With more than 70 million downloads, AVG AntiVirus is one of the most widely used mobile security applications for the Android platform. The company prides itself on its anti-theft performance, and includes remote device wipe and lock functions in the free application. Additionally, App Locker and App Backup, both unique to AVG, help users keep their applications safe and is easy to reinstall should you need to reset your device. So, how does it compare to other Android security apps?
Setup and user interface
Once you launch AVG AntiVirus, you'll be presented with the basic home screen and prompted to run your first scan. Assuming you've purchased the premium version of AVG, you'll need to either enter the product key or scan a QR code you received via email. After a very quick setup, we were up and running within minutes.
AVG's main menu and submenus are clean and well designed, though not quite on a par with Lookout, Avast or Norton's programs. When you launch AVG, you're presented with four categories -- Protection, Performance, Anti-Theft and Privacy -- as well as a Scan Now button that, when pressed, will scan your device for malware.
Clicking on one of the category buttons will allow you to customize additional settings. A Menu button in the top-right corner will let you change the language and establish license information.
AVG also included an app widget, which provides some basic on-the-fly tools to manage your device's security. AVG's widget provides information on your battery status, data usage and security status, and lets you launch directly into the task killer to close any apps you don't want running in the background.
Detection and performance
Although AVG was not tested in AV-Test's most recent malware-detection analysis, the AV-Test group agreed to perform a general test of AVG's performance ahead of its next comparison. At 93 percent, AVG was on a par with the overall sample but well below other applications we tested. AVG will likely detect most malware out there, but better protection can be found elsewhere. For example, Avast scored 98 percent, and Lookout detected everything.
When it comes to performance, you'll hardly even notice AVG is running at all. To gauge the AVG app's impact on our HTC One's performance, we ran the AnTuTu benchmark test with and without AVG running. Before installing AVG, the One scored 22,742. With AVG installed and a security scan running in the background, the score modestly decreased to 21,533, indicating little adverse effect on performance.
AVG's anti-virus scanner can be manually run via the app's home screen, or you can venture into the Protection submenu to set an automatic scan to be run weekly or daily. Users can customize the scan in the Protection Menu by enabling Deep File Scanning and/or Text Message Scanning, and you can also enable secure Web browsing from this screen.
Anti-theft tools are also embedded within the application and can be activated through the Web management suite. With the Web suite, you can remotely manage your device if it's lost or stolen, including wiping sensitive personal data, forcing a factory reset of the device and sounding a siren to help potential Good Samaritans locate your lost device. Like Avast, AVG chooses to include all anti-theft services in the free version of the application. Kaspersky, Lookout and Norton save some anti-theft features for premium users.
The privacy section of AVG AntiVirus Pro lets you block individual contacts and phone numbers from calling or texting you. We tested this feature with two separate mobile devices, and when blocked, neither were able to successfully call or text our test device. The privacy section also lets you perform a factory reset of your phone, wipe data by category/account and wipe the SD Card, should you ever need to perform these functions.
In addition to security tools, AVG offers a wide array of features that can help you get more out of your Android device. A task killer will close any open applications that may be draining your phone's RAM, and the battery-consumption meter will give you a detailed overview of your battery's current status and usage statistics.
There's also a data-usage meter, which allows you to enter your plan details and set warnings when you're approaching your data limit. A storage meter will give an overview of how much storage you're using and will let you uninstall apps you no longer use.
Both the task killer and data-usage meter are useful secondary features to have in a mobile security application, and AVG and Avast are the only apps that provide this service.
AVG's premium application, a $14.99 app purchase via Google Play, unlocks the App Backup and App Locker features. App Backup does what you'd expect, backing up your installed applications to the SD Card, should you need to factory reset your device. This won't be helpful if you lose your phone, however, and AVG doesn't offer cloud backup as an option.
App Locker secures individual or all applications by forcing users to enter a password before a user can access an application. This feature is unique among the five Android security apps we tested, and provides a solid means of adding parental controls or extra security protection to your Android device.
Both premium features come with a 14-day free trial in the free application, so you can test them out thoroughly before choosing to upgrade.
Like other anti-theft applications, AVG AntiVirus features a Web portal you can use to protect your personal information, should your device get lost or stolen. The layout of AVG's portal is user-friendly, with available actions lining the top of the screen, and device information in the left-hand panel. In the middle, you'll find a Google Maps interface, which will help locate your phone if it is lost or stolen.
Available actions on the main screen include buttons to Locate, Lock, Unlock, Wipe, Scan (malware), Remove Device and Shout. The Locate feature will send a tracking request to your device, and within a few minutes, you'll be presented with the location of your device in Google Maps format. We were able to verify that the location presented to us was, in fact, accurate.
The Lock function will prompt you to enter a password to lock your device so unsuspecting eyes can't access anything past the lock screen. To unlock your phone, either enter the password after you unlock the lock screen, or use the Web app's Unlock function. Both features worked as advertised.
Clicking Scan will remotely perform a malware scan of your device, though it won't give you the results of that scan on the Web interface. The Wipe feature will remove your Google and other accounts from your device so thieves can't use them to their advantage. AVG AntiVirus will also reformat your SD Card, so wipe any information stored there, including any pictures or media files.
Finally, Shout will send an alert for your phone to ring to let others nearby know the device is lost or stolen, though it's much less functional than the Shout feature in Lookout and other anti-theft applications. Shout on AVG simply rings the phone's ringtone, while Lookout loudly notifies the context of the shout by screaming the device has been reported lost or stolen.
Overall, AVG AntiVirus is a solid solution for protecting your Android phone. The application and Web interface are both cleanly designed and easy to use, and the number of high-end features you get with the free version --including Safe Web Surfing, Remote Wipe, and Call and Message Blocker -- show why more than 70 million users have downloaded the app. Just keep in mind that other apps fared better on AV-Test's malware-detection analysis.
For an additional $15, the premium version of AVG is a compelling mobile security solution, as it allows you to back up your applications and requires a PIN to access certain applications (a solid parental-control feature). In comparison, however, Lookout offers a more complete and feature-rich premium application suite well worth its $30 asking price, but overall the AVG AntiVirus Android app is a good value.