Norton Mobile Security

Symantec is catching up to competitors today. The company has released the latest version of its flagship mobile offering, Norton Mobile Security. The new version lets you backup your contacts and puts a strong focus on a web dashboard where you can manage your devices.

The upgrade makes Norton’s offering very similar to those of competitors Lookout Mobile and McAfee. All three offer apps that check your phone for malware and dangerous apps; apps that might not be explicitly dangerous but are suspicious. And all three can locate your phone, if lost, using a GPS system accessible from your account login. Lookout and Symantec also both have a “scream” function for lost phones that, when activated, squeals.

But the real thrust of the upgrade is that the company is “changing the proposition” of security from a standalone app into a service, said Norton senior director of mobile product management Con Mallon in an interview with VentureBeat. “This is just a first step for us,” he said.

As part of that move, the company is revamping its web presence so that users can control all of their devices from one place. For the new Norton, downloading the app isn’t just a one-and-done download. It’s like purchasing a license for all of your household’s devices. The web dashboard lets you look at and control all of your devices — kind of like a family IT manager.

“What we are seeing going forward is that the modern day consumer will have a collection of devices and, yes, a preponderance of that will be mobile — smartphones and tablets. Windows is going away. Mac is becoming very popular,” said Mallon. “We’re offering the ability to say, ‘Hey, we’ve got your back, whether you’re on Windows, Mac, mobile (be it Android or iOS) … and get protection across all of those platforms.”

Both McAfee and Lookout Mobile already let you backup data such as call logs, text messages, media, contacts, and more. With today’s announcement, Symantec is joining the group, though you’ll only be able to backup and store contacts for the time being. Likely the company will expand into other data points on your phone in the future, though when asked, Mallon said he was unsure what the next step would be.

Currently, Norton Mobile Security is available for Android, iPhone, and iPad. (Lookout Mobile is available for both Android and iOS, and McAfee is available for only Android, Symbian, and Blackberry.)

New on the web portal is the ability to “initiate the scream command” and remotely wipe the phone in case it’s stolen or lost.

It’s a bit of a catch-up game for the traditionally anti-virus focused company. Critics wonder if the big security companies like Symantec and McAfee are capable of entering so many different areas of the security market and turning out well-rounded products. But, Mallon makes the good point that if you’re big, you’ve got the resources.

“At the end of the day, power and leverage gives you great capacity to do new things and more things as well,” said Mallon. “This is our business, this is what we get out of bed to do.”

The app will run you $30 for the premium features, but you can download a free version that gives you a taste of the service.

Corrected 6pm Pacific: Norton Mobile Security is in fact available for iOS as of today.