17 Security Apps for Android in an Endurance Test
According to the statisticians at StatCounter, around 3.6 billion devices with Android systems were used around the globe in September 2023. This corresponds to an impressive market share of around 68.7% of the global smartphone market. An infected app from cybergangsters can take control of an Android device and misuse its performance and its Internet connection – without the user noticing that anything is amiss. The fact this is more than just a theory was confirmed by an investigation conducted by Check Point Research, in which it found a total of 18,400 malware apps in the Google Play Store over the past six months (from May 2023 to October 2023). According to the study, approximately 12,800 of these malware apps contain Trojans, spyware or ransomware or are used to facilitate phishing activity. Google is actually supposed to filter these more than 18,000 harmful apps out of the Play Store. Given that Google fails to do so, each Android device additionally contains the Play Protect protection service, which is designed to permanently monitor Android apps. This solution, however, is also not particularly successful, meaning that a protection app is a good recommendation for all users – as was clearly proven by this endurance test.
17 system watchdogs for Android apps face an endurance test
In this test, the AV-TEST laboratory examined a total of 16 security apps and Google Play Protect with regard to their protection, performance and usability from May to October 2023. The good thing about the endurance test is that it shows their performance over a longer period of time rather than at one snapshot moment. After all, users who have a good protection app tend not to replace it every few weeks. That said, this is precisely what they may do if this test reveals that they have bet on the wrong horse.
Android security apps from the following vendors were put to the test: AhnLab, Avast, AVG, Avira, Bitdefender, ESET, F-Secure, G DATA, Google, Kaspersky, McAfee, Norton, Protected.net, securiON, Sophos, Trend Micro and TTB. As mentioned above, Google’s Play Protect service is pre-installed on all devices.
The results of the test speak for themselves: Ten of the 17 apps involved in the endurance test achieved a maximum of 18 points. Five of the apps were awarded totals ranging from 17.3 to 17.8 points, and only two apps lagged far behind and therefore cannot be recommended.
How much protection Android security apps provide in an endurance test
Fending off attackers: security apps and their performance in the endurance test
Protection against infected applications
To determine the protection provided by the security apps, the AV-TEST laboratory constantly collects new infected apps from the Internet and various stores. The experts then use the latest and most dangerous examples for the real-time test. This endurance test deployed more than 9,000 new dangerous app samples plus over 10,000 samples that had already had free rein in app shops for several weeks. These samples form the so-called reference set, and include, for example, plenty of handy tools, pro apps and games.
Seven of the security apps tested identified all of the nearly 20,000 attackers from the reference set and used in the real-time test with a success rate of 100 percent. These products came from Avast, AVG, Bitdefender, Kaspersky, Norton, securiON and Trend Micro.
The four protection apps from Avira, ESET, F-Secure and Sophos only made minor errors and achieved a detection rate of 99.9 or 99.8 percent in one test phase and 100 percent in the other.
All 11 Android security apps mentioned received the full 6 points for their protection capability. The apps from G DATA and McAfee received a good result of 5.8 points, followed by TTB and AhnLab with 5.7 points.
While the app from Protected.net received 5.2 points, Google Play Protect ended up in last place with just 3.8 points. The system protector pre-installed on Android systems only detected 94.9 and 98.9 percent of the infected apps in the two test phases.
No concerns regarding potential power guzzlers
During the test, the laboratory also examined whether, when active, the protection apps slow down an Android device, deplete its battery or constantly request new data in the background, which also has a negative impact on the battery life.
With regard to this aspect, the laboratory confirmed that there is no cause for concern: none of the apps examined attracted negative attention in this test category. As a result, all of the system protection apps added the full total of 6 points to their tally in the performance category.
Bitdefender Mobile Security
Avast Antivirus & Security
F-Secure Total Security & VPN
Kaspersky Plus for Android
Sophos Intercept X for Mobile
Usability: friend or foe detection
The security apps are also, of course, expected to report and remove dangerous apps as part of their work. Nonetheless, they should not run riot and falsely accuse harmless apps, which would only serve to unnerve users.
Most of the Android protection apps make no such errors and were therefore awarded the full 6 points. Most, but not all: the apps from AhnLab, Avira and Protected.net made mistakes time and time again during the test. AhnLab therefore only received 5.7 points, while Avira and Protected.net lagged behind with just 5.3 of the maximum of 6 points available.
Security app YES, Google protection NO
The endurance test conducted on an Android 11 system from May to October 2023 clearly shows which of the security apps provide reliable protection for Android users. Ten out of the 17 test candidates completed the test with the maximum points score of 18 points: Avast, AVG, Bitdefender, ESET, F-Secure, Kaspersky, Norton, securiON, Sophos and Trend Micro. A further five system bodyguards at least made it to 17 points, while Protected.net achieved a total of 16.5 points. The pre-installed Android protection Google Play Protect failed to keep up and came in last with 15.8 points in total. This result instantly resolves the question as to whether the standard protection on an Android device is sufficient.
The test also revealed another user tip: Many of the apps come with a number of additional interesting tools ranging from identity protection to parental control and right through to hack alerts for e-mail addresses in connection with passwords, the network or a QR code scanner. However, these extra features do not always come for free, and some of them are only available in the premium version of security app available at a charge.