It always feels a little sketchy when an antivirus vendor presents malware statistics and outlines all the growing threats you need to be aware of. While their data might be spot on, the fact that they each have a vested interest in the numbers they're presenting can give skeptics pause. Well, AV-Comparatives doesn't make AV software; it's an independent testing lab and one of the resources we use in our own AV reviews. In its latest report, AV-Comparatives analyzes 16 different mobile security applications to see which ones root out the most malware on smartphones and tablets running Android, as well as their impact on battery life.
The 16 products tested (PDF) include AhnLab V3 Mobile, Avast Mobile Security, Baidu Mobile Manager, Bitdefender Mobile Security Premium, ESET Mobile Security, F-Secure Mobile Security, IKARUS Mobile Security, Kaspersky Mobile Security, Kingsoft Mobile Security, Lookout Premium, Sophos Security and Antivirus, Tencent Mobile Manager, Trend Micro Mobile Security, Qihoo 360 MobileSafe, Quick Heal Total Security, and Webroot SecureAnywhere Mobile.
Surprisingly, there wasn't a whole lot that separated one product from another. Starting with a look at battery usage, AV-Comparatives found that most of the products only had a minor impact on battery life. The worst offenders in this category were Qihoo and Webroot, the former because it uses "fancy animations" and the latter due to its real-time protection component. Though they came in last, the battery drain still only amounted to around 3 percent.
When it came to testing malware protection, AhnLab and Kingsoft both detected 99.9 percent of the nearly 3,000 malware applications that were collected in the four weeks prior to the start of the test. Kaspersky came in a close second at 99.7 percent, followed by Baidu and ESET (both detected 99.6 percent), Bitdefender (99.4 percent), and Avast (99 percent). Several others scored in the 98 percentile, while Ikarus took last place with a 91 percent detection rate.
"Mobile security software protects the user against the great majority of threats, and should not, in our opinion, be regarded as merely optional," AV-Comparatives concluded. Nonetheless, many users do not employ such protection, and are at risk. We find this hard to understand, as there is a wide range of software, including free products, that provide a high level of security. The argument that security products affect the performance or battery life of smartphones has very largely been disproved in our test."