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Lookout -- a full security solution for your Android phone

Here at Android Central, we don't just report the Android news and review the new gear. We actually use Android phones, so we're always searching for apps and tools that make our own phones work better for us. Lately, it seems like security issues (or overblown non-issues) are crawling out of the woodwork, so the search was on for a solution that takes care of any concerns, without getting in the way.

After all was said and done, Lookout seemed to rise to the top.  Not only does Lookout address any concerns you may have with malware, it turns out that it's an excellent backup and tracking solution.  Follow after the break, while I take a good look at Lookout and even put it through the paces a bit.

Lookout's main interface

Some background

Nobody cares as much about your Android phone as you do, but rest assured that we care almost as much.  With the recent influx of users comes malware scares, data backup solution questions, and remote security concerns, so we decided it was time to act and try to do the homework so we can provide the answers you need.  During the evil wallpaper scare that really wasn't, we got to talk to the good people at Lookout a bit. Co-founder and CTO Kevin McHaffey was quick to put everything into perspective, and it looks like a case of Bloggers gone wild was the real story in that case.  When they offered to talk with us about mobile security, and help us with the resources and tools to demonstrate their excellent all-in-one security solution for Android we knew that this was something we had to do, and I hope you guys find it as useful as I did.  Also I'd like to thank everyone at Lookout for taking the time to answer questions and spend time with us, and a special thanks to Erika for going the extra mile.

Let's start with a video

We live in the modern age of digital living, and most times a video can substitute for a whole string of words.  Check it out.

YouTube link for mobile viewing

Pretty cool, isn't it?  I think of it as a mash-up of find my iPhoneBlackBerry desktop manager, and a full featured virus/rootkit scanner all rolled into an easy to use and lightweight package.  And this is coming from a guy who has been the world's biggest skeptic when it comes to Android security, so that has to count for something.  Now that we've seen an overview, let's dig into each part of Lookout a bit.


Lookout Anti-Virus

Lookout Anti-Virus settings

Easily the most visually impressive part of Lookout.  There's something really satisfying about seeing a virus or other piece of malware get caught, killed, and wiped off your phone.  We saw a really good demo of it in action in the video, and here's what the web interface to the virus scanner looks like.  

click me and I'll expand!

This is the part of Lookout we had the most questions about, and likely you do, too.  Kevin and co-founder and CEO John Hering answered our questions with nary a snicker or giggle. Here's the keynote from our little meeting:

The 1999 factor -- smartphones today are like desktop computers were in 1999

Think back 10 years or so ago.  Computers and the Internet were in the beginning stages of what we see today.  Malware and trojans were showing up with more regularity, and there were few easy solutions for the uninitiated to take charge of computer security.  Come back to 2010, and mobile broadband and smartphones have taken the place of desktops and the wild west Internet of 1999.  People being what they are, there's going to be more than a few who get cheap thrills at the expense of others.  Even worse, there will be a few people or groups who take things to a higher level and cause financial or data loss to ordinary people like you and I.  Lookout is taking what we've all learned from the desktop, and applying it to our phones before things get that bad -- and they will, no matter how much we dislike the idea.

Lookout considers the Android Market's security model innovative

While most people want to label it good or bad, Lookout realizes that the Marketplace is different from anything we're used to.  Combined with the fact that Android attempts to educate it's users about security by being up front with all application permissions before downloading or installing them, and innovative fits pretty well.

 Differences between the AppStore and the Android Market, according to Lookout

Android MarketAppStore
Community policedCurated by Apple
Google advertises application permissions Apple only advises if an application uses push services or location
Google holds a kill switch, and can delete apps if neededApple checks applications before publishing

Look at the above table, and you can see that while each has its advantages, Android users like you or I will simply have to be more diligent about what we install.  Add in the fact that applications that may be harmful appear alongside trustworthy and reputable applications in the Market, and you see that there is a need for an automated system to keep things in check, much like there was for the desktop in 1999.

Mobile threats are different from desktop threats, and the system to monitor them must be as well

Your desktop machine would have no problem with a 100-plus-megabyte virus scanner application. That simply can't happen on a mobile device.  Lookout uses cloud based data in tandem with the installed application to keep the footprint small, and the application light and unobtrusive.  (And it works.  I'm not seeing any measurable impact from running Lookout on my phones.) Sometimes Skynet is our friend, and this is one of those times.

Data backup and restore

Lookout data backup

Lookout data backup settings

While malware and virus protection is in the news a lot lately, Lookout is much more than a virus scanner.  You saw how easy it is to set up automagic backups in Lookout, as well as creating a backup on the fly.  The web interface is the real jewel here though.  Check out this series of pics of the web interface at

clicking any will expand

Possibly the worst thing about losing your phone -- even worse than losing the phone itself -- is the loss of your data.  Sure, contacts and e-mails can be saved at Google, but not everyone wants the big G having a list of everyone they are in contact with.  And let's face it  -- pictures are priceless.  We buy these phones at least partially because of their media functions, and keeping all those once-in-a-lifetime memories safe is a godsend.  Being able to do it without digging out cables and sitting in front of a computer is just icing on the cake, too.  As you can see from our snapshots, you can selectively restore any or all of your data, at any time.  Because I like to save the best for last, have a peep at this:

the restore web console

Yeah, when you switch phones, install Lookout, fire up your computer's browser, and click a button.  Bam.  Call log, contacts, and pictures come from the tubes and go right back where you had them.  Combine this with the ability to remote backup a lost or stolen phone, and your data is safe.  I like safe.

Oh, Snap! I lost my phone!

If you haven't lost a cell phone yet, you will.  It happens to everyone, and it sucks.  Of course having your data safe and sound in the cloud is nice, but getting back that $500 phone would be nice too.  In the video, we saw the Scream.  If you think there's a chance your phone is hidden under your car seats, or in the couch cushions, make it scream.  If it's within earshot, you'll know it.  Everyone will know it.

But if someone has your phone, you might not want them to know that you know it's gone.  Enter the tracking ability of Lookout.  You saw in the video how Lookout keeps tabs on a roving Android phone, down to the latitude and longitude.  Lookout even sends you an email you can forward to interested parties with a direct link to your phone on a map.

I've had a cell phone stolen.  I don't wish it on anyone -- you feel violated, because you just lost a big file full of personal information.  Lookout can't ride shotgun and keep someone from stealing your phone, but it can help you find it again.  I have no idea how that feels, as I didn't have Lookout installed when I was robbed, but I bet it feels pretty damn satisfying :)

John and Kevin from Lookout also shared their ideas and goals of what they wanted Lookout to be, and they make a great way to wrap this up.

"[Lookout was designed to] give protection and digital security against malware, protect your data, and protect your device if it's lost or stolen, while keeping it simple for the end user and easy on system resources."

In this writers opinion, it worked.  If this makes you feel like giving Lookout a try for yourself, you're in luck.  The app is in the Android Market, and it's absolutely free.  Download information is below.

Download Lookout via AppBrain (opens in new tab) 

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • So I want to share more information with the "cloud"? Not so sure...
  • That app is pretty good ama install it right now
  • I thought lookout were the people who raised the whole wallpaper scare things only to have it later shown that there was no problem at all. Of course this resulted in massive downloads of lookout. Are there any Android viruses at all? Do we really need a virus app?
  • u do it you're like me and download 3rd party apps!
  • Pretty neat. I don't care much about the antivirus but having automatic backup of calls/photos is very handy. A bit similar to my LiveMesh days on WinMo. I suppose the lost phone feature will be nice if I ever need it. I did try it out and it located my phone within 60 seconds. I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop though in terms of pricing. There's no mention of pricing but I have to imagine it's coming...
  • I've been using Lookout singe my Hero. Now its on my EVO. Only thing missing is remote wipe. And I realized there's a problem when backing up a contact with more than one number
  • WAY COOL!!!! Can't beat the price and now I know where I am... LOL Android Central Always has GREAT leads on add-on and updates.
    (Do I get a hat now???)
  • my concerns are - 1. resource and battery hog?
    2. do i really want yet another third party (the lookout team) knowing and/or logging my business and location?
  • My thoughts exactly. I really like the location feature and ended up grudgingly installing it thou. I've already kissed privacy bye bye a long time ago. But I really can't live with a battery life any worse than it already is on my Evo. I also feel like I am playing into the smartphone virus hysteria by downloading it (even thou I guess I can justify it partially since it is free)
  • yeah, #1 is an issue for me. I don't like running processes much. There is no option to have this guy live quietly on your phone until you want to wake it up and make it run the backup. The location service can't be disabled and thus it continues to run in the background. If they enabled a push system for changing the settings they wouldn't have to have the app running all the time. I will monitor the battery consumption, hopefully Android Central will post a battery life update.
  • I agree. If they add the ability to run this so it doesn't have a running process. I might try it.
  • Nice app but not really concerned with virus protection and WaveSecure already lets me backup/restore data, locate the device along with remote lock and wipe. Got it while it was in beta and still free.
  • Wave Secure is not free...its a 7 day trial, check the market updated.
  • I was saying that I got it in beta while it was still free. Great app but probably wouldn't pay ~$20/yr
  • "and you see that there is a need for an automated system to keep things in check, much like there was for the desktop in 1999." Maybe YOUR desktop, but not mine. Mine was running Linux in 1999 and it still is in 2010.... Anyway, not so sure about the need for "malware" protection in Android Linux, but the remote scream/locate and backup features look valuable. No mention of remote wipe here, but on their site, they talk about a "nuke" feature, which *is* a remote wipe... but they don't say which phones it supports. Also, you might not like trusting Google with your data, but with Lookout, you would be adding yet another company, not a "cloud", with access to your data AND location. But what is the deal? The app is free, and there is no mention, whatsoever, on their site about the price for service.... they are not an open source company, so they likely need to make money somehow.... I did find this, well hidden: "Right now, the beta's of Lookout are free. Our main focus is creating a rock solid product and experience for everyone. Pricing may change towards a 'premium' version in the future, this is undecided. But much like we protect your data, we like to protect your wallet too, so it likely wont break the bank for Premium features."
  • Oh dear people are actually worse then Apple. Guess what....any apps that runs on Android can run scripts to upload your sensitive don't need to have the OS become compromised. Linux, Windows, OS doesn't matter anymore as long as a script can do what it wants on a system. Hell I can create an applescript or Windows batch file that deletes everything in the picture directory and its a perfectly legit command.
  • Been using Lookout for a while. Disabled Backup after discovering that it was DELETING ALL MY CONTACTS off my phone when it did a backup. Thank goodness for Google Sync. Reported the problem and never got issue resolved.
  • Interesting product but after a quick test I am deleting the application. In terms of backing up contacts, it fails to handle multiple phone numbers for contacts and as my contacts currently come from an amalgam of linked sources, many fields are not populated at all. There seems to be no way of stopping a backup once started (I have many pictures on my phone at the moment and don't want it to be backing up for the next few hours). The other underlying concern is the control of the data collected and the security of that data. It is definitely an area of interest going forward but right now I don't find this to be a viable solution.
  • I don't get the contacts backup, you have a "Google" phone, so hence you probably DO or SHOULD (at least) already sync with Google Contacts. 90% of the reason I love Android (and hated the iPhone) was the tight integration with Google services and constant syncing everywhere.
  • i lost my N1 after a party in a giant house......i went online and used the "siren" they have and i found my phone within minutes! AWESOME!
  • The genius technicians at the Sprint store, claimed that Lookout was the reason for the data lock on my moment.
  • i only use it for the security when installing apps and use it for locating my phone if/when lost.......why use the backup option when u have a Google phone???? makes no sense to be honest with ya..
  • Downloaded it! Thanks!
  • Seems like a great idea, but it really slowed down my Samsung Moment, and sucked the battery pretty quickly. Maybe I'll install it when I get a new phone with a faster processor and more memory.
  • This app is solid! Must have on every Android phone.
  • Great idea. But no trust. To many negative comments. Not only on this site, but other sites. And the market as well.
  • Anyone try Norton's "Mobile Internet Security" for Android? I'm getting the Captivate next week (can't wait!) and seeing as how I already use Norton on my desktop I'd love to know how the mobile version is... At this point I'm more concerned about scanning any files I download and then remote wiping/deleting (and maybe locating) my phone if lost/stolen.
  • I used Lookout for WM for a while and was very happy with it. I've been trying to use it with Android, but it does not backup the contacts in my Samsung Captivate that I synchronized with Outlook. Just tried their latest release (4.10.1), but it still does not backup non-google contacts. The Lookout developers have been aware of this problem, but it appears not to be high on their priority list.
  • I find lookout good only for backup and finding the phone. Dr. Web though will scan apps before they're installed which saves memory and hassle with scanning
  • I've really nothing 2 hide & honestly the only advantage of this app is 2 lookouts data collection agency. I naively ran it for 2 months. Uninstalled a month ago 4 a few reasons, none being how flawlessly the app ran. Apps on this level have few if any running issues. I don't use it because I don't need it. If there are malicious apps someone else is going 2 discover them 4 me. I've already lost & had stolen expensive phones so I approach & handle both differently now. Like I said I've really nothing 2 hide but I just don't want or need any entity besides verison, google, & msn knowing every detail about my use of this device. Actually I'm really surprised 2 see an endorsement on this scale from as trusted source as @AndroidCentral unless perhaps by some encouragement ( speculation ) BTW that's really funny how they toy the idea of charging users 4 premium service. Awesome money 4 money 4 money. Anyone reading this dose not think they track & trend all the information they are protecting 4 you … well I guess you won't be surprised about a lot of internet stuff. Back 2 my research.
  • Privacy has nothing to do with having something to "hide". You need to educate yourself, quickly!
  • I really like Lookout -- as others have noted, it really needs a remote wipe feature though. I was an early adopter of Wavesecure, but I for one would not recommend Wavesecure to anybody any longer. It is too buggy and while most of the issues I experienced have been resolved, the one glaring issue remains. After purchasing Wavesecure, I ended up having to replace my Droid under warranty. I though - no problem - I have Wavesecure to restore my call logs and SMS messages. Not quite - Wavesecure would not restore ANYTHING! It kept returning "Network error". After months of working with the developer and waiting through update after update (and even installing a debug version of the app that allowed me to send in a logfile), Wavesecure finally admitted that they could not make the restore feature work and eventually refunded my purchase price. Because of this, I began looking for an app that provided most or all of the features that Wavesecure did, and I came across Lookout. I have had no problems with Lookout, and the lack of remote wipe is the only thing keeping me from giving it 5 stars...
  • Wow...this app doesn't have remote wipe? Isn't that the most basic of security features? And I'm sorry, but any company that pulls as such a self-serving farce as the wallpaper fiasco immediately loses all credibility with me. I love that they're claiming it was "bloggers gone wild", and that they didn't want that to happen...they knew *exactly* what the result of their report would be. They wanted a security-related uproar just ahead of the launch of their product, and they got it. The real story there is that after what I'm sure was exhaustive research, the only "problem" app that they could come up with wasn't really a problem at all. The bottom line is that in the current marketplace, the only real need for a security application is in case of loss or theft, and this application is useless in that case as it won't allow remote wipe. Next.
  • My comment was deleted when i asked how much AC was paid to post this write-up. Pretty cool android central, pretty cool. Didn't violate any terms of use. Anyways, time to find a different site.
  • Great app, I have been using it on my EVO for about 2 weeks after I got it. I just seems to improve, not cause problems and work in the background well. I like it.
  • So if you sign up with your regular email address, and you use the service to locate your phone, they will send an email to you saying you have located your phone. Won't the other party see the email and know that you used the locator service?
  • I have had it foe a while and I really love it. I don't even notice it because it runs in the background and does all its job. EVO.
  • @muggy - In the widget where you choose to locate your phone there is a link to set an email address where the location email gets delivered. You can change it right from there.
  • I hope they get the wipe/lock feature out soon, other than that I think it is a very promising app.
  • I sincerely despise this app. I don't have respect for a company that spreads misinformation to promote their application, vide the wallpaper incident.
  • @Arkymedes: Lookout never said that the wallpaper app was malicious. They DID say that a wallpaper app that accesses all of that personal information is SUSPICIOUS, and an example of why developers and users need to be careful. Venturebeat was actually the publication that misstated the information.(I originally saw the follow-up article on AndroidTapp)In my eyes they seem to be trying to educate. Not accuse.
  • Lookout screws the much more used app chrome to phone. The web page is suppose to go to phone right away. I had chrome to phone on my device for a while now and working great. After installing lookout the pages would take about 5-10 minutes to arrive if arrive at all. Removed lookout and bingo they show up right away. Not going to use it, other people are claiming it is slowing down their devices. Good Luck.
  • Love this app! I'm so new to all this it makes me feel much better to have something scanning for viruses, etc. I particularly like the little message at the top of the virus scan page that says, next to a reassuring green checkmark, "Everything is OK". Too bad that sign never pops up in "real" life...