Mobile security vendor Lookout announced an update to its Mobile Security software product for Android earlier this month.
Some of the key features include a redesigned and easier to use dashboard, a locating function when a missing device has a dying battery, protection against click-to-call threats and an "emerging new mobile threats" category.
Lookout has been developing its mobile security app for Android smartphones since 2009, protecting devices from threats like malware and spyware, and backing up personal data along with the ability to find a lost or stolen phone.
V3 took a hands-on look at the updated application to see how well its new features hold up.
The first thing that struck us about the updated Lookout Mobile Security application in our hands-on was how easy it is to use.
Downloading, installing and running the app on the Samsung Galaxy S3 was effortless, and it proved very simple to use and navigate, with no lag or complicated menus. Menus are evidently designed to make the app easy to use and are presented in such a way that you can clearly see what is going on in front of you.
Lookout says that the new design makes the app "more intuitive" and "simple to access the features" while being "lightweight and mobile-optimised" for speed. We couldn't agree more - it's easy to use and doesn't seem to have any effect on the overall operation of the phone. In our hands-on, we also found it had no significant effect on the Galaxy S3's battery life.
Once the app is installed, you'll notice that the top half of the screen is taken up by recent developments in an area called the Activity Feed. This is a new feature in the update and will prove useful because as you use the app, the area will be taken up by recent developments, such as when the last scan took place and if the scans were successful or not.
The bottom half of the app screen consists of five tabs, three of which are built into the free version including Security, Back-up and Missing Device, and two that are available only in the Premium version, Safe Browsing and Privacy Advisor.
The security tab scans all the apps on the Android device in real time. We had 200 apps and scanning them took around two minutes to complete without detecting any threats. However this time will vary depending on the number and types of apps installed on the device. Once the scan is complete, the recent activity box underneath the scan bar will remember each scan and when it was last performed.
Though our device was determined as clean by Lookout, penetration tests would have to be done in a more detailed full review to see how well the app discovers new threats.
We should mention, too, that another nice feature is that when starting up your phone or the app, Lookout will let you know whether your device is safe once it knows there is no malware detected by saying "everything is OK" in a small pop-up. Always a nice, reassuring message to see.
As in the last version of the software, Lookout's Mobile Security suite can back up all your data, including contacts, photos and call history. However, the two latter features are for Premium subscribers only. Nevertheless, the app will back up this data automatically on a daily basis unless you tell it not to in the options. This is very handy if your device is lost or stolen and you fear that your data is lost forever.
Another nifty new addition to the updated Lookout software for those who are prone to losing their phones is Signal Flare, a capability that automatically flags the last location of a phone before the battery dies.
This is a great feature if you happen to lose your phone after the battery has died and increases your chances of getting it back. However, if your battery happens to die a good few hours before you lose it, and you have travelled quite a distance with it before doing so, your phone is probably gone for good.
Signal Flare is part of the Missing Device tab, where you can test the "Scream" feature that can be enabled on Lookout's web client so that if your device is lost, you can make it sound an alarm. Two other features, including remote Lock and Wipe, are available only on the Premium version and, as their names suggest, allow the user to lock and wipe the phone from a remote location.
The final new feature in the updated Lookout software is Safe Dialer for protection against dialler-based attacks. This feature can be enabled in the app's settings and scans every phone number you click to call from your mobile browser, alerting you if dialling the number might connect you with a nasty criminal intending to wipe your phone without your permission.
Lookout Mobile Security is now available to download free of charge from the Google Play store for Android only. Users wanting to take advantage of the Premium version's extra features will have to fork out £19.99 a year, or £1.99 a month so they can use the additional Backup and Missing Device features as well as the Safe Browsing and Advisor tabs.
Safe Browsing simply scans every website you visit in real time to protect users against phishing attempts and online threats, which it will do automatically. It will flag you if it thinks a website you are visiting is unsafe.
Privacy Advisor makes a list of all the apps that can access your private information, such as those that use location services to see where you are, those that can access your contacts and those that can read your mobile number and SIM data. This is definitely a great feature for those who are paranoid or just want to know what apps are accessing from their personal device.
In our opinion, these additional features probably aren't worth the Premium upgrade. The key elements, such as the Security, Back-up and Missing Device functions come bundled in the free version, and from our experience with our brief hands-on, will likely be the parts of the app that you'll use the most. µ
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