic, we ran the Linpack benchmark test with and without Lookout running. Before installing Lookout, the Bionic notched a 53.3 on the multi-core portion of the Linpack test. With Lookout installed, our Bionic performed considerably better, notching a score of 64.9.
Anti-Theft & Data Protection
One of Lookout's most interesting features is its Privacy Advisor. It provides a comprehensive list of the apps on your device that have access to your personal information, including your phone number, contact list, text messages and location. The only problem with the feature is that it can't identify which apps shouldn't have access to your private data and which should. While that's a bit of a letdown, it's still interesting to see which of your apps could be spying on you.
Lookout's safe browsing feature, like McAfee Mobile Security's Site Advisor, protects users against phishing sites and malicious URLs. Each time your access the native Android browser, Lookout will scan the URL to determine if the site you are visiting contains any malicious code. Lookout will then compile a list of the sites that you visited and which ones carried malware.
With the app's Better Protection feature, users can make the app tough to uninstall from your device's app manager. Disable the feature, however, and anyone who gets their hands on your phone can uninstall the app with ease.
Of all of the mobile security suites we tested, Lookout Mobile Security had the most attractive Web console interface. We appreciated how easy everything was to find, and especially liked the fact that we were able to change our security settings on the fly. Here, we could use the device tracker, and access the remote lock and remote scream features. With the device tracker, Lookout will locate a user's device and display its location, down to the building it's in, using Google Maps.
The remote scream feature will cause a user's device to emit a high-pitch shrieking noise when activated, helping you find your phone if you've lost it in your house and can't find it, or scare off a thief who may have snatched it from you. We tested the scream feature, and can attest to its capabilities. The sound was earsplitting.
If your device is stolen, you can also choose to remotely lock it so it can't be accessed without a randomly generated password that is only accessible from Lookout's Web console. If you're concerned that your personal data will be swiped from your missing device, you can activate Lookout's remote wipe feature, which will immediately erase all of your private information, ensuring that it doesn't fall into the wrong hands.
If you do happen to lose your Android phone, you'll still be able to retrieve the data on it thanks to Lookout's included data backup service. The feature, which is included with Lookout's $29.99 premium version, lets users store up to 2GB of data in the cloud, including photos, call records, and contacts, the last of which is included as a feature in the trial version of Mobile Security. Unfortunately, there is no backup option for apps.
Premium vs. Trial
Lookout Mobile Security has one of the best free security suites we've seen. In addition to the anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-malware features, the software also lets you backup your contacts to the cloud, restore your contacts to your current phone, and locate your phone via its exceptional Web console. It's quite possible you could get by with just the free version of Lookout Mobile Security, but users looking for a more robust level of protection--complete with remote wipe and remote lock features--should look to the premium edition.
With its simple interface and robust feature set, the $29 Lookout Mobile Security is one of our favorite security apps. We also liked Lookout's Web console the best among the competition, and appreciated the Privacy Advisor and Safe Browser functions. However, we would have liked to seen unlimited storage and SIM card locking, as with the similarly priced McAfee Mobile Security. Overall, though, Lookout Mobile Security is an excellent value.