Mobile security and antivirus software maker Lookout is launching a premium version of its popular Android software on November 16th, via a solution called "Lookout Premium for Android."
The new system includes additional privacy controls, expanded data backup and restore capabilities, remote wipe and lock, priority customer support plus the features already available in its free program, like antivirus/anti-malware, firewall, "find my phone" functionality for lost devices, contacts backup and more.
Privacy Advisor Seeks Out Naughty Apps
One of the paid suite's standout offerings is a feature it's calling "Privacy Advisor." This unique tool actually scans the Android applications downloaded to your phone in order to analyze which ones are asking for access to your private data.
The tool provides a list of all the apps that access "private" information like your identity information, current location and SMS/MMS messages. The program can also provide detailed reports that further analyze the apps it scans, allowing you to make an informed decision about what apps you want to keep installed on your Android device.
This is an increasingly important need, especially in light of a number of high-profile Android Market incidents involving spyware, malware and even non-malicious apps built by novice developers who don't seem to know what data they should and should not be accessing. Although the official marketplace for Android applications does have rules, it's a much more open system that the curated, vetted collection of applications maintained by Apple within iTunes.
That's either one of Android's key selling points, or its Achilles' Heel, depending on your personal feeling about how mobile ecosystems should be managed. Android currently leaves a lot of the security management and privacy protection duties to the end user to handle. Many users are capable of doing so and thankful for the freedom this provides, while other, more mainstream users may be caught off-guard, having not realized that Android applications - especially if installed from off-Market sites - could be suspect.
According to Lookout's finding, customers aren't aware of how many applications access their data. The company found that on average, users have 31 apps on their phones accessing identity information, 19 apps that access their location and five apps that access their SMS and MMS messages. Of course, many apps have legitimate reasons to do so - a location-based application like Yelp or Foursquare needs to know where you are, for example, but others may just be snooping.
Other Features & Where to Buy
Lookout's other new features are worth the cost if you typically misplace your phone or worry about it being stolen. The remote wipe and remote lock features protect your phone's private data by either removing the data completely (remote wipe), in the case of a confirmed stolen device, or by disabling access (remote lock), in the case of a missing, possibly stolen phone.
Also, the expanded back up and restore features now include not only contacts, as in the free version of the software, but photos and call history, too.
The free Lookout software will still be available from the Android Market and from mylookout.com. The premium software will become available on November 16th from those same locations and will cost $2.99 per month or $29.99 per year.
Lookout says that it now has 3 million registered users in 179 countries. We recently tested the software and some of its competitors here, including droidSecurity, Symantec's Norton Mobile Security for Android beta and Smobile.