AVG Antivirus for Android

AVG Antivirus for Android, originally developed by Israeli company DroidSecurity, is a solid security app. However, it is a bit rough around the edges, and users looking for some of that desktop AVG feel will be sorely disappointed.

The bottom line: AVG Antivirus for Android, originally developed by Israeli firm DroidSecurity, is a solid security application. However, it is a bit rough around the edges, and users looking for some of that desktop AVG feel will be sorely disappointed.

AVG's purchase of DroidSecurity has given it quick entry into the mobile security market. The app itself has undergone a very light rebranding since the AVG purchase, but otherwise remains very much the DroidSecurity app from before the buyout.

While Android-based threats are real, they are nowhere near the problem that viruses and malware are on Windows computers. That being said, the app's features are generally strong, and the app's new owners are sure to develop it further.

Note that this review is based on using AVG Antivirus for Android on an LG Optimus U running Android 2.2 Froyo.

The installation of AVG Antivirus for Android is unremarkable, and all but the newest of Android users ought to find the procedure familiar. One interesting installation feature that separates the app from most of its competitors is that it doesn't require registration to run. Certain features, such as the lost phone locator service, require registering an e-mail address with AVG to function, but the app will let you know when it wants more info from you.

Strangely, the app icon was left behind when we uninstalled, a common flaw with Windows programs--not Android apps.

AVG Antivirus for Android version 2.5 uses 1.3MB of space on the phone, and has permission rights to your personal information, location, text messages, network communication, phone calls, hardware controls, and system tools.

AVG Antivirus for Android (photos)

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The DroidSecurity interface will take some getting used to. Accessing the app's multiple features can feel circuitous. When you launch the app, it shows you a big pill subtitled with a message that tells you to tap to run a scan, or hit the hardware Menu button to access the other features. However, the Menu button actually reveals several more-focused scans that are given equal weight with the Settings button, under which the other features actually reside.

Sound confusing? It was a bit confusing to us, too. The interface could definitely stand a cleanup to make the app's ancillary features more readily apparent.

You can tell if you're running the free version or the paid version by the color of the pill. The yellow pill is for the free, the blue pill indicates the paid, and there is no red pill, no matter what Laurence Fishburne says.

What you see when you launch the AVG app.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Features and support
The key feature in AVG Antivirus for Android is that it will scan your phone for malicious apps. You can configure it to run weekly, daily, or on demand. It will also scan new apps that you download before they are installed on the phone. The scan covers Web site content, e-mails, and text messages that get downloaded to the device, too. AVG Antivirus is geared to focus on the app scan, so that when you start it, tapping the screen anywhere will instantly start the scan.

However, there's more to phone security than protecting against malware, especially since malware just isn't that prevalent at the moment. The app offers the aforementioned lost phone locator with a proprietary service called Findr. To use it, you must first register your e-mail address; from there you can see your phone's location at DroidSecurity's Web site.

Findr's features are quite robust, including being able to create and display a message on your phone's locked screen remotely, to remotely lock your phone and then wipe it, and to manage apps remotely. During our tests, though, the map showing our phone's location resolved poorly and made it hard to track where the phone actually was.

The menu crams in too many options in one place. A better design could fix this.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

One of the best features in the app is the app locker, which overlays password protection on apps that you choose to lock down. It's simple and effective at preventing unauthorized access to apps, and the one password applies to all protected apps. Once you've unlocked one, they're all unlocked until the phone is locked again.

The app's backup and restore feature is robust as well, and it'll create copies online of your text messages, bookmarks, system settings, application settings, call logs, and contacts. You can use it to remotely remove apps, too. As with Findr, they're accessible from the DroidSecurity Web site. AVG Antivirus also offers a file scanner for evaluating files on your SD card.

One feature included is not without controversy: the task killer. Android comes with a built-in task-killing technique, so this might be superfluous for many users. Still, it's there for those who want it.

The app comes with basic protection from SMS spam; the paid version includes blocking SMS spam "at the source," real-time SMS scans, 24-7 customer support, app backup, and an advertisement-free interface. Upgrading costs $9.99 for a one-year license.

The features hold up well against the competition, although the field is so new that there still is yet to be a single standardized feature outside of the app security scan. Without a doubt, though, lost phone location and backup services are on top of our list of must-haves.

Different menu, same problem: too much in too little space.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

AVG Antivirus for Android's performance is hard to gauge on a purely antivirus-based scale because, as noted earlier, there just aren't that many threats out there, although they do exist. What we did look at is how the phone's start-up times are affected by the app.

When looking at cold-booting the phone, in which the phone is completely shut off, started, and then timed until the 3G connection has been established, the Optimus U we tested without AVG averaged 48.31 seconds to boot over three attempts. With Mobile Security installed, the phone averaged 53.58 seconds to boot over three attempts. Although the phone didn't "feel" any faster when starting up, the average impact of around 5 seconds might be noticeable to some users, and this leaves some room for improvement.

Keep in mind the variance of hardware that supports the Android OS, so new devices are likely to perform better than older ones with the same apps.

AVG Antivirus for Android is a good security app, and one that bears watching as it carries the imprimatur of AVG, arguably the best-known free Windows security publisher in the world. The app's impact on performance could be reduced, but its real drawback is an interface that doesn't cleanly present the app's features.

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