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A leaner, more powerful McAfee Mobile Security combines malware scanning, web security with dark web scanning, and affordable access to a VPN after cutting out a number of functions.
Depending on how you look at it, McAfee either removed the excess fat to create a leaner Mobile Security app that can better protect consumers or it hollowed out elements that rival security apps offer that are beneficial.
In either case, Mobile Security makes security simpler with a mobile app that has identity tracking, privacy features, and malware protection. Although the Secure VPN is unlimited, you cannot select the countries you want to access, which rules it out for accessing geo-restricted content. Unfortunately, McAfee does not submit its Mobile Security app to independent malware testing, making comparisons of effectiveness challenging.
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Even so, it competes with the $100 Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy subscription and is reasonably priced at $60 with the VPN. You can determine if McAfee Mobile Security is the best Android antivirus program for your smartphone or tablet by reading our review.
McAfee Mobile Security How much Costs?
Like many competitors, McAfee Mobile Security doesn’t have a free version but you can try the full app on up to five devices for 30-days.
There are two versions of McAfee Mobile Security, with the Basic plan costing $30 per year ($3 per month) for one device and including virus scanning, email, and basic online identity monitoring. The next tier, McAfee Total Protection, adds a VPN and costs $60 a year ($6 per month), covering up to five devices.
For Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, there are two cross-platform subscriptions. The Plus package costs $110 and covers up to five computers, while the $130 Premium plan includes parental controls and expands coverage to 10 devices. Both plans offer VPN access. However, only five people can utilize the VPN at once.
Too little? The Premium plan is the starting point for the McAfee Ultimate subscription, which also includes identity protection services and $1 million in insurance and restoration. Although the ID protection is only for one individual, it costs $160.
The Android app is compatible with devices running Android 7 (Nougat) or higher. It is incompatible with Chromebooks and WearOS devices, though. The Mobile Security app for iPhones and iPads requires iOS version 13 or later and generally has the same capabilities as the Android app. It cannot do a malware scan on a PC because of Apple limitations. The iOS app makes up for this by including a System Scan to make sure the device is up to date.
McAfee Mobile Security Malware protection
McAfee Mobile Security may not have a free version, but it is simple to trial the program for 30 days and can be installed on up to five systems. With local virus scanning as its first line of defense against threats, McAfee focuses on personal online protection. It has the ability to recognize and block a variety of exploits and phishing attempts.
For internet safety, the app’s Safe Browsing URL scanner is prominently displayed. It keeps a watch out for websites that attempt to load unwanted programs as well as those that are known to propagate malware.
Unlike its predecessor Web Advisor, Safe Browsing is now built into the app. That way, there’s nothing to load onto the phone and once turned on, its protection is automatic regardless of which browser you use. Like Lookout, this makes its protection more consistent and universal than security apps that rely on browser add-ons. It warned about the three nasty sites I visited.
When out and about, the app’s Wi-Fi Scan can help by only connecting with safe networks; it replaces Safe Wi-Fi from previous versions.
It analyzes available networks and warns when they don’t use encryption; it can be set to always scan but can’t protect against man-in-the-middle attacks. However, it does keep an eye out for networks that are being attacked.
McAfee Mobile Security Malware detection
Despite consistently performing well in independent assessments, AV-Test and AV Comparatives do not yet include the Android app of McAfee in their surveys of malware detection.
In the most recent AV-Test test, which was conducted in December 2021, McAfee received a flawless 100 percent on both new and common threats. Additionally, the scanning was quite accurate and produced no false positives.
The McAfee app achieved an outstanding 99.9 percent with no false positives on the most recent test with AV Comparatives, which was conducted in July 2019. This elevated it over Google Play Protect and into the same class as Avast and Bitdefender.
On the downside, without comparative data on effectiveness, McAfee Mobile Security’s ability to catch and stop rogue viruses is an open question.
McAfee Mobile Security Features and tools
McAfee has a lot to offer, but since our last review, a few key functions have been lost. The corporation said that these were things that Android already covered or weren’t very popular with users. All things considered, Mobile Security no longer has its Memory Booster and Storage Cleaner features, as well as an app lock and guest mode.
The items that users are likely to miss most though are the anti-theft tools but Android’s Find My Device features are a good replacement.
The three tasks that it does have are security, identity protection, and privacy. While McAfee Mobile Security no longer offers the Privacy Check feature, its Secure VPN service might help you appear more secure to others. You can manually turn it on, but it can also be configured to turn on only when there is an active Wi-Fi connection. When the VPN is running, a small icon appears on Mobile Security’s home screen and a key logo appears in the Android status bar.
The company has been beefing up its VPN’s presence and now has servers in 50 countries; 14 in the U.S. and 3 in Canada. Unfortunately, it doesn’t let you pick the place where the communications stream will emerge. This makes it useless for streaming geo-blocked content and puts the focus on securing communications.
Using my Note 20, the app got online in 1.8 seconds and delivered 131 Mbps from my 200 Mbps connection. This puts it at a slight disadvantage to more efficient VPNs, like from Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy.
McAfee Mobile Security can continually check your online profile with its Dark Web Monitoring. It looks for 60 different personal identifiers, like bank and credit card accounts, email addresses and identification numbers. If it detects a breach, Dark Web Monitoring shows guided steps to fix the problem. The Ultimate plan augments this with $1 million of insurance for recovering stolen funds and getting new documents.
It all comes together in the app’s Protection Score. Prominently shown on the home screen, the score takes in all aspects of an online presence that the app can monitor or control.
My score rose from 400 on installation to 698 after I started using the app’s tools. Be warned, it can become addictive to try to raise the score.
McAfee Mobile Security System impact
I configured a series of experiments using my Samsung Galaxy Note 20 running Android 12 to see how much of the phone’s performance the app and its scanning engine utilize. I conducted the GeekBench 5 Compute benchmark while the phone was connected in and before the McAfee Mobile Security app had been downloaded to obtain a performance baseline of 3,673.
The score dropped to 3,606 after I loaded the app, denoting a 1.8 percent decrease in the phone’s functionality. It is comparable to the performance reduction that Google Play Protect and Lookout Mobile Security saw, although it is better than the 3.2 percent drop observed by Avast Mobile Security.
It was fast, taking 8.2 seconds for the system to look at 482 apps and 313 files, but only after two runs. The first scan took 2 minutes and 19 seconds and looked at 482 apps and 8,048 files. Like the slower Malwarebytes app, the software learns what to examine and what to ignore over time.
While scanning the system for rogue code, the app’s performance decline was a modest 1.7 percent, the same as Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy and in the middle of the pack. It was lighter than Norton 360: Mobile Security but heavier than both Google Play Protect and Avast Mobile Security.
McAfee Mobile Security Setup and support
Protecting a device with the McAfee Mobile Security app started with a 53MB download that began the automated installation process. After I accepted the license agreement, the app checked the system for incompatibilities.
There’s a choice between the 30-day trial and paying for the product. If you stick with the free version, be ready for upgrade offers. If not, McAfee accepts credit cards and PayPal. Start to finish, it took 6 minutes and 40 seconds.
In addition to phone and chat support for resolving problems, McAfee has a link from the app to search its database or contact its technicians directly. They’re available 24/7.
McAfee Mobile Security Interface
The look and feel of McAfee Mobile Security is all new with an emphasis on providing simple real-world protection. There are also explanations and cartoon characters to help ease anxiety.
The app runs in portrait mode and its home page has the Protection Score next to a Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good or Excellent appraisal. Tap the arrow to see the score’s criteria and appraisal range along with tips on how to raise the score. There’s a general warning that you’re never totally safe, no matter what your score might be.
After setup, the app provided a base Protection Score of 400 out of 1,000. I spent the next week raising it by using the app and making changes. By giving the app permission to nose around my files, my Protection Score rose to 439 – not bad for less than a minute’s work. I ended up with a score of 698.
Below are scrollable general interest topics, like privacy, Wi-Fi and protecting other devices. Unlike the articles that others provide, these have real-world suggestions that can be carried out by tapping on the section’s link. These include adding protection to other devices and turning on the VPN.
Along the bottom are three icons for the home page, Services (aka security features) and Settings. The Services cover all the app’s major tasks and some have their own icons. The app’s duties include scanning, identity protection, VPN, Wi-Fi scan and Safe Browsing.
The Gear logo on the far right leads to a list of the app’s major functions. There, I found it easy to check on my McAfee account, add other devices to the protection circle and notifications, although this only had a link for setting up push alerts for the Wi-Fi scanner.
My favorite is the Troubleshooting section. Here, I was able to collect data from the app’s logs to send to McAfee to help figure out a problem.
Unfortunately, gone are the small question mark icons from the previous version that led to explanations.
McAfee Mobile Security Bottom line
McAfee Mobile Security is a comprehensive security program designed for those who care more about protection than having every feature, despite the fact that it may seem a little sparse in comparison to earlier editions and the finest mobile security apps.
Along with protecting a device from infection, it may monitor your identity for online fraud and provide privacy protection with a VPN. Mobile Security is an excellent deal at $60 to cover five systems with VPN access, despite the paucity of recent comparable data on its efficacy.