Spy apps can be a great tool to help parents ensure their kids stay safe both in cyberspace and in the real world. Trying to pick the right app to use, though, can be a little daunting. So many of the best spy apps offer similar features, but with just enough differences to make it difficult to choose the right one that will meet all of your needs.
Since many of these parental control apps do offer similar features, what separates the good from the bad is their stability, functionality, and customer support.
An app is only helpful if it works consistently and is easy to use. If you’re having trouble getting your app to work and have no support, then your app is essentially useless. Another difficulty when choosing a monitoring app is that they often require rooting to be most effective. The rooting process can be pretty intimidating if you’re not an expert with Android devices, and can be expensive if you try to hire someone to do it for you. It also requires physical access to the Android device.
To make the decision process easier, I’ve compiled a list of 6 top Android spy apps based on the features that can be used without rooting the target device. I’ve also included some pros and cons, pricing information, and device compatibility to help you pick the best spy app for Android devices that will fit your unique needs.
Spyfone is my top pick for a parental control app that works on Android phones. It offers the most versatility and functionality without having to root the target device.
In fact, unlike most android spy apps, Spyfone doesn’t have separate rooted and non-rooted plans. At the highest tier, Spyfone gives you access to features that include website blocking, keylogging to track passwords and text messages, location and GPS tracking, the option to block or control apps, and the ability to view all media on the target device including pictures and recorded video.
Spyfone also includes live viewing options that aren’t available through most other Android monitoring apps. Live viewing allows you to tap into your child’s phone and see what they are doing in real time. This is especially helpful if you want to know immediately when they are engaging in potentially dangerous activity instead of waiting to check activity once it’s recorded and ready for review in a parental portal.
You can also turn on the camera on your child’s phone remotely and see what they are doing and what is happening around them as it occurs. Unfortunately, Spyfone doesn’t let you intercept or listen to calls live, but you can record calls and listen to them later.
As great as Spyfone is, it’s somewhat lacking when it comes to screen time and web filter controls. There is no good way to impose time limits with this app, and while there are some website filters, they aren’t as detailed and strong as they could be.
There is also no geo-fencing option, and while there is live location tracking, it can sometimes take up to 15 minutes for location information to update, which can make it pretty difficult to keep accurate tabs on your child.
Thankfully, Spyfone does have great customer service, with 24/7 chat support available to help you with any issues that may come up when trying to install this app on an Android device. They can also install the app for you if that’s something you don’t want to mess with yourself!
Xtream = $25 a month for 12 months
Premium = $16.66 a month for 12 months
Basic = $8.33 a month for 12 months
Spyfone can be used on any device running Android 4.0 or higher, including:
mSpy is another parental control app that offers a comprehensive set of features for Android devices, and most are accessible without having to root the target device.
mSpy is especially useful when it comes to monitoring text messages, as the app will send a copy of all messages your child sends or receives to your parental dashboard where you can view them whenever you want, regardless of if your kid deletes the originals. mSpy will even let you view pictures or videos your child sends or receives through text messages.
Unfortunately you can’t monitor social media apps or email without rooting the device. You can, however, control which WiFi networks your kids can access and which websites they can visit. You can also see internet history and set up an alert in case keywords are searched or used on your child’s phone that you’re not OK with.
mSpy uses a powerful keylogger that replaces the keyboard in your child’s phone with one that can track everything they type on it. This can help you monitor your child’s activity even on the social media apps that you can’t access directly.
This means that you can record anything your child types and can receive an alert anytime your child uses a keyword or phrase that you’ve chosen, no matter what platform they are using. You can also prevent your child from downloading specific apps and view what apps are already downloaded on their phone. You can also block incoming phone calls and see their call history.
All of this is sent to a parental dashboard that you can view on your phone whenever you want.
Premium = $16.66 a month for 12 months or $39.99 a month for 3 months or $69.99 a month for 1 month
Basic = $29.99 a month for 1 month
mSpy can also be used on any device running Android 4.0 or higher, including:
For more information on this Android monitoring software check out our full review here.
FlexiSpy is another Android spy app that has a pretty impressive set of features that don’t require rooting to use. All the standards you would expect to see are covered including text message monitoring through keylogging software, access to call logs, address books, and installed applications, the ability to view photos and videos sent to the target phone, and application and network blocking.
Notably, Flexispy doesn’t allow you to view internet browsing history or bookmarks online without first rooting the target device – a feature that most Android spy apps do include in their non-rooting option. You also can’t directly monitor most social media apps – though you can read WhatsApp messages – but the keylogging can make up for this by recording anything typed into the phone’s keyboard.
FlexiSpy does offer some impressive features that you may not find with other non-rooted Android spy software. These features include geo-fencing and GPS location monitoring.
You can also receive an alert when your child has an incoming call, and can even choose to record that call and have the recording sent to your dashboard so you can listen to it later. You can also remotely activate the microphone and record what is being said in the vicinity of the target device. You can also remotely change software that is downloaded onto the target phone or remotely deactivate software.
Another nice feature is that you can choose to run FlexiSpy in hidden mode, which means there will be no indication on the Android device that this app is running in the background. All these extra features are reflected in the higher price point, but the strong customer service and extra options can make this an appealing choice.
Extreme = $29.08 a month for 12 months or $66.66 a month for 3 months
Premium = $12 a month for 12 months or $33 a month for 3 months or $68 a month for 1 month
Lite = $29.95 a month for 1 month
FlexiSpy can also be used on any device running Android 4.0 or higher, including:
You can read more about FlexiSPY here.
Highster offers some decent spy tools for Android devices, but is somewhat limited when it comes to what you can do without rooting your target device.
Even if you do root the cell phone, Highster doesn’t offer as many advanced features as you could find on just about any other android spy app. They do offer text message monitoring, the ability to view media files, incoming and outgoing email monitoring, and the ability to view calendars, contacts, and notes stored on the target device.
You can also view what calls are being made or received, though you can’t record these calls, listen in, or place any restrictions on incoming or outgoing calls. You can receive GPS location information, though, which is something that doesn’t come standard for a lot of non-rooted spy apps.
Unfortunately, you can’t monitor any popular social apps, and there is no keylogger included in the available features, so you have no way of knowing what messages may be passed along using anything that isn’t a text message or email. You also can’t block websites or network access, though you can view browsing history and bookmarks and can set up keyword alerts for search terms.
The area where Highster is the most lacking, though, is in the customer support department. There is no chat support or even a phone number you can call if you need help. You can send an email or submit a ticket with a help request through their website where they promise someone will get back to you within 24 hours. But that’s not much help if you have a problem that needs an immediate solution.
Highster does have an extremely low, one-time payment, though, so if you don’t want a lot of extra features and aren’t worried about the lack of support, this app could be the solution for you.
Basic = $29.99, one-time payment
Pro (requires rooting) = $69.99, one-time payment
Highster can be used on any device running Android 2.0 or higher, including:
Read more about Highster Mobile Pro here.
This app has an impressive array of phone monitoring features, and all of them can be used on Android phones without the need for rooting. You might be wondering why, then, this app isn’t further up on the list. The answer is due to the unreliability of the product, the frequent problems the software encounters, and the lack of customer support.
Spyzie provides the basic monitoring features you would expect like text message and call log reports, multimedia viewing, browser history reporting, app blocking and control, and GPS location reporting.
This app also offers email monitoring, has a keylogger to track any information entered into the phone, and allows you to directly monitor popular social apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Instagram, Tinder, Viber, Snapchat, and more.
You can also set geo-fencing parameters, establish certain alerts to be sent to your phone, and can even take screenshots of anything on your kid’s phone which can come in handy if you think a confrontation may be in order.
This app doesn’t let you record calls or give you any way to listen to conversations your kids may have either through calls or video chats. Still, the list of options they offer without needing to root your phone may be tempting, but you should be aware of the instability of this product.
There have been several reported instances of the app crashing after updates or reboots, to the point where the app may need to be uninstalled and reinstalled to work again, which can be inconvenient given the fact that this requires physical access to the mobile phone to install the app.
Also, like Highster, there is no live help option. You can email customer support, but they say on their website that it can take up to 48 hours to get a response. Several customers have reported that it’s difficult to get a response at all.
Basic: 1-Month License: $29.99 / 3-Month License: $49.99 / 6-Month License: $89.99
Pro: 1-Month License: $39.99 / 3-Month License: $69.99 / 6-Month License: $99.99
Ultimate: 1-Month License: $49.99 / 3-Month License: $79.99 / 6-Month License: $119.99
Spyzie claims to be compatible with any Android device including:
Check out our Spyzie reviews here.
iKeyMonitor also has a nice range of features available for Android devices without rooting. The basics you would hope to find in an Android spy app are available, including text message monitoring, a keylogger to record anything typed into the phone, the ability to monitor pictures and videos sent to and from the device, call history viewing, and the ability to view browsing history.
This app also provides some extra features that aren’t always included in spying apps for Android, including call recording, location monitoring, geo-fencing, the ability to monitor and block apps, some social app monitoring, and even some tools to limit screen time.
They also offer the ability to take screenshots of email, internet, and app activity that takes place on the target device. You can also remotely trigger the microphone on Android phones that are running this app in order to listen to what is going on in the vicinity of the phone in question.
Unfortunately, this Android spy app is one of the most expensive options on this list. They don’t offer plans for rooted vs. non-rooted Android phones, so if you don’t want to root your Android devices, you still have to pay for the full package without being able to use all the features.
This Android spy app also doesn’t come with great customer service. There is a live chat option, which is better than some of the other apps available for Android devices, but the tech support is known to be lacking and not very helpful when it comes to actually resolving problems. This app can also crash frequently and requires access to the target device if the app needs to be reinstalled.
Free Version: $0 + $9.99 every 3 days (approx. $100 a month) for most features
Full Version: $29.16 a month for 12 months or $59.99 a month for one month
iKeyMonitor can be used on any device running Android 2.0 or higher, including:
Price is an important factor since most parents have limited resources. A high-powered Android spy app might look appealing, but if you can’t afford it, then it’s not worth getting excited about!
If you can’t figure out how to make your spyware for Android work, or you have to spend many frustrating hours trying to figure out how to get certain features to work properly on the target cell phone, then your Android spy app also won’t do you much good.
Some parents are concerned with things like location tracking and geo-fencing, while others might be more concerned with monitoring what goes on in apps or knowing who is calling their kids.
This is another important factor, since an Android spy app that won’t function properly is also pretty close to useless. You don’t want to spend money on an app that won’t keep working reliably!
It’s important to know what the limitations are of anything you’re going to spend money on so you can make informed decisions.
Thankfully, the best Android spyware is usually compatible with most Android devices, but it’s still important to make sure the product you’re buying will work with the target phone.
Any app or software is bound to develop issues at some point. Having responsive, reliable, helpful customer service is important when trying to pick a good Android spy app.
This can help you get a feel for what an Android spy app can do before you spend money on it. Not all the apps reviewed here offer this option, but a quick visit to their websites will help you find a free trial or live demo if they’re available.
While some spy apps can be installed remotely, usually the best spy app for Android will require brief access to the target cell phone due to their advanced features.
If there is an Android spy app installed on your phone, then chances are, someone will be able to read your text messages. Most spy apps provide text message monitoring in standard, non-rooting packages.
Most spy apps can run undetected, but there are a few ways to tell if someone has installed one of these apps on your device. A fast-draining battery or a phone that feels like it overheats quickly are both signs that a spy app may be running in the background. Your mobile data draining faster than you think it should can also be a sign of a spy app. You can also install some spy-detection apps that may be able to detect a hidden monitoring app.
Most – but not all – spy apps offer location tracking features. If this is important to you, be sure to check if the app you’re considering offers this feature, and if the location information updates accurately.
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. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and can contact him via email.