Bringing its expertise in PC security to Android devices, Kaspersky Mobile Security promises to provide premium protection against theft, loss, prying eyes and Android malware. And unlike many other mobile security apps, Kaspersky requires users to enter their PINs to perform a factory data reset on their smartphone. But is that enough to separate it from other Android security apps?
Setup and User Interface
Kaspersky walks you step-by-step through the initial setup process, which involves choosing your country, activating Anti-Theft and Self-Defense features, creating a Kaspersky account for Web management and a secure PIN.
Once you've gone through the setup, you'll be presented with Kaspersky's main page, a basic screen that lets you delve deeper into settings by choosing one of the six category codes. Here, you'll find sections for Anti-Virus, Privacy Protection, Anti-Theft, Call and Text Filter, Web Protection and Additional Information. Clicking through any of these menus will show you further actions you can take or settings you can modify to more fully customize your security experience.
Unlike Lookout and Avast, Kaspersky does not provide an overview of your device's security status or the latest actions Kaspersky has taken to keep your device safe. This information is reassuring to some people, so we'd have liked to see Kaspersky include it in its app.
In all, Kaspersky Mobile Security Pro's design feels basic. While Kaspersky's button-driven interface works well, we prefer the sleeker look and feel provided by such apps as Lookout and Avast. For example, Lookout gives you instant updates on your device's security status, and the design clearly draws your eye toward the features you need to interact with. Contrast that with Kaspersky, which is simply a running list of features wrapped into rounded rectangular blobs.
Detection and Performance
Kaspersky was nearly perfect on AV-Test's scan, successfully detecting 99 percent of all sample security risks sent to the test device. This bested the industry average of 93, as well as Avast's most recent rating (94 percent), but was below Lookout and Norton's 100 percent performance levels. Still, Kaspersky users can trust that their device will almost always be protected from potential threats.
Like other mobile security apps, Kaspersky runs in the background on your device, but you may notice a performance hit. To test Kaspersky Mobile Security's impact, we ran the AnTuTu benchmark test both with and without Kaspersky running. Our HTC One scored an average of 19,236 with Kaspersky installed and a malware scan running versus 24,672 without Kaspersky.
With other applications, we noticed no real difference between the before and after AnTuTu scores, and ran the test no fewer than five times to verify its abnormal results. We didn't notice much slowdown in real-world use, but our testing shows that slowdown may occur.
When it comes to features, Kaspersky offers all you need to keep your device secure, but not much beyond the basics. There's no backup of your personal information and no Signal Flare-like service that helps locate your device when the battery is running low.
What Kaspersky does include, however, works fairly well. In the Anti-Virus section, you can manually scan your device for threats, update your malware definitions or enter the anti-virus settings menu. In this menu is where you'll find settings such as automatic app scanning, adware detection and malware test scheduling.
The anti-theft features are fairly standard, enabling you to remotely lock, wipe and locate your device via Kaspersky should it become lost or stolen.
In the anti-theft settings page, you'll find other useful features that allow you to be notified if the SIM card is replaced, take a mug shot of the potential thief, sound a siren and perform a data wipe or full factory reset, all of which are accomplished through the Web portal. You can also set the device to automatically lock when the SIM card is replaced, and enter additional contact information for when your device is reported lost or stolen.
Kaspersky also comes with SMS call and Text filtering, which, like other mobile security apps, blocks certain designated numbers from being able to call and/or text you. Unlike AVG, Kaspersky doesn't allow you to schedule these blocked interactions.
If you decide to purchase the premium version of Kaspersky ($14.95), you'll get a few additional features in each of the key areas. On the anti-virus side of things, premium users are treated to automatic cloud-based scanning of downloaded applications. You'll also be automatically protected when surfing the Web, though this feature is limited to the stock Android browser only. Chrome and Firefox users are left out in the cold.
When it comes to anti-theft, Kaspersky has added the ability to lock, wipe and locate your device even when the SIM card has been removed, which is usually high on a true thief's priority list. You'll also get Privacy Protection, which can hide call and SMS history received from certain contacts.
Unlike AVG, Lookout and Avast, Kaspersky requires users to enter their Kaspersky PIN before performing a factory reset of your device. This adds a layer of security to your device, as a would-be thief is unable to bypass your security settings to remove Kaspersky and its anti-theft functionality.
While we were uninspired by the design of Kaspersky's Android application, the Web portal is another story altogether. All actions are managed via a single interface, with usable commands lining the left side of the page. Here, you'll be able to set a custom message to lock your device, enter your email address to receive device location information, use the mug shot feature to set your phone to take pictures using the front-facing camera, and wipe personal data or perform a factory reset.
The main section of the screen reveals the biggest frustration we had with Kaspersky. At the very top of the page, you'll find a synchronization timer counting down in 30-minute segments, and commands you've entered will be prominently featured under this timer. Unlike all the other apps' Web portals, which send a command to your device as soon as you assign it, Kaspersky's told us it would take 30 minutes. This is absolutely unacceptable, but Kaspersky says this should take only about 4 to 5 minutes.
Once the commands we issued finally ran, every feature worked as expected. The initial lock command locked down the device and displayed our given message. The portal then presented five images from the mug shot command, and our device was successfully located and wiped. We were, however, unable to locate the alert siren in the Web portal; we needed to use the SMS command to ensure this feature actually worked. Kaspersky assured us this functionality would be coming to the Web app in the next 1-2 weeks.
Kaspersky offers the basic level of protection expected of an Android security app, including remote lock and wipe. We also appreciate the easy setup and strong malware protection. However, the interface feels antiquated and you don't get as many features as competing suites, such as Lookout and Avast. Plus, Kaspersky was the only app that affected the performance of our Android phone, at least in synthetic benchmarks. Kaspersky Mobile Security can get the job done, but there are better options available.