The best antivirus apps for iPhone and iPad in 2021
Let us tell you something that the antivirus software industry doesn’t want you to know: you can’t scan an iOS device for viruses. No, you can’t, honestly. You see, iPads and iPhones have a security feature known as “sandboxing.” It’s called that because it allows every app to play only within its own “sandbox.”
Everything is compartmentalized in that way, so no app in your device can change any other app, file, or process. And that’s why virii (viruses) can’t infect an iOS system. Even if they get inside, there’s nothing they can do once they’re there.
So what is the authentic meaning of a phrase like “iOS antivirus”? What it means is “internet security for iOS.” This notion refers to a wide variety of features that keep iOS devices safe. This is necessary because, out-of-the-box, this hardware is not protected against many online security threats. Those include:
- Device theft
- Browser trackers
- Data-stealing apps
- Unsafe public WiFi hotspots
- Phishing links
We swept the so-called “security” iOS universe. It took dozens of hours. We went through scam apps, useless apps (free and otherwise), and security apps in the App Store that won’t do the job. We were looking for pieces of software that could deliver some actual protection without hidden fees or fishy trial periods. We found five such apps. That’s the good news.
The so-so news is that no single free security app for iOS includes all the features you will need to keep your device safe. However, if you know your data and your privacy to be worth more than a modest monthly fee, then you should have a look at Norton’s iOS app, which is nothing short of fantastic.
In this article, we will show you the best “antivirus” apps for iPads and iPhones. These are not virus scanners but security tools that offer you a plethora of valuable features that will enhance your online security. These features go from protection in public WiFi hotspots to integrated VPNs. So let’s have a look at the best five security apps for iOS systems today.
Best iOS antivirus apps – The quick list
- Norton 360 – The market’s best security for iOS
- McAfee – Top-notch antivirus for iOS
- TotalAV – Real-time protection and VPN service
- Bitdefender – Great cybersecurity in Apple systems
- Avira – Robust and lightweight
5 best antivirus for iPhone and iPad Today – The detailed list
1. Norton 360
Nobody rivals Norton in the security software industry for reputation and antiquity. It serves more than 20 million users worldwide. And that’s no surprise at all since this is a tool that works very well and keeps a lot of people safe every day.
Let’s have a look at Norton’s offer for iOS devices.
Norton 360 is a very active tool that protects you in several ways. For example, it will filter out spam text messages that could include phishing links, and it will warn you about unsafe public WiFi networks. It also patches up a variety of vulnerabilities.
The Web Protection feature will keep you away from infected websites. And there’s also the Dark Web Monitoring tool that lets you know when any of your personal information has been leaked.
Additionally, this app enables you to use a VPN (but only if you live in the countries where it’s available).
There is no free version, and the fee will seem a bit steep for many users. But you can take advantage of its 14-day trial version before you decide to invest your money in this software.
So the price may be high for the market, but it’s the best out there, and if you take your security seriously, investing in Norton 360 merits some serious thought.
If you were searching for the best all-around antivirus app for your iPad or iPhone, congratulations, you found it. It’s McAfee. It will give you some of the most fantastic security features in the market as it keeps your device safe.
So after the glowing reviews for the first two options, how does McAffee shine? First, there’s the real-time protection feature. It will stop any incoming threats from getting inside your system. Then, it scans your system regularly to detect WiFi attacks and outdated software.
If your device is lost or stolen, McAfee will track it down and pinpoint its location using a GPS tracker and activating a remote alarm.
McAffee protects your pictures and videos with a PIN code, and it backs up your contacts automatically. And that’s just the free version.
If you sign up for McAfee’s Premium Plus version, you will also have at your disposal an unlimited VPN. This will secure your online activities even when you use the leakiest, most surveilled Starbucks public WiFi hotspot in your city.
You can try the Premium version for seven days before you need to pay for a license. After that, you can cancel at any time.
While TotalAV is not Norton360 or McAfee, it’s also at the top of the iOS security, and it’s an excellent tool in terms of safety and features.
Unlike Norton360, TotalAV has a free version, and it’s surprisingly helpful. It includes a battery monitor, a photo manager, a device locator, and a data breach checker.
But most users will want to stick to the paid version as it includes two additional features called WebShield and Private Connection VPN. The first one provides real-time protection for your iOS system. The latter allows you to use a fully-fledged VPN service.
The subscription is worth the price, primarily because of the WebShield feature.
TotalAV’s ability to detect malware is excellent, and it will keep threats away from your system. If you have noticed how dangerous the Internet has become lately, you’ll see how TotalAV is a good investment of your hard-earned money.
Bitdefender could be the solution you’ve been looking for if you want an excellent antimalware suite for your iPhone.
This software is fantastic with virus detection, but that’s only the beginning. It’s also a complete security suite that will be the joy of many iOS users.
The iOs app sans your network connections and blocks anything that looks fishy. It includes a VPN (200 MB daily). 200 MB is not a lot of data, especially if you want to stream videos. But if you keep your online activity to browsing, mainly, then it’s enough so that you won’t need to get a premium VPN account additional to Bitdefender.
It will also scan your emails for potential breaches, thus informing you about your online status.
Last but not least, the Bitdefender Central platform lets you view the status of every device under the same Bitdefender account. And you can manage the parental control settings from there as well.
Bitdefender is an excellent option, and it’s the most awarded security suite in the iOS environment, which is enough to consider it seriously.
Avira has made a name for itself for its protection for Windows, macOS, and Android devices. However, it turns out that the iOS version is every bit as good too. It’s lightweight, it’s complete, and it’s great.
Avira has an integrated VPN service that you can use along with the antimalware software –but the data is capped at 100MB daily.
But it has a lot to offer besides the VPN. For instance, it can prevent Siri from logging your Siri commands so that Apple’s servers can’t record your activities. It will also secure your connection when you’re at a public WiFi hotspot and detect other devices using your home network.
Even more, features include automatic software updates for your software, file backup, and help with recovering lost or stolen iOS devices.
But let’s not lose sight of the main thing: Avira is an excellent “antivirus” and antimalware software in general.
And to top it all off, it’s very cost-effective. A single Avira account lets you secure multiple devices simultaneously, so you can have it running on every phone, tablet, and computer you have.
Our methodology behind these apps’ selection as the best antivirus for iOS
Let us tell you how we tested and selected the best iOS security apps listed in this article.
The problem with most iOS antivirus apps is that they’re little more than cheaper copies of their Windows brothers and sisters, with the most exciting features stripped down and most of the functionality removed. For example, too many iOS antivirus apps won’t even include real-time protection. That’s a deal-breaker since real-time scans are the whole point in antivirus software.
So we started by eliminating all the apps with no real-time protection against malware. Then we picked the apps that offer the widest variety of features for iOS users.
But quantity and quality don’t always match. The number of features is only one ingredient in this recipe, so we tried every app to ensure it had at least some authentic potential and see how smoothly it ran.
In this round, we got rid of any app that wasn’t user-friendly and glitch-free (this is software designed to run on Apple’s hardware, for Steve’s sake!).
After that, only a few apps remained. So we did some research about their malware detection rates and consulted tests performed by AV-Comparatives.
Once you go through all data, only a handful of apps survive. The ones in this article.
Read also: Best VPN for iPhone
Picking the best antivirus app for iPhones
So you still can’t pick a winner? No problem. The five options are all excellent indeed. So let us offer you a few extra points to consider when selecting the best app for your iPhone.
We start with pricing. Are you ready to pay for a license or a fee? Or do you think that a free app should be quite enough for you? Of course, the most critical single factor with pricing is that the free apps won’t give you real-time protection.
As noted before, this is an essential feature. If you can’t have it, you’ll have to trust Apple’s built-in security policies and software –and if those were so good, then why would you need an app anyway?
Once you’ve made up your mind about paying or not, consider the features. For example, are you interested in file backups, data breach checkers, device locators, or VPNs? The VPN is always a good thing to have, in my opinion (but it’s also always better to have a premium VPN service like NordVPN), but maybe having your pictures protected doesn’t seem like that big a deal for you. So see which app fits you best.
Last but not least, consider all your other hardware. Yes, we’re talking about iOS devices primarily here. Still, since these antivirus suites offer coverage for multiple devices for a single account, you should consider which provider will be more helpful if you also have one or more computers running on Windows, for example.
Every option in our top five list also offers excellent antivirus protection for Windows (so you have other choices except Windows Defender now, too), Android, and macOS, so if you take that into account from the beginning, you will save yourself a bit of work and money down the line.
Installing an antivirus on an iOS system
We’re talking about Apple systems, so the installation process is quick and painless. Just follow these steps:
- Open the App Store. Search for the app you want.
- Download the app onto your device. Open it.
- If you have an existing account, log into it. Otherwise, create a new account.
- Finish the app’s setup by following the instructions.
Do I really need a security app on my iPhone and other iOS devices?
Yes, you do need one indeed. Granted, you probably need it much less in iOS devices than in Windows or Android, but you will still need it sooner or later.
The information available on this subject is contradictory, and it’s all over the place. If you run a google search for “Do I need antivirus software in my iPhone?” you will find every possible answer under the sun.
Many websites swear that iOS devices can’t possibly ever get a virus, so any antivirus tool you can buy or install is a waste of your time, money, and hardware resources. However, on the other side of the spectrum, some websites will make their best effort to scare you badly enough to download and install an antivirus immediately.
As it often happens in the digital world, the truth is never in the extremes.
Granted, the iOS sandbox architecture makes it almost impossible for any virus to do any damage. But that in itself can’t possibly guarantee that you will never face a potentially harmful security threat.
Also, have you “jailbroken” your Apple hardware? If you have, you neutralize Apple’s security policies and mechanisms, so your iPhone or iPad is prone to get a virus. Why? You did away with the software restrictions imposed by Apple. Those are the very restrictions that previously protected your system from virus infections.
Another threat comes from malware-infested web pages or malvertising. They’re all over the Internet, and you can find yourself browsing one of them. Even if you just use search hits from the Safari search engine, you could end up in one of those — no, not even the famously controlled Safari is 100% safe.
So yes, getting a virus in an iPhone is much rarer than in a Windows or an Android device. But you could still have it happen to you, and if you take no precautions whatsoever, you’ll just make it more likely.
Are there any free antivirus apps for iPhones?
Yes, there are many. As a matter of fact, all the options listed in this article have a free version, except for Norton360.
You will find a free version if that’s what you want. But remember that real-time protection is the main advantage of any antivirus app, and you only find it in the paid versions.
Top apps that didn’t make the cut
There are other good options in the App Store, but they’re not as good as the five options we picked. Let us tell you which ones and why.
- Lookout: It’s an excellent iOS-specific app. It includes advanced anti-theft features, anti-phishing measures, and identity theft monitoring. So there is nothing wrong with Lookout for sure. But everything it does is also available from the other five choices and with better value.
- Phone Guardian: This app is a free VPN that will also encrypt your pictures and personal data. It’s good, as free apps go. But nowhere near as sophisticated and helpful as the elements in my list.
- Avast: It works. It was also caught in a scandal because it was selling its users’ data to big corporations. That’s not what you want from the software charged with keeping your online privacy safe.
The Apple iOS ecosystem is a bit different from Windows or Android. For the most part, Apple is already aware of the most common threats to an iOS system in terms of viruses and malware, and it has you covered.
Consequently, high virus detection rates in iOS antivirus apps are not the critical element they can be in, say, Windows. So the best antivirus providers for Apple mobile systems need to give you value in their service by offering extra stuff.
So the best iOS antivirus apps offer many features, and you need to take them all into account if you are to choose wisely. How compatible is any given app with other operating systems or platforms also comes into play.
As the proud owner of an iPhone or an iPad, you could get overconfident because Apple’s reputation for security is outstanding in the industry — although some would say it’s overblown.
But it would be best if you took no risks. Do not forget this: all you need to have your life turned upside down is a single virus. Don’t let that happen. Instead, consider any of the five options in this list.
About the author
Ali Qamar is the founder of PrivacySavvy, which he started out of the sheer passion for making every internet user privacy savvy. Ali has always been concerned about security and privacy for the general public and is very libertarian. Even before Edward Snowden appeared, he has been a privacy advocate even before Edward Snowden appeared with his revelations about NSA's mass surveillance.
Ali graduated with a computing degree from the leading IT college in Pakistan, so he boasts a background in this area. He has an accountable understanding of the technical sides of encryption, VPNs, and privacy.
Ali is regularly quoted in the privacy and security reports by the local press. His contributions have been featured in SecurityAffairs, HackRead, Ehacking, Livewire, Intego, Business.com, InfosecMagazine, and many more publications online. Ali is naturally attracted to transforming things.