Pros: Intuitive, well-designed user interface ; Full set of premium security features; Robust and intuitive Web application; Top-of-the-line malware protection;
Cons: Remote lock and wipe require subscription; Lackluster activity log/newsfeed implementation; Allows for factory data reset without PIN
Verdict: Norton Mobile Security is a feature-rich Android security suite with a well-designed interface from a company highly regarded in malware protection.
Norton has a long-standing track record of providing anti-virus and other security applications for PCs. In fact, many users who've purchased a laptop or desktop in the last decade have probably had a Norton product preinstalled on their Windows machine. Norton Mobile Security for Android devices delivers a polished interface and a useful front-facing camera anti-theft feature, all while leading the industry in mobile malware detection.
Setup and user interface
When it comes to app design, Norton Mobile Security is one of the best. Like Lookout and Avast, Norton's UI compliments Android's Holo UI nicely, making the app feel right at home on Jelly Bean devices.
The first time you launch the app, you're given a brief overview of the more useful services Norton provides. Swiping from right to left will take you through the guide, and at the end, you'll be prompted to either sign into your Norton account, or skip the sign-in to associate your account at a later time.
Once you've entered your account credentials (or, once you've skipped that step), you'll be taken to Norton's home screen and its six on-screen navigation buttons. To navigate through Norton, you can either tap on those six buttons, or swipe your finger from left to right to navigate through these settings menus.
In total, we like this fresh take on the security UI. Norton also includes a newsfeed, though getting to the feed was buried in the settings menu instead of front and center as it is with Avast and Lookout.
On the free side, Norton Mobile Security offers a malware scanner that can be run manually, or set to run at automatic intervals as desired. You can set the scanner to run daily, weekly or monthly. Norton will also automatically scan apps as you install and update them, so you can browse Google Play worry-free.
Norton provides access to its Web portal for free, though most of the functions are only included on the premium side. In addition to the Web portal, you can send various commands to your lost/stolen device via an SMS text command, similar to Kaspersky Mobile Security.
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Finally, Norton can scan SD cards when they're inserted in your device to ensure they're malware-free, though most Android users likely don't swap out microSD cards on a regular basis.
Choosing the premium suite really unlocks Norton's true potential. When it comes to anti-theft capabilities, Norton Mobile Security lets you lock or wipe your lost or stolen device remotely to ensure data is kept secure. However, this feature is free in Avast, AVG and Kaspersky, and we'd prefer this extremely useful functionality to be included in the basic Norton application as well.
Like Lookout, you can also set a customized message to display on the device with contact information and/or a reward to get your device back to you, and sound a "Scream" alarm so people close to your lost phone can hear it and help get it back to you.
Like most other Android security suites, Norton Mobile Security lets you block unwanted calls and text messages from various contact groups, including numbers that display as "unknown." We added a few of our numbers to our blocked list, and Norton appropriately blocked those numbers from being able to call or text our test device. Once you block a number, it will always be blocked, as Norton doesn't let you schedule what times you want to block certain numbers.
Other premium features include Contact Backup, which syncs your contacts to the cloud and lets you restore them to a new device should you truly lose your phone. Safe Browsing keeps an eye out for phishing sites, and the ability to instantly lock your phone if the SIM card is removed. The downside with Safe Browsing is that it only works with the Android browser, so those who use alternative browsers (like Chrome or Opera) are out of luck.
Norton, like all other security applications aside from Kaspersky, allows would-be thieves to perform a factory data reset without entering a passkey. As we mentioned elsewhere, this renders all anti-theft features useless, as Norton's anti-theft features require the application to be installed on your device in order to work properly.
Detection and performance
In AV-Test's latest mobile security test, Norton Mobile Security was the highest-rated overall security suite for Android, successfully detecting 100 percent of all sample security risks sent to the test device. Though Lookout also scored 100 percent in the testing, Norton's score was slightly higher due to rounding. Norton users can reliably trust that their security suite will keep them safe from any threat out there.
Norton keeps itself out of your notification area, so unless you're actively managing your security, you won't notice it's running, though it is working to secure your device. And it won't hinder your Android device's performance either, which we verified using the AnTuTu benchmark test both with and without Norton Mobile Security running.
Our HTC One scored an average of 23,437 with Norton installed and a malware scan running and 24,737 without Norton installed, suggesting no significant impact on your device's performance.
Norton's Web portal is as equally well-designed as the Android app, rivaling Lookout in terms of look, feel and usability. Available actions line the left side of the page, with categories for location, locking your device, activating the siren, take photos with Sneak Peek (via front-facing camera), data wipe, data backup and a list of available SMS commands. All the features on the Web portal worked perfectly in our testing.
The lock device screen is where you'll find the option to enter a custom message to display on your phone when it's lost or stolen. As we first noticed in Lookout, this one feature likely goes a long way toward recovering a lost or stolen device, especially if you add contact information and a potential reward to the mix.
Sneak Peek is another relatively unique feature. With this tab, you can command your phone to take a picture with the front-facing camera so you can get a good look at who has your device, which could also aid in the recovery process. We were able to snap a picture of a person trying to frantically turn off the siren. Though our subject looked a bit blurry, the image should provide enough information for law enforcement to identify a potential thief.
There's a lot to like with Norton Mobile Security. The app is well-designed, all the features work well and Norton brings a wealth of knowledge of the malware industry to the table. The result is a very strong application that comes extremely close to being our top Android security app. However, Norton comes up just short compared with Lookout, which offers a few additional features and a more polished interface for the same price. Still, if you use Norton's security software on your PC, the Android version is a no-brainer.