Pros: Best Web console around; SIM Watch makes recovering stolen device easy; Unlimited online data backup
Cons: Incessant security warnings get annoying; Unattractive user interface
Verdict: McAfee Mobile Security protects Android phones while adding some great anti-theft and privacy features.
McAfee is one of the best known names in PC security software, so it's no surprise that the company would make its way to mobile devices. Enter McAfee Mobile Security. The app, which runs on Android, Blackberry--even Symbian devices--goes a long way in offering users the kind of functionality they would expect from more niche offerings. But is this app worth $29?
Setup & Interface
Setting up McAfee Mobile Security is fairly easy. After downloading and installing the app to our Droid Bionic, we were asked to enter our device's phone number or, barring that, our email address, as well as a friend's phone number where security alerts could be sent in the event our phone was lost or stolen. We also had to create a six-digit pin for accessing the McAfee Mobile Security app and Web console. We found it slightly annoying that each time we opened the app, we would receive a security warning telling us to enable one of the standard Android screen locks to prevent anyone from accessing our device.
All of the Mobile Security's features are available from the app's homescreen, making it easy to navigate for first-time users. That being said, the interface is the least attractive one we've encountered due to its black background and the large amount of text displayed on the screen at once. By comparison, Webroot SecureAnywhere Mobile premier and Lookout Mobile Security have much cleaner interfaces with large, colorful icons.
Detection & Performance
When McAfee Mobile Security detects a virus, it will place a warning icon in your device's notification bar. Tap the notification and you'll be brought to an information screen telling you the name and type of infection detected. When we tried to install the EICAR virus utility, McAfee prompted us with an alert in our device's notification bar. We were then able to choose whether we wanted to report it to McAfee or simply delete it.
McAfee also offers users the ability to automatically scan SMS/ MMS messages, as well as scan SD Cards whenever they are inserted into your device. Users can also choose to scan compressed files, set a scan schedule and schedule definition updates. Mobile Security comes with McAfee's SiteAdvisor, which like Webroot SecureAnywhere's Safe Browsing feature, protects your device against malware and phishing sites while browsing the Web.
On the Linpack benchmark, our Bionic scored an average 57.3, higher than the 53.3 it scored without the app installed. We were unable to test the impact a scan had on our system because each time we backed out of the app, the scan would close. However, we couldn't detect any system slowdown while a virus scan was running.
Anti-Theft & Data Protection
McAfee Mobile Security offers users a good amount of anti-theft features, including data wipe, device and SIM card tracking, and data restore. Users can activate each of the app's anti-theft components through its Web console, or by sending an encoded text message to their device with a specific instruction, much Like Kaspersky's Mobile Security 9. For example, to remotely lock your device, you would text "Secure Lock" followed by your security pin to your device.
One feature we liked in particular is the SIM tracker, which, like Kaspersky Mobile Security 9, contacts you via email or text message (if you supply a secondary number) when your device's SIM card is removed. Enable the app's Auto Lock and Alarm features, and your device will automatically lock and sound an ear-piercing alarm when the SIM is tampered with. You can also set the app to notify you of your device's location via email or text when the SIM is removed.
One of McAfee's best features is its online data backup. Accessible from either your device or the Web, users can back up anything stored on their device short of apps. That includes text messages, call logs, contacts and media. Unlike Lookout Mobile Security's backup feature, which is capped at 2GB, McAfee doesn't limit the amount of data users can back up. Instead, you can store as much information as you'd like from your device on McAfee's servers.
Mobile Security's Web console is the most comprehensive we've seen. We could track and lock our device, as well as back up, wipe or restore personal data. Users can also view the data they've already backed up, including their contacts, text messages, call log and media. This feature is also helpful if your device is stolen, because you can view the phone numbers your device has been calling or texting. Although McAfee's Web console provides a host of options, it's not as appealing as Lookout's Web interface.
Premium vs. Trial
McAfee offers a free seven-day trial of Mobile Security, but once those seven days are up, you lose the majority of the app's functionality. You'll give up the app's Security Scan, Data Restore, Lock Device, Wipe Data and SiteAdvisor features, leaving just Mobile Security's Data Backup. But instead of being able to back up your text messages, call logs and media like you can with the premium version, you'll only be able to back up your contacts. Pony up for the $29.99 yearly subscription for the premium edition, and you'll get all of those features back.
McAfee Mobile Security is an easily accessible security app that most any user should feel comfortable using. Its Web console is by far one of the best and easiest to use. At $29, McAfee's app is more expensive than Kaspersky Mobile Security ($9.95) and Webroot SecureAnywhere Mobile Premier ($19.99), but has beefier offerings such as SMS and SD card scanning. And while we prefer Lookout Mobile Security's interface, that app, which costs the same as McAfee's, lacks unlimited backup and features such as SIM tracking. Overall, McAfee Mobile Security is the best mobile security app on the market.