*** This post was updated on: August 2, 2019 ***
There are literally DOZENS of spy apps on the market for iPhone and Android smartphones. Unfortunately, most of them are such a pain to install and use on Android or iPhone that they're basically worthless.
In an effort to keep tabs on what our kids are up to on their smartphones, I've installed and tested more spying apps than I care to remember. Through all this testing, I discovered they all have the same basic functionality. But there are two features I found to be MORE IMPORTANT than anything else.
The best spy apps stay completely hidden from the user while giving you total access to the target phone and its location.
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We want to make your buying decision as easy as possible. So in this article, I'm highlighting the MUST HAVE features in any cell phone spy app. I'm also covering:
Here are the 5 best hidden spy apps for iPhone & Android. Everything that you need to know about each spy app is in the reviews below.
mSpy is my pick for the best spy app on the market, and you can read why in my full mSpy review.
With a dedicated support team that is truly unique in this industry, the mSpy app works on both iOS and Android. It's also capable of monitoring both Mac and Windows based computers, and it is undetectable once installed.
Their basic package is great for those who struggle with technology, and the full version of mSpy gives you access to EVERYTHING.
The mSpy mobile spy app comes in both a jailbreak and non-jailbreak version, in which monitoring capabilities are more limited.
Should you opt for the advanced version of the application, the team at mSpy will help you jailbreak the device and get the app properly installed and configured.
While the installation is fairly straightforward, it's not unusual for those who aren't comfortable with mobile spy software to run into issues. Using the chat on their website, we were able to get answers to all of our questions quickly.
Of all the brands we tested, mSpy was the best spy app for Android or iPhone. Regardless of whether your target uses an Android phone or Apple device, they have you covered. mSpy has allof the features that you would expect, including monitoring text messages, instant messages, contacts, call logs, and pinpointing the user's GPS location. It also has some extras that you won't find anywhere else.
The app is, far and away, the best cell phone spyware. It has both a non-jailbreak and jailbreak version, simple installation, intuitive control panel, and very competitive pricing.
While the app's features are more limited without performing a jailbreak, the full version of the app has everything you could possibly want. GPS tracking, monitoring of SMS text messages, and all the popular social chat apps.
While it doesn't offer some of the advanced features of my 2nd choice (call intercept or call recording), this spyware for cell phones offers the most value overall.
FlexiSPY is the best iPhone spy app. It has all the features of mSpy and a few incredibly powerful features not offered by any other mobile phone spy software out there. You can read more about the app in my full FlexiSPY review.
The FlexiSPY app has been around since 2005 and, in that time, it has set the bar for advanced monitoring and spy capabilities.
Jailbreaking required on all versions.
Solid assistance with jailbreaking, installation, and ongoing maintenance.
If you're comfortable with technology and are willing to spend a bit more, FlexiSPY is the best cell phone spy app for iPhone and a great Android spy app. This powerful monitoring software will allow you to keep track of just about everything that happens on the target phone remotely. The Extreme app package has spy capabilities that are unmatched.
Flexispy will work on a wide variety of devices including the Android, iPhone, iPad, Nokia Symbian, and the Blackberry. It is undoubtedly the most powerful app I've tested, though it may be more appropriate for those who are technically savvy.
Where FlexiSPY really shines is in its advanced set of features. In fact, they read like a list of CIA or NSA mobile phone hacks that you read about in the news.
Highster Mobile is a spy phone app geared toward remotely monitoring the phones of your children or your employees. Of course, how you use it is totally up to you.
The app has many of the same mobile spy features as the best tracking apps for iPhone and can spy on Android as well. Because Highster Mobile is easy to install and configure, it is a good app for those who aren't as technically savvy. The interface and online dashboard capabilities are very similar to the other products we're covering, but this app doesn't have some of their advanced capabilities. You can read more about the app in our Highster Mobile review article.
Both jailbreak and non-jailbreak versions offered. Advanced features such as Facebook Messenger and Instagram monitoring require a jailbreak.
Highster Mobile is one of the best cell phone tracker values on the market. This phone tracking software doesn't have as many advanced Android spy features, but it still has some of the most important Android spy capabilities at a much lower price. If you are on a budget, this is a great choice.
In addition, Highster Mobile also offers a one-time payment instead of monthly plans. Yes, it is missing some advanced features like recording calls, ambient recording, and turning on the phone's camera, but it is still a robust spy software package, and it is worth considering.
Basic support is available, but it is not as easy or as helpful as FlexiSPY. You will be required to submit questions on their website, which are answered in a queue format. You CAN purchase an enhanced telephone support package about $30, and this can be extremely helpful when difficulties come up.
For information and pricing check out http://www.highster.com
XNSPY is another innovative spy app for monitoring and tracking an iPhone or Android phone. Like most spy software that 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.
You can read XNSPY reviews here.
The spy software is specifically designed for parents and employers to track everything happening on the target device. The dashboard will let you monitor multiple devices and allow you to switch from one to the other quickly.
You'll want to verify that the phone or device you're looking to monitor is compatible with the app. This can be done quickly using the phone compatibility wizard on their website. Once verified, installation and setup of this tracker app were both quick and easy. While this tracker app will allow you to monitor a phone without permission, that is not it's INTENDED use.
Of course, how you use it is up to you. 🙂
XNSPY requires that you jailbreak ALL iOS devices if you want the advanced monitoring features. If you're not comfortable with this process, you're better off checking out our #1 spy app.
For an Android phone, you can spy on most activities on the target phone without rooting. But monitoring applications like Skype, Viber, Line, and Facebook Messenger will require that you root the Android device.
XNSPY has many of the same functions offered by other spy apps we've covered, but it does have a few unique features that make it worth your consideration.
The LIVE Control Panel can now connect to the target device live, to spy on what is going on.
You can use this function 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 target device is at all times.
This feature captures all keystrokes, even those that have been deleted. You can view, or download, them under the General Logs.
In addition to these features, it's also easy to setup GEO-fencing to let you know when the target enters or leaves safe and/or restricted areas, keyword notifications to alert you when particular words or phrases are used, and profanity notifications letting you know when profanity is used or viewed.
The XNSPY Android spy software also allows you to block specific applications, remotely lock and unlock the phone, view Youtube videos that have been watched, and even view or download Gmail messages (requires rooting/jailbreaking the device).
By default, Android spy apps will notify the phone's user that they are being monitored. If you want to enable "stealth monitoring", you'll need to set the "Show Icon and Notification" setting to the off position. This will allow you to monitor and track the phone without the target having any idea that you are spying on them.
There are two different packages available now. The Basic Plan starts at $49.97 for three months, and the yearly plan is $99.97. The Basic package includes the following features:
The Premium package includes all the features from the Basic package plus the following:
This package starts at $64.97 for three months, and the yearly plan is $139.97.
The Live Control Panel is a nice add-on, but where it really excels is when you need to monitor multiple devices. It allows you to quickly switch between each device from your control panel, saving lots of time.
By default, there is an icon on the monitored device's screen as well as notifications that the device is being monitored, but this can be disabled if you like. You'll certainly get better information if the target you are spying on isn't constantly reminded that you're watching them.
XNSPY's free 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 team.
All in all, the XNSPY app is a solid choice for monitoring another phone. You can find more information and a demo of the software on their website.
iKeyMonitor is an easy and user-friendly spy app that has many of the cell phone spying features of other apps we've covered. This phone spy software also includes an online dashboard for reviewing data on the target device.
You will be required to root the target device to get the full services of the iKeyMonitor app. So if you're uncomfortable with that process, you might be better off looking at the #1 rated spy app.
iKeyMonitor is one of the few spy apps out there that lets you put the product through its paces for free before buying it. Their 3-Day free trial allows you to test the capabilities of this spy app and be comfortable with how it performs before you buy anything.
One of the best spyware app features offered by iKeyMonitor is its 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 device will be visible in the logs sent to your dashboard or email.
Want to remotely spy on 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.
It offers one of the more comprehensive lists of social media app monitoring capabilities out there, including Tinder, Facebook Messenger, Viber, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, Skype, Line, Kik, QQ, and SnapChat. This essentially allows you to see everything that happens on the phone.
Want to make sure your kids aren't spending too much time on their phone each day? This feature makes it easy to set a maximum amount of time they can use their device.
There are two different packages you can use. Both have a free trial, so you can get started spying on an Android phone or iOS mobile device now and decide if you want to buy it later. The first is the 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 to use the online dashboard. This is pretty limiting. For that reason, we only recommend that you use the Online Package.
The Online Package starts at $44.99 per month, or $22.49 when you sign up for an entire year. This app lets you see everything done on the target device in an online dashboard. There are also some additional features included with the phone monitoring app, such as:
Overall, the iKeyMonitor package is pretty solid. You are sometimes limited by what spy app iPhone will let you install. Installation of the app, in particular, was a bit more technically involved than other apps we tested, but it seemed very stable once it was installed and setup. All the spying functionality works as advertised, and the app is hidden from the phone's user, making it completely undetectable.
iKeyMonitor is among the best apps for tracking iPhone. However, it does require you to root (Android) or jailbreak (iOS) the device for maximum access or for recording phone calls. If you're not comfortable with this process, you'll be better off going with one of the other companies that offer to do this for you for a small fee, or don't require it, such as Highster Mobile.
From a value perspective, you'll be paying an additional $6 per month compared to our first choice, and getting basically the same functionality. For this reason, it came in number 5 in our comparison.
One thing worth mentioning, though, is that the feature to log what they type 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 on this mobile spy monitoring software, go to https://ikeymonitor.com/
The best spy apps for Android phones aren't necessarily the top apps to spy on iPhone. Many packages will work on either phone, but there are differences in the operating systems that limit capabilities and functionality.
Samsung and Google phones run on the Android operating system, which was developed by Google. The different versions go by a wide range of strange names, and the latest version of Android is called Pie.
There are a lot of good solutions to spy on Android phones. The amount of real information a spy app can provide depends on whether or not you root the Android device, as this provides access to everything on the phone. Android phone software doesn't have an iCloud backup spying equivalent, as an Android phone doesn't use a similar backup method.
Apple phones run on the iOS software platform. iPhone spyware generally falls into two categories; those that require jailbreaking the device and those that don't. But there is one notable exception.
The iPhone spy software we reviewed allows you to get MOST of the information without even installing any software. These apps require that you know the iCloud login credentials of the target device. From there, it is free to remotely access all the backups that are regularly stored by the phone.
Compared to other ways to spy on iPhone, these offer the greatest flexibility and are among the best iPhone spy apps. They are also great for those that aren't comfortable dealing with complex technology.
Regardless of what you're trying to track, most features offered among cell phone monitoring software are essentially the same whether or not your target is using an Android phone.
So what all CAN you track using these spyware 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 deciding on a phone tracker app.
One of the more important pieces of information for a concerned parent, employer, or spouse is the location of the user's phone. All of the cell phone tracking software that we've covered allows you to track the target device's exact location. Some cell phone tracking apps now take this capability even further by logging the phone's location over a specific time frame.
A good cell phone tracker app allows you to set up zones as well. When the user enters or leaves these zones, you'll be notified on your phone.
Pretty much everyone that owns a phone now knows how to send text messages. And knowing how to monitor text messages to spy on what's being said is a must for any tracking software. Every one of our picks has this capability. You can even read someone's text messages without installing anything.
Some even allow you to log all texts and download them from the phone later. So even if the user deletes their messages, you'll still have them in your control panel.
Hacking into someone's text messages is a powerful tool to monitor who they're talking with and what they're saying. Some apps even allow you to spy on someone's text messages without installing anything on their phone. iPhone spy software only requires that you know their iCloud login credentials.
Even if you are using a Facebook Messenger hack, it's hard to keep track of all the ways people use to communicate, especially with chatting apps. Your target phone could be using apps like Whatsapp, SnapChat, Tinder, LINE, Skype, or others.
Spying on conversations in Whatsapp or Tinder is a bit more involved than seeing SMS text messages or a log of phone calls, but we have covered several spy apps that now offer this capability and even more. These provide a user-friendly and easy way to spy on chat conversations across multiple platforms. And you can spy on it all from your web browser, in an easy to use dashboard.
Although e-mail 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 lets you monitor EXACTLY who they call and who calls them. Many apps will store calls in a log that you can review and download from the device whenever you like. Some of the better apps will even let you record all calls on the phone.
All of the top spy apps should be able to record phone calls. Flexispy can record live phone calls, and also makes it easy to turn on the phone's microphone for in-room recording without the user's knowledge.
A keystroke capture feature allows you to spy on anything that is typed on the phone. This includes chats, texts, emails, usernames, and passwords. Some trackers will even notify you when specific keywords are typed.
Some programs are designed specifically as spyware for iPhone, and others are intended to be spyware for Android devices. Some are platform independent and will work on both types of devices. If you're planning on tracking both, you'll want to ensure that the app you choose is compatible with both operating systems.
The best phone tracker packages are extremely powerful, and it's important to understand the legalities of using them. We go into more detail in this article.
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 track a phone or devices that you do not own. But if you ARE the owner of the phone, you can install whatever software you like on the device.
Even if you AREN'T the phone's owner, sometimes the situation just requires you to know what's going on for your own protection.
Here are the answers to common questions people have about installing and using phone spyware.
Spy apps do work and can take total control of an Android or iPhone, without the owner being aware of the app.
The best spy app available is mSpy. It offers a good balance between price, features, and terrific customer service.
mSpy can be installed remotely if you choose the non-jailbreak version. It offers fewer monitoring features than the standard version, as it utilizes iCloud storage to harvest data.
Absolutely. All the spy apps we've reviewed allow you to track the physical location of a target phone.
mSpy and FlexiSPY allow you to track a mobile phone, even if it is not connected to the internet by utilizing the GPS location data of the device.
After installing a spy app, you can monitor someone's smartphone activity remotely. You'll need to find out if the phone itself is compatible with the spyware. Most apps require that you download the app to the device itself.
There are ways of tracking any device without the owner being aware. We talk about how to track a cell phone location without them knowing in another article.
You need physical access to the target phone to install the software and can then spy on the device remotely. There are some options available that can circumvent this requirement by allowing you to access the phone's information via their iCloud account directly, but these only work on iOS devices. An Android phone will require you to have the mobile device in hand for at least a few minutes.
When you are trying to spy on a cell phone, the information you can monitor on the phone is much greater if you can get physical access to the device.
These top spy apps are my favorites, though there are others out there that are popular as well. Hoverwatch is one that is very popular with parents for keeping tabs on location, messaging, and pictures being sent. There are dozens of others as well but, if you want the most solid solution, my recommendation is to use one of the top spy apps reviewed on this page.
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.