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I have a Samsung Galaxy S2 and my friend has an iPhone.

I have downloaded and installed the Norton Anti Virus app. I am at a loss to understand why iOS seemingly does not need protection as such. A smartphone, I have been told, is no less than a computer (even better, faster etc.), so need to be safeguarded.

Or is there another reason why iOS has no AntiVirus apps while Android does?

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I'm not clear on what your question is here. If you're asking "Why doesn't the iPhone need antivirus software?" then this is really not the appropriate site (that's an iPhone/iOS question). If you're asking about the merits of antivirus on Android then I'd suggest taking a look at Is an antivirus really needed for Android? –  eldarerathis Aug 16 '12 at 3:40
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The answer is simple: iOS doesn't allow AntiVirus apps into their app store and blocks all antivirus vendors. Android is more open here, so the vendors jump in and release their stuff. PS: I find this question legitimate, just needed some improvement. –  ce4 Aug 16 '12 at 7:22
    
    
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Although I have cast a close vote, I think this question should stay open now that ce4 has edited and rephrased it. Thanks ce4. –  Flow Aug 16 '12 at 7:53
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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

This has some reasons, let's try to sum them up:

  • Android has an open app market model (there's the more or less curated Play store but you can install apps from other locations (3rd party markets or self built/downloaded))
  • Android may also not need AntiVirus apps (most problems come from pirated rogue apps with added value piggybacked)
  • iOS has a strictly curated app store and you're not allowed to bypass it (unless you don't jailbreak your device but Apple so far ignores the existence of jailbroken devices)
  • Apple doesn't allow AntiVirus apps into their app store (they don't grant the necessary privileges to 3rd party apps and ignore the existence of jailbroken devices)
  • AntiVirus vendors want to create a market for mobile AntiVirus solutions
  • Apple denies existence/possibility of malware for their platforms as long as it's possible (for PR reasons)

To sum it up: Android is more open than iOS and lets AntiVirus vendors jump in while Apple denies them access to their app store.

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The entire philosophy of the two competing "App markets" are different.

The Android Market, known as Google Play, allows any submitted application. Apps aren't really checked or pre-screened, they're simply submitted, and anyone can download them. Any kind of app can be submitted to the Play store, even one that hooks into the core operating system.

This is a double-edged sword, as a developer can write a malicious app, one that steals your data, disables your phone, and other nasty things. Usually, only when enough people complain will Google take notice and remove an app.

While Google does take some measures to protect its users, the protections applied are automated, and apps sometimes do slip through. (See Bouncer. Stats show that it has been somewhat successful).


Apps submitted to the iOS App Store have to go through a strict vetting process. Apple hires testing teams. They will manually inspect your app, to make sure it does what it says, without bugs, doesn't use private or secret functions on the iOS device, and so on. Apps are run in a sand box and cannot make any major changes to the way the device works. Since all apps are pre-screened before they are posted on the App Store, there is almost no chance of an application being malicious (virus, data stealing, etc).


As for whether or not you actually need an anti-virus app, well, this question may help answer that. Personally, I don't think viruses are a massive threat yet, and, although they may be later, I don't think it's worth the potential performance hit. Besides, Bouncer can help with most malware.

I'd be more worried about data-stealing apps, especially if the app holding sensitive data isn't sufficiently protected. Last year, Skype wasn't encrypting its contacts database, and malicious apps were able to simply read the data. This has, since, been patched.

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Google does check Android apps for half a year now, see the Bouncer announcement. –  ce4 Aug 16 '12 at 8:20
    
The article that @ce4 links to also mentions sandboxing on Android. –  w3d Aug 16 '12 at 8:38
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For God's sake please check the difference beetween viruses and malware. –  Richard Borcsik Aug 16 '12 at 9:07
    
A computer looking forbthousands of patterns vs a human who might be tired bored or just an idiot. I wonder which one is more effective. –  Richard Borcsik Aug 16 '12 at 9:08
    
@RichardBorcsik I'm aware of the difference between the two, however, anti-virus apps usually provide protection against both viruses and general malware. I feel that, in context, both types of software are mention, although not explicitly –  Redandwhite Aug 16 '12 at 11:47
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