** This post was updated on: February 2, 2019 ***
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There are literally DOZENS of mobile cell phone spy apps on the market. Unfortunately most of them are such a pain to install and use that they're basically worthless.
In an effort to keep tabs on our kid's cell phone usage 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 offer stable performance and solid tech support.
Easy to use, works with the most phones, great features, and AWESOME tech support
Most impressive features, requires jailbreaking, good technical support
Budget price, good functionality, no jailbreak required, OK tech support.
There are plenty of reasons for needing to spy on someone else's phone.
Whatever your reasons, the apps I'm about to cover will tell you everything you need to know and more.
And the best part?
You won't be pulling your hair out in frustration while trying to use them.
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:
We're going to jump right into our Top 5 phone spying apps. If you want to look at the basic features you should expect to find in these software suites jump to the bottom.
With a dedicated support team that is truly unique in this industry mSpy is my pick for the best cell phone spy app on the market. (read our full mSpy review)
It works on both iOS and Androids. It's also capable of monitoring both Mac and Windows based computers and is undetectable once installed.
Their no-jailbreak package is great for those who struggle with technology, and the full version offers access to EVERYTHING.
mSpy offers both a jailbreak and non-jailbreak version. Monitoring capabilities are more limited without jailbreaking.
Should you opt for the full version, the support team at mSpy will help you jailbreak the device and get the app properly installed and configured.
While the installation of mSpy is fairly straightforward, it's not unusual for those who aren't comfortable with technology to run into issues. Using the chat support on their website we were able to quickly get answers to all of our questions.
Regardless of whether your target uses an Android or Apple device, mSpy has you covered. It offers all of the basic features including monitoring text messages, instant messages, contacts, call logs, and pinpointing the user's GPS location. mSpy also offers some extras that you won't find anywhere else.
mSpy is far and away our favorite cell phone spy software of the group. It offers both a non-jailbreak and jailbreak version, simple installation, intuitive control panel, and very competitive pricing.
While the feature set of this app is somewhat more limited without performing a jailbreak, the full version offers everything you could possibly want. GPS tracking, monitoring of SMS messages and all the popular social chat apps.
While it doesn't offer some of the advanced features of our 2nd choice (call intercept or call recording), this spyware offers the best value overall.
FlexiSPY is another popular spy app. It offers all of the features of mSpy as well as a few incredibly powerful features not offered by any other spy software out there.
FlexiSPY been around since 2005 and in that time have set the bar in terms of advanced monitoring and tracking capabilities.
Jailbreaking required for all versions of the FlexiSPY app
Solid tech support offering assistance with jailbreaking, installation, and ongoing maintenance.
If you're comfortable with technology and are willing to spend a bit more FlexiSPY is a great choice. This powerful spy software will allow you to keep track of just about everything that happens on the target phone. The Extreme app package offers capabilities that are unmatched.
Flexispy will work on a wide variety of products including the Android, iPhone, iPad, Nokia Symbian, and the Blackberry. While it is undoubtedly the most powerful app I've tested, it might be more appropriate for those who are technically savvy.
Where FleixSPY really shines is in it's advanced feature set. In fact they read like a list of CIA or NSA hacks that you read about in the news.
Highster Mobile Pro is geared towards monitoring the phones of your children or your employees. Of course how you use this spy app is totally up to you.
It offers many of the same powerful features as the other apps we're covering. But because of how easy it is to install and configure Highster is a good solution for those who aren't as technically savvy. The interface and online dashboard capabilities are very similar to both mSpy and FlexiSPY, but this app doesn't have some of their advanced capabilities.
Both jailbreak and non-jailbreak versions offered. Advanced features such as Facebook messenger spy, Instagram monitoring and more requires jailbreak.
Basic tech support is not as helpful as either mSpy or FlexiSPY. You will be required to submit questions on their website which are answered in a queue format. You CAN purchase enhanced tech support package for $29.99.
The Mobile Pro Edition from Highster is one of the best values on the market. This app 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 tracker app, the Highster Mobile pro product is a great choice.
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 Mobile Spy 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.
MobileSpy is no longer on our recommended app list. Teensafe is another spy app. You can read more about it here.
The Mobile Spy phone tracker from Retina-X Studios is another innovative product for monitoring and tracking an iPhone or Android. 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 spy on everything happening on the phone of their choosing. They have integrated multi-device support directly into the dashboard allowing you to quickly switch from one 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 this tracker app were both quick and painless. 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. 🙂
Mobile Spy requires that you jailbreak ALL iOS products 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 Androids you can get most functionality without rooting. But to spy on applications like Skype, Viber, Line, and Facebook Messenger will require that you perform a root.
While Mobile Spy offers many of the same functions offered by other spying 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 user live to see what is going on.
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 user is at all times.
This feature allows you to capture all keystrokes, even those that have been deleted. You can view them under the General Logs.
In addition to these features you'll also be able to setup GEO-fencing to let you know when the user 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.
The Mobile Spy tracker app also allows you to block specific applications, remotely lock and unlock the phone, view Youtube videos that have been watched, and even view gmail messages (requires rooting/jailbreaking the device).
By default the 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 spy on the phone without the user having any idea of what is going on.
They 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 app 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 that you're spying on them.
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 this app is a solid choice for a spying app. You can find more information and a demo of the spy software on their website.
iKeyMonitor is another powerful and user friendly cell phone spying app. It offers many of the same features 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 products 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 spy 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 device 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. This essentially allows for spying on 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 allows you to set a maximum amount of time they can use their device.
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. There are also some additional features included such as:
Overall the iKeyMonitor package is pretty solid. Installation in particular was a bit more technically involved than others we tested, but once it's installed and setup it seemed very stable. All the spying 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 companies 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/
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 mSpy review here. FlexiSPY requires that you jailbreak iPhone or root an Android phone, but it also offers more features. We cover all the details in our full FlexiSPY review.
The best spy software for Android type phones isn't necessarily the right choice for an iPhone. While many of these packages will work on either platform, there are differences in the operating systems that limit capabilities and functionality.
Apple phones run on the iOS software platform. iPhone spy apps generally fall into two categories; those that require jailbreaking the device and those that don't. But there is one notable exception.
The iPhone spyware package from mSpy allows you to get MOST of the information without even installing software. It does require that you know the iCloud login credentials of the user. From there it can access all of the backups that are regularly stored by the phone.
Compared to other spy apps for iPhones it offers the greatest amount of flexibility. It's also great for those that aren't comfortable dealing with complex technology.
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. The latest is called Oreo.
The best spying app for Androids is also mSpy. Again, the functionality you get depends on whether or not you root the device. This allows you to access more information. Android spy software doesn't offer the equivalent of iCloud backup spying as they don't use a similar backup method.
Regardless of what you're trying to track, most of the features offered are essentially the same.
So what all CAN you track using one of these spy applications?
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 choosing a tracking app.
One of the most important pieces of information for a concerned parent, employer, or spouse is the users location. Every app that we've covered 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 tracking apps allow you to setup zones as well. When the user 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. And knowing how to spy on text messages to monitor what's being said is a must for any tracking software. Every one of the apps we'll be highlighting offer this capability. You can even read someones text messages without installing anything.
Some spy software even allows you to log all texts. 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 keep track of who they're talking with and what they're saying. mSpy even allows you to hack someones text messages without installing anything on their phone. It only requires you know their iCloud login credentials.
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. These apps even allow you to hack someone's Snapchat.
Spying on conversations on Whatsapp or Tinder is a bit more involved than seeing SMS texts or a call log, but we'll be covering several packages that offer this capability and even more. This is ideal as 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.
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 tracking applications 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 trackers will even notify you when specific keywords are typed.
While these mobile spy apps are extremely powerful, 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 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.
There are ways of tracking a device without the owner being aware. We talk about how to track a cell phone location without them knowing in another article.
Some of these programs are designed to specifically spy on iPhones, while others are intended to spy on Android devices. Some are platform independent and will work on both. If you're planning on tracking both you'll want to ensure that the app you choose can work on both operating systems.
Here are some answers to some of the more common questions people have about installing and using phone spyware.
No. You need physical access to a the target phone to install spy software on it. There are apps that can circumvent this requirement by allowing you to directly access the phone's information via their iCloud account, but these only work on iOS devices. All others require you to have the device in hand for at least a few minutes.
While this is a limitation, the amount of information you can get from the phone is much greater if you can get physical access.
Yes. mSpy CAN be installed remotely if you choose the non-jailbreak version. It offers fewer monitoring features than the standard version, as it utilizes the iCloud storage to harvest data.
Absolutely. All of the spyware packages we've reviewed in this article allow you to track the physical location.
Apps like "mSpy" and "FlexiSPY" allow you to track mobile phones even if they're not connected to the internet by utilizing their GPS location data.
Our top spy app is mSpy. It offers a good balance of price and features and offers terrific customer support.
After installation you can monitor a someone's activity from a remote location. You'll need to find out if the phone itself is compatible with the spyware. Most cell phone spy apps require that you download the software package to the device itself.
Here are our current picks for the best spy applications for iPhone/iPad (iOS).
Here are our current picks for the best tracking apps for Androids.
While theses top spy apps are our favorites, there are others out there that are popular as well. Teensafe is one that is very popular with parents for keeping tabs on location, messaging, and pictures being sent. There are dozens more as well. But if you want the the most solid solution, my recommendation is to go with mSpy.
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.