Your smartphone can be a treasure trove of private data, with everything from your bank account information to your email and social networking passwords stored inside.

To keep that info from being nabbed by a malicious app or a sticky-fingered thief, Trend Micro's Mobile Security App keeps your personal data under control in a number of ways.

The app is a free download from the Android Market, and it includes a basic malware scanner that checks if your phone or SD card are infected with any malicious software. You can upgrade to the premium version of the app by buying a one year licence to gain access to features such as parental controls, the ability to remotely locate your device in case it gets lost and a fraudulent website blocker.

The malware scanner updates its definitions either daily, weekly or monthly (based on the update schedule you select), and it scans each app as it’s installed onto your device. You can also manually scan all the files on your phone, though this can take anywhere from 1 to 20 minutes depending on the number of apps and files you've stored on your phone’s internal memory or SD card.

On my relatively empty Droid Bionic, I completed a scan in less than 2 minutes, while my Droid Incredible (which is bursting at the seams with apps) took closer to 19 minutes for a complete scan. Unfortunately, unlike other mobile security suites, Trend Micro's app has no option to automate the process. Whereas on Lookout you can set the app to scan your phone every day, Trend Micro forces you to manually run the app any time you want to check the status of your phone. The process is simple enough, but I hope an update brings automation to the scanning soon.

If you decide to upgrade to the premium version, I think the extra features are well worth the price.

My favourite premium feature in Trend Micro Mobile Security is the option to block annoying calls and text messages. This option lets you filter calls and texts based on the number, or (in the case of text messages) on certain keywords. If you are someone who suffers from constant calls from unknown numbers, you can create a filter that allows only people in your Address Book or text/call history to contact you. It’s really handy for stopping those irritating telemarketing calls or spam texts.

While the free scanner protects your phone from dangerous apps, the safe surfing feature in the premium version protects you from dangerous websites. You have three levels of protection to choose from (Low, Normal or High), and you can change the level at any time. I would recommend that users stay on the Normal or High settings, as the Low setting may leave you open to certain phishing attacks.

If you have kids (or employees that you don’t want going to certain sites), you can enable Parental Controls and limit the websites that they can access. In order to enable or remove the parental locks, you’ll need your Trend Micro password (the same one you used to register the app when you first install it). If someone tries to access a blocked site while the controls are in place, they’ll be greeted with a screen telling you that the site was blocked by parental controls.

If you’re always losing your phone, Trend Micro’s ability to remotely locate your smartphone will be a godsend. As with Webroot and Lookout, you use a web portal to activate the tracking functions of the app. From there, you can locate your phone, have it display a custom message on the screen, make it scream, lock the device or wipe all the information off of it. You can manage multiple devices from within the portal, but unfortunately you’re going to need to buy a separate licence for each one.

In my tests, the locate function was inconsistent. One second, it was able to locate me with no problem, but when I tried locating the phone a second time, the app reported the phone three miles away from its actual location.

OUR VERDICT

Overall, the app gets the job done and will give you the peace of mind that your phone is being protected, even if you don’t think you need it. While the cost of a one year Trend Micro licence may put some people off, the extra security options are worth it. At the very least, you should give the free malware scanner a try, it’s better to set up precautions and not have to use them than to be caught without them when you need them most.