In 2022, the independent lab AV-Comparatives released a report detailing the findings of mobile antivirus testing. The investigation included 11 antivirus solutions running on the Android 12 platform. The results demonstrated the need for third-party antivirus programs for smartphone protection.
Testing antiviruses to protect Android smartphones
The Austrian laboratory AV-Comparatives has published the results of testing 11 popular antivirus solutions for the Android operating system. In this report, AV-Comparatives assessed both Android’s built-in security measures and additional, more sophisticated features provided by third-party security apps.
In addition to anti-malware and battery performance, the report included reviews that evaluate the functionality, application design, and overall usability of each security solution. Also, many of the applications reviewed and tested have non-security components (such as application managers, network monitors, and system optimizers). However, we will only focus on the security features: anti-malware, anti-theft, safe browsing, and privacy.
Third-party antiviruses from well-known manufacturers, such as Avast, AVG, Avira, Bitdefender, ESET, G DATA, Kaspersky, Securion, and Trend Micro, as well as the built-in antivirus for Android “Google Play Protection” took part in the testing. The latest versions of mobile antiviruses were taken from the Google Play Store at the time of the test (May 2022).
- Avast Mobile Security
- AVG AntiVirus for Android
- Avira Antivirus Security for Android
- Bitdefender Mobile Security
- ESET Mobile Security for Android
- G Data Internet Security for Android
- Google Play Protection
- Kaspersky Internet Security for Android
- Malwarebytes for Android
- Security OnAv
- Trend Micro Mobile Security
The test devices were running the latest version of Android 12. Users of new devices, as well as those who are just planning to buy a modern smartphone, receive the necessary information about how the tested products perform on the new version of Android.
The test was conducted with an active Internet connection on real Android smartphones (no emulators were used). The test set consisted exclusively of APK files.
Threat detection rate and false positives
 False positives have been reported as a privacy risk
For testing purposes, the lab used a set of 3,127 fresh Android malware apps. Applications with the same certificates and/or the same internal code have been removed to have a test set of truly unique samples.
If available, an on-demand scan was performed first. After that, every undetected application was installed and launched. This was done so that products can detect malware using real-time protection.
The results clearly show the benefits of using third-party Android antivirus products to protect smartphones from Android malware.
To make sure that the high level of detection is not compensated by a large number of false positives, an additional test for the adequacy of protection was carried out, in which the products had to correctly process 500 legitimate applications.
Anti-theft functions were also taken into account. They help the owner of a lost or stolen device find its location, lock the device, and erase sensitive data. AV-Comparatives has tested the reliability of the Anti-Theft feature in antivirus solutions.
Battery discharge indicators
In the past, mobile antiviruses have had a bad reputation due to their high power consumption. The lab decided to test the current battery consumption situation in a separate test. AV-Comparatives has measured the additional power consumption caused by each of its mobile security products.
At first glance, testing your device’s battery usage may seem very simple. If you go into details, the difficulties become obvious. Particularly with mobile phones, usage patterns by different users are very diverse.
Some make extensive use of multimedia features, others view a lot of documents, and still, others only use phone features. It was important to distinguish between power users, who use all the possible features of the device, and ordinary users, who simply make and receive phone calls.
AV-Comparatives experts evaluated the impact of antiviruses on standard smartphone operations: making calls, surfing the Internet, watching videos, and sending an email:
- 30 minutes of phone calls
- 82 minutes of photo viewing
- 45 minutes of surfing the Internet using the Google Chrome browser
- 17 minutes of watching YouTube videos with the YouTube app
- 13 minutes of watching videos saved on the phone itself
- 2 minutes to send and receive mail using the Google Mail email client
- 1 minute to open locally saved documents
In this test, all tested mobile security products were found to have only a minor impact on battery life, as shown in the table above. In general, the experts were able to give the tested security suites high marks in terms of power consumption.
10 out of 11 Android 12 antiviruses tested won the Approved Mobile Antivirus award in 2022. To qualify for this year’s certification, apps had to achieve at least 99% malware protection, no more than 10 false positives, and a battery drain rate of no more than 8%. In addition, the main functions of each mobile antivirus had to function reliably without any major problems.
As AV-Comparatives points out, there is no perfect antivirus for securing mobile devices for all devices and all users. As with Windows antivirus, the lab recommends making a short list of mobile antivirus that might suit you by reading the pros and cons of each product in our review. You can then install a free trial of each antivirus candidate and test it for a few days (one at a time) – this should make your decision easier.
In particular, among mobile antiviruses for Android, new versions are constantly released with improvements and new features.
The full report is available on the AV-Comparatives official website here.