Do you really need to protect your phone? You probably use your phone to access the internet, do your banking, access your email and store your data in the cloud. You’re also more likely to lose your phone – or have it stolen – than your home PC. So yes, you do need to protect your phone.

If you think you can just trust your phone’s default security, think again. An independent testing laboratory in Europe assessed security apps by looking at “core” security features. These are the features we think are crucial for adequately protecting a phone.

In this regard, we found Android’s default security lacking. While the Android default security could detect unsafe apps and remotely locate, lock and wipe a phone, it didn’t check for unsafe settings and didn’t have malware detection or anti-phishing protection. You should expect a security app to provide this type of protection at a minimum.

Other core security features we think you should look for are being able to protect your phone from malicious content and phishing, being able to scan and remove malware, and allowing remote access to your phone.

It should also be able to remotely turn on your device’s GPS to help you locate it if it’s lost or stolen. If you’ve got children with phones, parental controls are handy for ensuring they’re not accessing adult websites and content.

A mobile security app with these features will go a long way to ensuring your phone stays safe.

Free vs premium?

Some free mobile security apps offer just as many core security features as their premium versions – which is what our star assessment is based on. For example, the free and premium apps for Avast both have the same core security features. So why shell out for a paid version? Premium versions often have extra features such as the ability to block apps with a gesture and measure storage space. While these types of features can be helpful they don’t affect core security.

Downloading these paid versions isn’t always as easy as you might think. Some, such as the Kaspersky premium app, aren’t visible in the Google Play store. You’ll need to download the free version, which is available in the store, then upgrade to premium from within that app.

Apps compared