The established anti-virus software makers are beginning to edge out their upstart mobile-only competitors, at least in the latest rankings of Android security products.
In the most recent round of tests conducted by German research firm AV-TEST in March, the top five products, ranked by how well they detected malware, were made by some of the biggest names in PC and enterprise anti-virus software: Symantec, F-Secure, McAfee, Trend Micro and ESET.
That's a big change from a previous round of tests conducted by AV-TEST in January, which had among the top five the mobile-only makers TrustGo and Lookout, as well as Antiy, which also makes software for networking devices.
The January and March tests were conducted on different Android platforms, 4.1.2 versus 4.2.2, and featured more advanced versions of most products tested.
San Francisco-based Lookout is one of the leaders in the Android security field, debuting Lookout Security & Antivirus in early 2010, years before the established PC anti-virus makers took an interest. (Lookout also makes an iOS app without anti-virus features.)
TrustGo, based in Santa Clara, Calif., was founded by security-industry veterans in 2011 to focus on mobile security.
Lookout, TrustGo and other mobile-only security-app makers once had the Android market to themselves, but as the Android malware threat grew exponentially in 2011 and 2012, the big boys jumped in with both feet.
Now all the giants of the field make mobile software, often bundling it with paid PC suites.
Symantec, for example, offers Norton 360 Multi-Device, which protects up to five Windows, Mac or Android devices. The list price is $99 for one year's subscription, but as with many Norton products, deep discounts can be found.
Symantec's stand-alone mobile security app, like most Android security apps, can be downloaded for free, but users must pay $3 per month or $30 per year for additional premium features, such as anti-phishing and remote-wiping capabilities.
Lookout offers similar premium features for the same price. TrustGo offers all those premium features for free.
The mobile-only makers' slip in the rankings doesn't mean their products are getting worse. TrustGo and Antiy were still in the top 10 in terms of malware protection, and Lookout was No. 13.
The differences are almost infinitesimal. AV-TEST said that Symantec, F-Secure, McAfee, Trend Micro all detected fully 100 percent of the malware samples tossed their way, while the mobile-only players were closer to 98 or 99 percent.