7 best Android security apps for 2021

Security app icons on Android screen

As of early 2021, not only is Android the most used smartphone operating system in the world, it is also the most used operating system period.   And given that most of the things  we do from banking, to shopping, communication,  and socializing , can now be performed  on mobile devices, you might be wondering: “How can I boost the security and privacy of my phone?”

The most obvious answer would be to download the appropriate mobile applications. But given the vast array of apps  available in the Google Play Store, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Not to worry, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you to identify the seven best apps to secure your Android.

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In compiling this list, we’ve endeavored to include apps that are either open source and/or contain no ads. We feel that open-source software is an important consideration as it provides users with total transparency with how it handles user data.

Top apps to secure your Android

7. andOTP
6. NewPipe
5. Google Find My Device
4. Duck Duck Go
3. Signal
2. Dialer
1. Bitwarden

7. andOTP: One-time password for account security

Price: Free
No ads and no in-app purchases

What permissions are required from andOTP?

  • Camera access for scanning QR codes
  • Storage access for database import and export

Where to download andOTP:

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an absolute must when it comes to protecting your online accounts, and a key component of that is the use of one-time passwords (OTP). This works by issuing a single-use password or PIN that is only valid for one login session or transaction. OTPS are generally composed of randomly generated characters and are harder to hack as they are next to impossible to guess. Plus, even if one of your passwords has been compromised, OTP security can still prevent a data breach. 

AndOTP is a great alternative to its proprietary counterparts (Google Authenticator, Authy, etc.) as it is open source, which means you can verify exactly what it does to your Android device. It also has a nifty little option called a “panic trigger,” which can remotely wipe or reset your accounts if you lose your phone or it is compromised.

6. NewPipe: Enjoy YouTube unencumbered

Price: Free
No ads and no in-app purchases.

What permissions are required from NewPipe?

  • Network access to create network sockets and use custom network protocols
  • Prevent your phone from sleeping 
  • Network connection access
  • Read/write permissions for downloading videos
  • The ability to appear on top of other apps for pop-up viewing

Where to download NewPipe:

You know what’s great? Watching YouTube videos on your phone. You know what’s not so great? Google tracking your YouTube watching habits. This is where NewPipe can become a great addition to your Android library. It has been developed as a YouTube client that specifically circumvents “annoying ads and questionable permissions,” and it doesn’t use any Google framework libraries or the YouTube API. 

Additionally, you can import your YouTube subscriptions, download videos, play video in the background or pop-up window, and even watch YouTube content without having to sign in to your Google account.

Wow!

While the list of permissions above may seem a bit over the top, the source code has been verified by F-Droid, and you can also inspect it at GitHub to ensure that it’s not as invasive as it seems.

5. Google Find My Device: Track a lost or stolen phone

Price: Free
No ads and no in-app purchases.

Permissions:

  • Location access
  • Identity and account access

Where to download Google Find My Device:

Given how common phone thefts are, you need to have a countermeasure at the ready.

Enter Google Find My Device. With this app on your phone, if your phone goes missing you can attempt to call it, reset your phone’s lock screen PIN, and see the time and place it was last located. And if you still can’t recover your phone, you can use the app to erase all of your data to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. Simply use Android Device Manager’s Guest Mode on someone else’s device. 

4. DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser: Search without a trail

Price: Free
No ads and no in-app purchases.

Permissions:

  • Location access
  • File and media access
  • Storage access

Where to download DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser:

Most of us use Google services to find information, watch our favorite videos, and communicate with each other. Heck, Google even makes anti-theft apps for your phone. The problem is: It knows way too much about you. Just from web searches alone, Google can construct a highly accurate profile of your age, gender, and various preferences. Unsurprisingly, they use this information to serve you highly targeted ads, which in turn feeds them more advertising dollars.

If you want private browsing on Android, try DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser. While the search service is also available on DuckDuckGo’s website, the app provides an even more mobile-friendly interface, includes a search bar widget that can be added to your home screen for quick access, and gathers news from various sources just like its peers.

3. Signal Private Messenger: Chat for your eyes only

Price: Free
No ads and no in-app purchases.

Permissions:

  • Location access
  • Messaging access
  • Contact access
  • Calendar access
  • Storage access
  • Microphone access
  • Camera access
  • Phone access
  • Identity access

Where to download Signal Private Messenger:

With the current controversy surrounding changes in the WhatsApp privacy policy, Signal has experienced an unprecedented surge in adoption, with numbers surpassing 500 million active users around the world.

At first pass, there’s not much to visually distinguish Signal from its peers. It sports a clean-looking interface, allows you to chat with a friend or in a group, and has the usual media sharing features. Unlike some of its peers, virtually everything about Signal is open source. From its codebase to its encryption protocols, anyone can look inside Signal and make sure there’s no funny business going on. On the other hand, WhatsApp’s encryption still allows servers to see who’s sending a message to whom and at what time, while Telegram’s encryption standard is still closed source.

WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, which makes its millions from selling ads. WeChat and Line make money from in-app purchases and providing official company accounts, which can get expensive in a hurry. Signal, by contrast, is supported by donations and grants. Since monetizing users is not on their agenda, they are focused on delivering an uncluttered messaging experience and not on collecting your data.

2. Simple Dialer: Make phone calls with no logs

Price: Free
No ads and no in-app purchases.

What permissions are required from Simple Dialer?

  • Contact access
  • Phone access
  • Device ID & call information

Where to download Simple Dialer:

Developed by Simple Mobile Tools, Simple Dialer is one of the best dialer apps we’ve ever used. It’s easy to use, lightweight, and doesn’t request or require any permissions outside of making calls and generating call logs. It’s quite literally a case of what you see is what you get. The Phone by Google app by contrast can require access to your media and photos, calendar, identity, device ID, location, storage, contacts, SMS, and Wi-Fi.

1. Bitwarden: Powerful password management 

Price: Free and Paid versions available for personal and business use
No ads and no in-app purchases.

What permissions are required from Simple Dialer?

  • Media access
  • Storage access
  • Camera access

Where to download Simple Dialer:

With the multitude of accounts and services you’re no doubt subscribed to, how can you be expected to remember several dozen passwords? Maybe you’re using the same password across multiple accounts. Maybe you’re using the Chrome Password Manager to save all of your passwords. Maybe you’re using a simple password so it’s easier to remember. All of these possibilities have their limitations but more importantly, they are extremely risky! 

That’s why password managers are so convenient. Password managers are so good at doing all of the heavy lifting for you that you’ll only need to remember a single master password, and in many cases provide an extra layer of biometric security. And as far as password managers go, you can’t go wrong with Bitwarden.

Bitwarden is open source, powerful, cross platform, and low cost! In fact, the free personal version will be more than enough for most users with such features as unlimited passwords, device syncing, password generator, and 2FA. It’s so affordable that a personal premium plan will only set you back a meagre 10 USD a year, and a family plan is priced at 40 USD a year.

Bonus Entry: ExpressVPN

Price: Priceless

Perhaps one of the most important additions to your Android arsenal! ExpressVPN keeps you anonymous online, prevents others from intercepting information you share, helps you access the content you want, and saves you money while shopping. It truly is a multipurpose online survival tool. The best part? ExpressVPN’s Android app gives you all of that—topped off with an easy-to-use interface and best-in-class customer support.

Read more: The best messaging apps for privacy and security in 2021

Caleb enjoys reading technology news, playing football, and consuming unwholesome amounts of steak. Preferably at the same time.