OK we all know that you shouldn’t have to resort to spying on someone’s cell phone to keep tabs on who they’re texting, what websites they visit, and where they go, but sometimes you just NEED to know.
The reasons are many. Perhaps you have an employee that has been caught looking at porn on the job. Maybe you have a child that is being cagey when you ask were they went after school. Or perhaps a spouse with a history of cheating and is acting in a suspicious manner.
Top Pick: mSpy
Most Powerful: FlexiSPY
Budget Choice: Highster
iOS & Android Devices
iOS & Android, Nokia, & Blackberry
iOS & Android Devices
iOS & Android
iOS & Android
Access SMS Texts and Messaging Apps
Record Calls, Access SMS & Messaging Apps and More
Budget price, Access SMS & Messaging Apps
More basic, powerful Keystroke logger
Geo Fencing & Tracking:
Geo Fencing & Tracking:
Geo Fencing & Tracking:
Geo Fencing & Tracking:
Geo Fencing & Tracking:
Only for advanced functionality
Advanced Features Require Jailbreak
Best Balance of Price & Functionality
Highest Priced, but Most Powerful Features
Whatever your reasons, sometimes you just need to know FOR CERTAIN what's going on. You can’t be there to monitor their phone every time they use it, so you need a way to keep tabs to protect yourself, your business, or your child.
In this article you'll learn:
For as long as there have been smart phones there have been ways of tracking them. Cell phone tracking and monitoring software and apps have been around for more than a decade. We'll be digging into our favorite apps further down in this article.
But first we want to give you an idea of what these spy apps are capable of, what people use them for, and how they're installed on a target device.
For the purposes of this article we'll be leaving all reservations based on morality at the door. Yes it might be shady (and in some cases illegal) to monitor a phone that you do not own. But if you ARE the owner of the phone you can install whatever software you like on it.
Even if you AREN'T the owner of the phone, sometimes the situation just requires you to know what's going on for your own protection.
Whether or not you tell the person who is using the phone is up to you. Obviously in most cases you will get better information from your efforts if the phone's user doesn't know they're being watched.
Along that line, all of the applications and software we'll be covering are undetectable to the user of the phone. In most cases you WILL need to have physical access to the phone to install the software, but from that point on all monitoring and tracking is done remotely.
There are ways of tracking a phone or device without the owner being aware. We talk about how to track a cell phone location without them knowing in another article.
There are dozens of reasons why you might feel the need to know what someone else's phone is being used for. Here are the most common.
When it comes to your kids there's very little you wouldn't do to protect them. And while you want to trust them to live their own lives, smart phones give them access to SO MUCH information and expose them to all sorts of potentially unsavory characters.
The ability to monitor who they're talking to, chatting with, what websites they browse, and they're physical location can help you make sure they're not getting into TOO much trouble.
Maybe your daughter is just old enough to start dating. Wouldn't it be nice to know that she and her date are going where they said they would? The best parental control apps allow you to track your daughter's phone to within 20 meters in most cases. Some software even allows you to set up "safe" and "unsafe" zones based on GPS and notify you when she enters or exits them.
All of this can be done without permission and without her even knowing. It's a small price to pay for peace of mind.
The parental control apps we'll be reviewing will work on iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. Some also work on Nokia and Blackberry products.
The same goes for a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife. Obviously you want to trust them, but sometimes you're in a situation where you have to protect yourself from getting hurt.
These spy apps allow you to monitor incoming and outgoing calls, texts, chats, social apps (like Tinder), and GPS location without your significant other having any knowledge of it.
You can even see a history of every place they've visited over the last 24 hours all laid neatly out on a map.
You simply install the application on their phone and it runs in the background. Then you use a web-based control panel to view everything that takes place on their phone.
Two of the more popular cell phone tracking apps are mSpy and FlexiSPY. We've covered both of these products in depth. mSpy is our favorite and your can read our review here. FlexiSPY requires that you jailbreak iPhone or root an Android device, but it also offers more features. We cover all the details in our full FlexiSPY review.
As an employer you need your employees need smart phones for communicating with you, fellow employees and clients. Unfortunately with all the games, websites, and social media apps that come with today's smart phones there are lots of opportunities for them to goof off.
Cell phone monitoring apps allow you to track your employees location, app usage, messaging and more. You do your best to hire trustworthy individuals, but sometimes you need to be able to keep a close eye on your employees to makes sure they are where they're supposed to be, and doing their job rather than playing games on their phones.
In some cases you might even have to worry about your employees communicating with competitors. Under these circumstances you might need to be able to listen to their phone conversations as well. Some of the apps we'll cover will allow you to log and record every incoming and outgoing call from their phone. It may seem sneaky, but it can be worth it to protect yourself and your business.
Depending on the amount of information you want to gather there are some free options for tracking someone else's iPhone without them knowing. This one doesn't even require installing additional software.
One of the easiest is with the Find My Friends app that comes with every new iOS device. The only trick is you'll need to have access to their phone for a couple minutes. However, once it's setup the app is completely discrete.
Step 1: "Share My Location" should be enabled from the settings of YOUR iPhone. You find this in the "Find My Friends" app. Click on the bottom of the screen and the settings will open.
Step 2: share their location with your iPhone. From "Find My Friends" on their phone click "Add" in the top right corner. Find your contact information and click "Send". This will send a notification to your phone.
Step 3: Accept the invitation on your phone. From your phone you'll now have a message to accept the invitation. Click "Accept". Next you'll be prompted to share YOUR location with them. Click "Don't Share" unless you want them to be able to see your phone as well.
Step 4: Open "Find My Friends" at any time to see their current location.
Step 5: Most folks don't even realize "Find My Friends" is built into their phone so they don't think to check it. If you want to be 100% certain they don't you can hide the app on their phone.
As it turns out there are dozens of spy apps that allow you to do just what we're describing. With the installation of an inexpensive piece of software you can monitor literally everything that happens on someone else's phone without the owner knowing.
Most of these apps operate in exactly the same way. Where they differ is in the difficulty of installation, capabilities, and customer support.
We want to make your buying decision as easy as possible. So in this article we're going to highlight the MUST HAVE features and dig into the Top 5 spy software apps on the market. This includes:
Before we jump to our Top 5, let's take a look at the basic features you should expect to find in these software suites. We'll also cover some advanced features that only a couple apps offer.
So what all CAN you track using one of these spy apps?
Whether you're planning on monitoring the phone of a child, employee, or anyone else there are a few key features you should look for before making your selection.
One of the most important pieces of information for a concerned parent, employer, or spouse is the location of the phone or person. Every app that we'll be covering allows you to track the exact location of the target device. Some take this capability even further by logging their location over a specific time frame.
Some apps allow you to setup zones as well. When the phone enters or leaves one of these zones you'll be notified on your phone.
Pretty much everyone that owns a phone now knows how to send text messages. Thus being able to monitor these messages is a must for any tracking software. Every one of the apps we'll be highlighting offer this capability.
Some spy software even allows you to log all texts. So even if the user of the target phone deletes their messages you'll still have them in your control panel.
Now days it's hard to keep track of all the ways people use to communicate. Kids especially like using chatting apps. These include Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, SnapChat, Tinder, LINE, Skype, and more.
Spying on conversations on Whatsapp or Tinder is a bit more involved than seeing SMS texts or a phone call log, but we'll be covering several monitoring software packages that offer this capability and even more. The beauty of the software is that it allows you to hack into all their chat conversations across multiple platforms. And you can see it all from one easy-to-use dashboard.
Before you'll be able to see someone's Snapchat texts and photos you'll have to jailbreak or root the target device. Some of the apps we're covering offer the ability to spy on certain apps without taking this extras step, but Snapchat's security requires it.
mSpy and FlexiSPY spy apps both offer this functionality, but you'll need to jailbreak the phone first.
Keystroke logging tools are another method of hacking someone's Snapchat account. With a keystroke logger you'll see EVERYTHING that is typed into the phone including usernames and passwords.
Once you have their information you'll be able to see their Snapchat chats, photos, and videos, and history. Several of the apps we'll be covering below include keylogging features and work on both iPhones and Andriods.
The same basic rules apply to Facebook Messenger as to Snapchat. Some of the more powerful apps we'll be highlighting offer the ability to read these messages. You'll have to jailbreak or root the device, but from then on you'll be able to see exactly what they see on their phone including history.
The keylogging feature would also allow you to login using their username and password but keep in mind they might not enter this very often so it could take a while to get their login credentials.
While email communication isn't as popular among kids and teens it's still something that should be monitored closely. Any app you're considering should offer the capability to monitor incoming and outgoing emails.
The ability to see a log of incoming and outgoing phone calls let's you know EXACTLY who they call and who calls them. Many of these apps will store calls in a log that you can review whenever you like. Some of the better apps will even let you record all calls.
A keystroke capture feature allows you to see anything that is typed on the phone. This includes chats, texts, emails, usernames, and passwords. Some of these apps will even notify you when specific keywords are typed.
Good customer support is crucial anytime you're dealing with technology. All of the apps we're covering offer good tech support. Some offer chat only, while others offer phone or email. Depending on your level of technical expertise one may be better than another.
mSpy is one of the most popular cell phone monitoring software packages on the market. It works on both iOS (iPhones & iPads) and Android devices. It's also capable of monitoring both Mac and Windows based computers.
One of the biggest advantages of mSpy is you don't have to jailbreak or root the target device to begin monitoring. If you're not technically savvy this can save you quite a bit of time and probably some headaches as well.
Of all the monitoring software we tried mSpy had the easiest and most intuitive interface. From one dashboard you can quickly see all the pertinent information about the target phone.
It offers all of the basic features including monitoring text messages, instant messages, contacts, call logs, and pinpointing the phone's GPS location. mSpy also offers some extras that you won't find anywhere else.
This particular function is very clever. Using your control panel you can setup zones that are considered safe or unsafe. Any time the phone enters or leaves one of these areas you are immediately notified.
Let's say you want to monitor your child's activity throughout the day. Simply setup a safe zone around your home and their school. Any time they leave one of these designated "safe zones" you'll be notified immediately. This same technology can be used to monitor the activity of an employee (or a spouse if you're so inclined).
The keylogging feature from mSpy allows you to capture all keystrokes from the target phone. From here you can see what's being typed in various apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Skype. It also allows you capture internet searches, usernames, and passwords.
Another great feature of the mSpy app is it's ability to block specific applications and websites from being accessed. You specify the apps that are blocked and the user will be unable to open them. The same goes for websites you deem inappropriate.
If you're willing to go through the trouble of jailbreaking the target phone mSpy allows for very nearly complete access to everything on the phone. This includes popular social media apps like Snapchat, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Line, Tinder, and Telegram. This means no matter how the user chooses to message, you'll be able to monitor it closely.
When it comes to anything technical solid customer support is a must. As you'll see in our reviews of other spy apps the functionality of each of these differ only slightly. What separates mSpy fom the others is their highly intuitive interface and their 24/7 customer support. Yes you pay more to get this level of service, but if you don't enjoy troubleshooting technical issues this can be a Godsend.
mSpy offers 3 different pricing structures based on the features you need. Here's a quick rundown of what you'll get with each.
No Jailbreak Package: can be installed without jailbreaking the device. In fact you don't even need physical access to the device if you have the user's iCloud credentials and the phone is setup to perform regular backups. The mSpy software will simply extract all of the necessary data from the phone's iCloud account and post it to your dashboard to view at your convenience.
As Low As
While it is the most convenient in terms of installation, the no-jailbreak package offers the fewest capabilities in terms of monitoring the phone. Here's what you get.
What you wont get is access to Geo-fencing, apps like Snapchat, Tinder, or Line, keylogging features, or GPS tracking.
Basic Package: available with or without jailbreak. The Basic package offers many of the same capabilities as the no-jailbreak package.
That said the functionality increases dramatically if you're willing to jailbreak the device.
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You can either do this yourself or you can have a technician at mSpy do it for you remotely for a small additional fee. Either way you will need to have physical access to the phone. In addition to the features in the no-jailbreak package you'll get the following features.
Premium Package: the Premium package basically offers you full access to everything on the phone from your dashboard. Getting the full feature set from the Premium package does require jailbreaking the device. As with the basic package you can do this yourself or have an mSpy tech do it for your remotely.
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Quick video highlighting installation of the app on an iOS device.
This does require having physical access to the target device. In addition to the features of the basic and no-jailbreak package you'll get the following functionality.
mSpy wants you to be completely comfortable with their product before you make your purchase. They offer a full demo on their website that allows you to see exactly how everything works. Check it out yourself by going to their website http://www.mspy.com/demo
mSpy is far and away our favorite spy software of the group. It offers both a non-jailbreak and jailbreak version, simple installation, intuitive control panel, and very competitive pricing.
While it's feature set for non-jailbroken phones is somewhat limited, the full version offers everything you could possibly want. GPS tracking, monitoring of SMS messages and all the popular social chat apps.
It doesn't offer a call intercept or the ability to record phone calls like our next favorite, but it is a great value for the price.
FlexiSPY is another popular option in the cell phone spy app market. This app offers all of the features of mSpy as well as a few incredibly powerful features not offered by any other software out there. They have been in business since 2005 and in that time have set the bar in terms of advanced monitoring and tracking capabilities.
The app will work on a wide variety of devices including the Android, iPhone, iPad, Nokia Symbian, and the Blackberry. While it is undoubtedly the most powerful app we've covered it is more appropriate for those who are technically savvy.
As with mSpy you'll have the option of either jailbreaking (or rooting in the case of Androids) the device or not. To get the advanced features of this cell phone monitoring software jailbreaking or rooting is required. FlexiSPY also offers a service to jailbreak the device for you for an additional cost.
Once jailbroken and installed this spy app allows you to monitor and record activities such as text (SMS) messages, phone calls, voicemails, GPS location, Skype, Facebook Messenger, Viber, WhatsApp messages, emails, all photos and videos (even within apps) contacts, and much more.
All of these capabilities are pretty standard. Where FleixSPY really shines is in it's advanced feature set. In fact they read like a list of CIA or NSA hacks for phones that you read about in the news.
The call intercept feature allows you to listen to incoming and outgoing calls as they happen. From your dashboard you can setup notifications for calls coming from or going out to specific numbers.
Once the call is placed your phone will be notified and you will be patched in via 3-way calling. Neither the user or the phone or the person they're talking with will be aware that you are listening in. (You will want to mute your phone as your connection is truly that of a 3-way call)
You can also have the app record all incoming and outgoing phone calls allowing you to review them at your convenience. Each call is stored in your dashboard for easy access. As with call intercept you can also specify contacts or numbers to automatically record.
This handy feature allows you to discretely turn on the microphone of the phone allowing you to listen to the ambient surroundings of the phone. You can either schedule the recordings based on specific times and have them recorded to your control panel or listen live.
This feature allows you to enable the camera whenever you like to take a picture of the phone's surroundings. These pictures are then uploaded to your dashboard for viewing at your convenience.
In addition to allowing you to monitor messages from the largest number of apps FlexiSPY allows you to record and listen to VOIP calls from Skype, SnapChat, and other apps. It also allows you to use FaceTime to monitor an iPad using the microphone and camera to see and hear all that is going on around the device. You can even use SMS text spoofing to send text messages on behalf of the target device.
Spoofing of text messages allows you to send texts on behalf of the target device and is a clever way to get additional information from contacts who will have no idea the text didn't originate from the owner of the phone.
The FlexiSPY spy software is available in two different packages: Premium and Extreme. Let's break down what you get in each package and it's cost.
FlexiSPY Premium: While you can use FlexiSPY without first jailbreaking or rooting the device, to get the full functionality you should plan on performing this first step. There are dozens of sites like this one that lead you through how this is done.
You can also pay an extra fee to have someone from FleixSPY do it for you remotely.
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For 12 mo
The Premium package from FlexiSPY offers all of the functionality of mSPY including access to phone call logs, text (SMS) messages, Facebook Messenger, and videos and photos, and a long list of other chat and social media apps.
Extreme Package: the Extreme package from FlexiSPY could be compared to the backdoor access the CIA and NSA supposedly have to our phones.
With this package you can monitor and record just about everything that happens on and around the phone. It is ideal for those that are relatively tech savvy and want extremely detailed information.
As Low As
For 12 mo
This includes the following:
If you're comfortable with technology and are willing to spend a bit more FlexiSPY is a great choice. It will allow you to monitor just about everything that happens on the target phone. The Extreme package offers capabilities that are unmatched.
Highster Mobile Pro is geared towards monitoring the phones of your children or your employees. Of course how you use it is up to you.
It offers many of the same features as the other apps we're covering. Because of how easy it is to install and configure Highster is a good solution for those who aren't as technically savvy.
The Mobile Pro Edition from Highster is one of the best values on the market. It doesn't have as many advanced features as mSpy or FlexiSPY, but it still offers some of the most important capabilities at a much lower price. If you're looking for a budget option Highster is a great choice.
In real-time you can monitor the location of the target device from your control panel. The location of the device will be displayed on a map and is accurate to within 20 meters.
From your control panel you'll be able to see a log of all incoming and outgoing calls. This includes time and duration of the call.
All photos and videos stored on the target device will be available for you to view from your control panel. This allows you to keep tabs on what pictures your kids are looking at and what sorts of videos they're sending and receiving.
You'll be able to look at the browsing history of the target device. This helps you keep tabs on what your kids or employees are looking at using their phones. All of the data is stored remotely on Highster's servers so even if the browsing history of the phone is cleared, you'll still be able to access all the URLs.
Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and other popular social media apps are all popular ways for kids to communicate. Highster allows you to monitor the usage of these apps as well as viewing the chats themselves.
Like many of the apps in this comparison Highster also allows you to see a log of text messages from the target phone. Even if the texts have been deleted on the device you'll still have a record in your control panel.
Want to see what's going on around the target device? Highster allows you to take pictures at any time and have them sent to your dashboard for viewing.
While mSpy and FlexiSPY offer the greatest amount of functionality, Highster is designed to be EXTREMELY user friendly. It works well on wide variety of devices such as iPhones and Androids. The installation and setup is hassle free.
On top of that they offer a one-time payment instead of monthly plans. Yes, it is missing some of the advanced features like call intercept or ambient recording, but it is still a robust spy software package and is worth considering.
Another nice feature that Highster offers is a support package. For about $30 you get telephone support. This can be extremely helpful when technical difficulties come up.
For more information and pricing check out http://www.highster.com
You can also read our in depth Highster Mobile review.
Mobile Spy from Retina-X Studios is another innovative product for monitoring and tracking an iPhone or Android device. Like most of the spy software apps we've covered so far it gives you the ability to view text messages, call logs, social media apps (Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp), photos and videos, GPS location, plus some impressive extras.
This app is specifically designed for parents and employers to monitor everything happening on the device of their choosing. They have integrated multi-device support directly into the dashboard allowing you to quickly switch from one device to the next.
You'll want to verify the device you're looking to monitor is compatible. This can be done quickly using the compatibility wizard on their website. Once verified, installation and setup of the app were both quick and painless.
Mobile Spy requires that you jailbreak ALL iOS devices you plan to monitor. If you're not comfortable with this process you're better of checking out one of our other options like mSpy or Highster Mobile
For Android devices you can get most functionality without rooting the device. But accessing applications like Skype, Viber, Line, and Facebook Messenger will require that you root the device.
While Mobile Spy offers many of the same functions offered by other spy apps we've covered here it does have a few unique features that make it worth your consideration.
The LIVE Control Panel allows you to connect to the device live to see what is going on.
A unique feature offered by Mobile Spy, this function allows you to see a screenshot from the device which is updated every 90 seconds.
Quickly locate the phone on a map so you know exactly where the device (and it's owner) are at all times.
This feature allows you to capture all keystrokes entered into the device, even those that have been deleted. You can view them under the General Logs for the device.
In addition to these features you'll also be able to setup GEO-fencing to let you know when the device enters or leaves safe and/or restricted areas, keyword notifications notifying you of the use of particular words or phrases, and profanity notifications letting you know when profanity is used or viewed.
Mobile Spy also allows you to block specific applications, remotely lock and unlock the phone, view Youtube videos that have been watched on the device, and even view gmail messages (requires rooting/jailbreaking the device).
By default the Mobile Spy app will notify the user of the phone that they are being monitored. If you want to enable "stealth monitoring" you'll need to set “Show Icon and Notification” setting to the off position. This will allow you to monitor the phone without the user having any idea of what is going on.
Mobile Spy offers two different packages:
The Basic Plan starts at $49.97 for three months. Or you can opt for the yearly plan of $99.97. This package includes the following features:
The Premium package includes all of the features from the Basic package plus the following:
This package starts at $64.97 for three months. The yearly plan is offered at $139.97.
The Live Control Panel is a nice add-on but where this app really excels is when you need to monitor multiple devices. It allows you to quickly switch between each from your control panel saving lots of time.
By default there is an icon on the screen of the monitored device as well as notifications that the device is being monitored but this can be disabled if you like. You'll certainly get more honest information if the user isn't constantly reminded they're being watched.
Mobile Spy's customer support is also top notch. You can find answers to just about any question on their website. And if that's not good enough you can contact their excellent tech support team.
All in all the Mobile Spy product is a solid choice. You can find more information and a demo of the spy software on their website. http://www.mobilespy.com
iKeyMonitor is another powerful and user friendly cell phone spy app. It offers much of the same monitoring as the other apps we've covered and includes an online dashboard for reviewing data on the target device.
You will be required to jailbreak or root your device to get the full functionality from the iKeyMonitor app. So if you're uncomfortable with that process you might be better off looking at mSpy or Highster Mobile.
iKeyMonitor is one of the only spy app's out there that let's you put the product through it's paces before buying it. Their 3-Day trial allows you to test all of the software's functionality and capabilities to ensure you're comfortable with how it performs before signing up.
One of the most powerful features offered by iKeyMonitor is it's keystroke logging. It can record ANY keystroke entered into the phone. This provides LOTS of data from just about every app on the target device.
Even passwords that are hidden from view on the phone will be visible in the logs sent your dashboard or email.
Want to get a look at exactly what's happening on your child or employee's phone at a particular time? The screen capture function allows you to do exactly that. You'll see exactly what the phone's user sees: apps used, websites visited, chats or video chats etc.
iKeyMonitor offers one of the most comprehensive lists of social media app monitoring out there including: Tinder, Facebook Messenger, Viber, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, Skype, Line, Kik, QQ, SnapChat, and more.
Want to make sure your kids aren't spending too much time on their phone each day? This feature allows you to set a maximum amount of time they can use their phone.
There are two different packages offered. The first is the STD or standard package. Pricing for this package starts at $29.99/mo or $11.99/mo when you sign up for a whole year. Here are the features included:
The only problem with the Standard package is that you don't get the online dashboard. This is pretty limiting. For that reason we only recommend the Online Package.
The Online package starts at $44.99/mo or $22.49 when you sign up for an entire year. This gives you access to all the information from the target device in an online dashboard that is very similar to those used on the other apps in this comparison. There are also some additional features included such as:
Overall the iKeyMonitor spy app package is pretty solid. Installation in particular was a bit more technically involved than most of the other apps we tested, but once it's installed and setup it seemed very stable. All the functionality works as advertised.
The app does require you to root (Android) or jailbreak (iOS) the device for full functionality. If you're not comfortable with this process you'll be better off going with one of the other apps that offer to do this for you for a small fee, or don't require it such as Highster.
From a value perspective you'll be paying $6 per month more than you would with mSpy for basically the same functionality. For this reason it came in number 5 in our comparison. One thing worth mentioning though is that the keylogger feature truly does record everything that happens on the phone. So if you're willing to search through the logs, you won't miss anything that's typed on the device. For more information go to https://ikeymonitor.com/
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Jason is a work from home dad who has a passion for DIY projects, yard work, and SEC Football. His background is IT, but he's always fancied himself as a part-time ship welder, landscaper, and short order cook. During the week he can be found on his laptop 10 hours-a-day, but on the weekends he escapes to the local DIY Cave to play with REAL toys.