The developers behind the already popular ESET Security solutions for various desktop platforms is responsible for the next entry in our Mobile Security App Shootout: ESET Mobile Security for Android. Before we get started with reviewing the app, it's important to note that right now ESET for Android is in its Beta stage, and the app available on the Market is a Release Candidate, meaning it's not quite finished yet. The good news, however, is that the app is free throughout its stages in beta. ESET's other mobile solutions (for iOS and Symbian) run about $30.00/year.
At A Glance
ESET Mobile Security is a well-designed, easy to use app. It seems to function perfectly, and there's no way I'd know it was only in its release candidate stage if the app description didn't tell me so. ESET goes a few steps beyond basic loss/theft security by providing anti-virus, anti-spam, and on-demand security audits (more on that later). Interestingly, the loss/theft protection is completely reliant on SMS commands, which may make or break the app for some. Personally, I prefer a handy online interface, as it's very unlikely that I could remember all the SMS commands necessary. On the other hand, the option of controlling your phone remotely via SMS adds a lot to the security of the app, because it means you can track and control your handset even if data is disconnected.
First in the Features category, we'll discuss ESET's Anti-Virus capabilities. The controls here are pretty intuitive, enabling the user to scan their entire device, or a specific folder, and view logs of previous scans, as well as access to a list of quarantined files. The full device scan takes some time, but not too long, and the report it generates is comprehensive and sensible.
Next up is Anti-Spam, which is a little more than your average call/SMS blocker. ESET's filter lets you make rules for certain numbers, and allows you to block certain interactions. For example the user can allow SMS messages but not MMS messages, or block incoming and outgoing calls at once. The app also keeps a handy log of spam that has been blocked. This is a pretty nice feature to see included in a security app, and adds an unexpected twist to the typical conception of a call blocker.
ESET also offers Anti-Theft controls, which, while limited, are capable and useful. ESET allows the user to find, lock, and wipe their device remotely via SMS command. All SMS commands require a password to operate, making the commands secure. The app also accepts a password reset command, but this will only work when sent from a number that is preapproved within the app. I find the complete reliance on SMS commands a bit troublesome as it means no remote control for tablets, and no easy way to manage multiple devices on one account. Despite this, however, the controls work well, and do what you need them to do. Sending a "find" command will return an SMS message containing the phone's IMEI and SIM information, followed by a response with a Google Maps link showing your device's approximate location. The "lock" function does what we've come to expect - it locks the device, and only accepts your ESET password to unlock. The wipe function is likewise much the same as other security apps', wiping all data from your device remotely.
Finally we come to ESET's Security Audit function, which is actually a small group of functions put under one tab. The first of these is the actual Security Audit, which takes note of all your phone's information and enabled features (Bluetooth, GPS, Carrier, even free disk space and battery level) and makes recommendations about each to make your device more secure. ESET provides a log of your security audits, and the final function available under the Security Audit tab is the task manager. This feature seems a bit impractical, as it simply provides a list of apps, tasks, and services running at the moment, and allows you to close those which ESET deems safe to close. Still, it's a nice touch.
While ESET's mobile security solution for Android is just coming out of the gates, it's already a pretty strong app. One huge thing I would like to see is an online control panel, but SMS commands work well enough for securing your phone and its data. Another thing I'd like to see is root presence, so the app can survive a data wipe and continue protecting your device. But again, ESET is still in its RC stage, and it is very likely that new features will be added as time progresses. That being said, let's take a look at the pros and cons of using ESET as your main security solution in its current state.
- It's Free (for now) - While ESET's mobile security options for iOS and Symbian cost $30.00/year, the Android app is free, likely because it is only a release candidate and not the final app. This is likely to change, but until then it's a nice free option.
- Features - ESET has packed many unexpected and refreshing features into their Mobile Security app for Android. The addition of such things as Anti-Spam controls and a task killer are nice touches that make the app that much more practical.
- Interface/Ease of Use - ESET is another brilliantly designed app, using an intuitive, easy-to-grasp system of navigation and control, and working just how you want/expect it to.
- No Remote Control for Tablets - Since ESET is reliant on SMS commands, it does not have the ability to control tablets remotely.
- No Root Presence - The app cannot be installed as a system app or embedded into root, so it will not survive if a crafty thief wipes your device.
- Limited Controls for Lost/Stolen Devices - While locating, locking, and wiping are three of the most popular remote security features, I'd like to see more advanced controls, especially if the app is to inherit the price tag of its iOS and Symbian counterparts.
Overall ESET Mobile Security for Android RC is a strong app from the get-go, but there is a little progress to be made before I'd consider it for my ultimate security solution. That being said, it's free right now, so it's worth grabbing from the Market and taking for a spin.