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Android antivirus that won't slow your phone

Android antivirus that won't slow your phone

You can find an Android security app that does it all, but sometimes those full-service apps slow down your Android device or demand constant attention. The solution: a lightweight antivirus app that guards against malware without taxing resources -- yours or your phone's.

App used in this guide

Avast Mobile Security & Antivirus

Bitdefender Antivirus Free

Best lightweight antivirus for Android

We tested eight Android antivirus apps and determined that Avast and Bitdefender are your best bets.

Avast Mobile Security & Antivirus

It doesn't get any simpler than this: Open Avast Mobile Security, and you're on the virus scan screen. Tap Scan This Device to check your files and apps for malware, or you can schedule scans for later. The animations are a bit cartoonish, with folders and gears bouncing around as the scan runs, but the app offers clear explanations of potential problems.

The best way to ensure you're getting a safe Android app is to download directly from the Google Play Store. But you can get a second opinion from Avast Mobile Security, which scans new apps after you download them.

For additional security checks, swipe right from the scan screen, and you can have Avast check the safety of your Wi-Fi connection. Swipe right again to see Avast's other security tools, including for app locking and call blocking. Swipe left to find links other Avast tools (such as Avast Anti-Theft and Avast SecureLine VPN) in the Google Play Store.

Bitdefender Antivirus Free

Watching out for malware is all Bitdefender Antivirus does. Open the app and tap Scan to start the malware hunt. At the end of a scan, it offers other security help but otherwise does this one thing well. The free app automatically scans new apps you download and when you insert an SD card.; otherwise, you initiate scans. A paid version offers additional security tools but uses the same malware-scanning engine as the free version.

What we looked for

Security apps can offer a wealth of services on top of malware protection: antitheft tools, memory cleansing, call blocking, private networking, data backup, encryption for individual apps or your entire drive, even alarms and flashlights. Those are all useful, but we wanted to find an Android antivirus app that did one thing well: protect us from malware without a lot of fuss.

We started our search with the popular antivirus apps in the Google Play Store and then compared that group with AV-Test's latest list of top-rated apps to find the most effective. We then tested the top eight, looking for simple, unobtrusive protection.

More antivirus apps

We also evaluated:

360 Security - Antivirus Boost

AVG AntiVirus

Cheetah Mobile Clean Master

Kaspersky Internet Security

McAfee Security & Power Booster

Norton Security and Antivirus

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Clifford Colby follows the Mac and Android markets for He's been an editor at Peachpit Press and a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWeek, MacUser, and Corporate Computing.