The Definitive AVG AntiVirus Pro for Android Review: Should You Keep Sticking To Free?Ramon Francisco
When it comes to mobile phones, I’m like a majority of people who own one: I think viruses and malware are only for computers. That’s until a friend of mine – a little into his mid-50s – told me about teaching his mother how to watch Netflix using a mobile phone which eventually turned into a disastrous story that ended with a few of his credit cards getting cut up.
Considering the recent revelation, I went back to a familiar name from my past: AVG AntiVirus Pro for Android. When a 56-year old man is telling 29-year old me that I should be getting a decent mobile anti-virus, it probably means I’m not taking my mobile digital security as seriously as I should be.
Why AVG AntiVirus Pro for Android?
I remember when the free anti-virus trend hit the techno-sphere more than a decade ago, with people suddenly becoming aware that little digital bugs were probably eating away at their precious data. Everyone and their grandmother were in a rush to get these anti-virus programs running on their computers. And through all that noise, I remember being particularly vocal about telling other people to get their AVG AntiVirus download because “Hey, it’s free.”
But my love affair with AVG was nothing more than a summer fling. With every new update for the anti-virus software, bloatware started crawling into my system.
“No, AVG, I don’t like using Google Chrome. I prefer Firefox and Opera.”
“What happened to my search bar, AVG? you’re ruining things for me, this is so not optimal!”
“Why do you keep installing Chrome!? I already deleted this. Why do I even need to opt out of software I don’t want?”
The snowballing frustration over unwanted system changes ultimately led me to simply purging AVG and other invasive free anti-virus programs from my computer. In the end, the depth of my online security settled into browsing a little bit more carefully online and relying on Windows Defender to keep my digital palace at peace.
But time marches on and along with it, just how devious digital threats have actually become. It wasn’t long before I actually started looking into anti-virus software for my laptop. And considering how many times I already tend to attach my phone – wireless or otherwise – to my computer, I decided I should probably be keeping that as safe as possible too.
Naturally, I looked up how my old friend AVG was doing. Did it still have the bad boy reputation of hijacking my preferred browser? Was it still annoyingly interruptive that it pushes people to create video tutorials about how to turn off its nagging notifications?
A concerned netizen, Youtuber “jasonc_tutorials,” teaching fellow AVG users how to make their computers less annoying.
A cursory search reveals that there are still people who encounter unwanted installations of AVG’s proprietary secure browser, but at least it’s not as unpreventable as the ninja-installing Chrome browser of the past. Still, to dodge the bullet of unwanted programs being installed along with my new anti-virus, I decided to try out AVG’s latest anti-virus chops by looking into its mobile app first.
What to expect
Looking up how AVG currently holds up in protection, both AV-Test and AV-Comparatives – independent digital security research firms – rank AVG as one of the top-performing anti-virus platforms on both mobile and desktop. Every page that pops up on a Google search for “AVG AntiVirus Review” never fails to mention this in excruciating detail.
Sure, AVG AntiVirus Pro as well as its bigger cousins – AVG Internet Security and other AVG Protection Pro products – may not be at the top of the heap amongst the well-known anti-virus programs, but it did have one thing going for it. That one thing that used to make AVG stand out from the crowd was its former glory as the best free anti-virus software you could get at least a decade ago. So, I set out to see if that was still the case for AVG AntiVirus Pro’s free version.
When we open the Google play store page for AVG AntiVirus Pro, promises of the ultimate system protection fill the “About this app” screen. Of particular interest were the Anti-theft features and the new Photo Vault feature being advertised alongside standard malware protection.
Of course, there has to be a catch. AVG won’t be giving out their software for free to anyone without finding some way to make money off them. What should I be expecting from the AVG AntiVirus Android app that has yet to be said?
Advertisements. Loads of them. Just like any other free application I’ve already mindlessly downloaded from the Google Play Store. What’s another one that promises to protect my system from all the bad people and software online? Sold on this premise I hit the install button on the Google Play Store.
Let’s do this. I hit the Install button on the Google Play Store app.
What I Actually Experienced
The AVG app itself reminds you that your protection experience will be limited if you don’t upgrade to AVG AntiVirus Pro for Android.
The bottom line of what this introduction page is trying to say is that you should pay AVG if you want advertisements removed from your copy of their Android app. Fair enough. The advertisements are definitely unpleasant, and seem to lead to questionable content themselves, but you’re getting protection for free and AVG needs to pay the bills.
Since it’s not like I have any choice to control which advertisements I can choose to watch and when, I’ve categorized this as neither a good nor bad feature. Also, it’s not like advertisements are stopping me from enjoying the free services of other companies like Youtube and Twitch.tv.
Still, a warning is still befitting for those with an aversion for cheap advertisements on mobile devices and applications: Advertisements will be running while you’re doing scans.
So, don’t expect any handholding or skip ads buttons with AVG’s app. With that out of the way, let’s dive into what else AVG AntiVirus for Android brings for its free users.
For what it’s worth, AVG does stay true to their promise of basic device protection with a surface-level easy-to-use interface (more on this in the bad section later). Downloading the AVG AntiVirus for Android app immediately gives you access to a straightforward number of options. You can hit the big blue button to start your first system scan, and there are even options to “boost” your RAM and clean junk files from your system.
Of course, the main menu page is also where you get to experience first hand where AVG reminds you that you could have it so much better if you upgrade to AVG AntiVirus Pro. Still, the current suite of features you get – from the basic system scan, call blocking, and firewall protection – is not bad. It definitely stands up to its promise of providing free anti-virus protection.
In addition, having the AVG AntiVirus application running in the background didn’t really affect my system negatively in anyway. My old yet trusty ASUS Zenfone 3 still runs as fast (or as slow, depending on how you look at it) as it used to be even with the newly installed AVG app.
If nagging notifications were one of the worst experiences of any AVG user of the past, the AVG AntiVirus app for Android has its own version of this. The “AVG is watching you” logo is annoying and there’s no way to remove it.
For those digging into the app’s settings, there’s only an option to “choose a theme” without any way to let AVG know that I don’t want their icon taking up my precious notification bar space. Definitely not a feature that a busy smartphone user would appreciate.
Looking at it, there’s no way that having the little AVG icon on the top of your screen is ever pretty. More so, I don’t understand why it needs to be there to provide real-time protection for my device in the first place. It’s not like AVG is getting additional advertising opportunities for other users through my phone’s screen.
In addition, the AVG AntiVirus app for Android does not include and SMS/Messaging blocking features. You’ll have to find another way to avoid unwanted private messages and SMS spammers. But at least they’ll already have a hard time calling you with AVG’s call blocking features.
To top off the list of annoyances, there’s also the fact that the AVG AntiVirus app is currently exclusive for Android. Sorry Apple fanboys, but AVG Anti-virus Pro for Mac might not be available anytime soon despite claims that it’s in development.
The Downright Ugly
Each and every corner of the AVG AntiVirus app is a trap waiting to happen. Promises of access to certain features are suddenly dashed when a button is clicked and you’re reminded that you’ve been mooching off a software engineer’s hard work. Remember the Anti-theft features? Definitely one of the best examples of what makes the AVG AntiVirus app for Android an unpleasant experience.
Apparently, you’re supposed to get access to the Anti-theft feature, albeit in a limited fashion. According to the program’s interface, we won’t have access to the fancy camera trap to know who has been accessing my device but we do get access to phone location services. That’s nice AVG.
Unfortunately, the promise that AVG AntiVirus for Android users still gets access to GPS tracking is a big fat lie. Definitely, an obvious way to bait customers to get hooked into getting an upgrade – hook, line, and sinker – without them knowing what they’re getting into.
In the upper right hand-side of the screen, in the smallest font size possible – even smaller than the sub-descriptions for each feature on the same page – AVG lets me know that the Anti-theft features are only available on trial for 14 days. Whether this means access to the Camera Trap and Last Known Location features are covered or all Anti-theft features are on trial is unclear.
To emphasize, these Anti-theft security features which would probably get shut off in two-weeks’ time require a significant amount of permissions to access different parts of your device. In addition, the “Last Known Location” feature requires you to create a myAVG account. Do not create an account for the Last Known Location feature unless you’re dead set on upgrading to AVG AntiVirus Pro for Android.
Can you blame AVG for trying to get you to upgrade to the Pro version? Of course not, they’re a business and they have to make money somehow. Can you agree with me in saying that misleading users about what’s included in the free version is a scummy sales tactic? You probably can.
So why go Pro?
After all the hoops and feedback loops that the free app puts you through and the scummy sales tactics that keep reminding you about “Upgrading to PRO,” why bother even doing it? Why should you even “go Pro?” Because you’re not necessarily paying for AVG’s virus protection features on their own.
The number one reason is peace-of-mind. AVG’s scummy sales tactics are definitely an unpleasant experience and paying them to remove the advertisements is fully worth it. Thankfully, AVG already provides decent basic protection, and it’s actually the supplemental features such as App Locking, Camera Traps, and other advanced features that you’ll be paying for.
Alongside the AVG app’s standard security features, AVG AntiVirus Pro’s Advanced features are worth picking up. Just being able to know the location of my phone if I absent-mindlessly left it at a restaurant I frequent is worth the peace-of-mind and the energy to retrieve it. In addition, any work-related and very important files on my phone can easily be expunged should I be unfortunate enough to lose it.
For people who have very active smartphone-enabled lifestyles but are not as tech savvy as those with the time and patience to study their apps even further, AVG’s advanced features are worth the price. It even feels like they’re throwing in the anti-virus protection in the bundle for free!
There are a couple of upgrade options where it may be better to simply upgrade to AVG’s Ultimate security bundle rather than simply upgrading to AntiVirus Pro for mobile. One of these cases is if you’re interested in availing of AVG Australia’s VPN services.
Paying 3 times the cost of the annual AVG AntiVirus Pro subscription just to have access to a VPN strictly for your mobile device doesn’t feel worth it. At least with the AVG Ultimate package, you get to choose how many devices you want to be covered with AVG’s security features and VPN service coverage.
In addition, if you’re past 20 years of age, already working, and understand the concept of people getting paid to do their jobs, you should probably be putting money into AVG’s bank accounts for the strong security features their engineers have created.
I’ll end this article with one of the biggest improvements that the current versions of AVG AntiVirus applications have over the first few ones I had experienced early in life. While AVG still has those frustrating scummy sales moments to get you to upgrade to the AVG AntiVirus Pro edition, at least they’re no longer repeatedly making us un-install online browsers we’d never use or change our homepage without our permission in our mobile device.
All-in-all, if you’re looking for a dedicated security application for your mobile device, you should consider upgrading to AVG AntiVirus Pro rather than sticking to the Free edition.