In an ideal world, you wouldn’t need to spy on someone’s phone to see what they’re doing. But the reality is that smartphones make it VERY EASY for people to do things they’re not supposed to do.
The good news?
In this article you’ll learn how to spy on a cell phone without installing software on the target phone. And you can do it in 4 minutes or less.
When I needed to secretly monitor our daughter’s phone, I spent hours setting up “solution” that cost me $100 and it never worked. Since then I’ve researched and tested dozens of apps to come up with the list of solutions that actually work.
There are three ways to spy on someone’s phone without installing software on it.
- using a spy app
- using location tracking software
- using built-in apps
Contents of this Guide
- Use a Spy App
- Use a Phone Location Tracker
Use a Spy App
A spy app is the most efficient way to spy on someone’s phone. Spying apps are a type of smartphone spyware that monitors text messages, iMessages, chat conversations, social media activity, GPS location, phone calls, and more.
Before we continue, there is NO WAY to use a spy app on an Android phone or tablet without installing software. You can track the device’s location, but that is all. Spying on an Android phone requires changing its’ security settings and downloading an app.
Compared to the other two solutions covered in this article, spy apps offer far more monitoring features.
The most popular uses for surveillance apps are:
- for businesses to monitor their employee’s phone usage
- parents to monitor their child’s online activities and screen-time.
- loved ones who need to monitor their spouse or partner
Some spy apps can monitor a phone without installing any software on the target device. These apps do not offer some of the features of locally installed spy software. But they can capture an impressive amount of information.
Below you will find our favorite apps that don’t require installing software on the target phone.
Best for Social Media & Location Spying
- fastest installation – under 4 minutes
- Monitors 6 Social Media & Chat Apps
- Real-time Location Tracking
- Monitor SMS & iMessages
- Slightly more expensive than rival products
uMobix is our top pick because it offers the most features, simple and fast installation, and solid tech support.
uMobix doesn’t require installing any software when monitoring an iPhone or iOS device. It does require the iCloud username and password of the target user.
If you don’t have access to that information, you’ll need to install the app on the device itself. uMobix works with Androids too, but there is no way to remotely install uMobix on an Android device.
Why is uMobix Our Favorite?
uMobix gives you full access to the user’s Facebook and Instagram account. This includes scrolling their timeline, post interactions, and more. It also allows you to monitor Skype, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger.
uMobix offers LIVE, US-based customer service and support. It is compatible with any iPhone or Android device.
- $12.59/month for 12 months
- $29.99/month for 3 months
- $49.99/month for 1 month
See our full review of the uMobix spying app for more information.
Solid Runner Up
- fastest installation – 5 minutes
- Monitors 5 Social Media & Chat Apps (No Facebook Messenger)
- Real-time Location Tracking
- Monitor SMS & iMessages
- Slightly more expensive than rival products
The SpyBubble app offers many of the same features as uMobix. The main difference is that it doesn’t offer the ability to monitor Facebook Messenger on iOS devices.
SpyBubble records text and iMessages, calendars, contacts, phone call logs, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Skype, and Tinder messages.
SpyBubble is compatible with all versions of the iOS operating system. The setup process requires no software installation. Simply enter the target users’s iCloud credentials, and the app will download their data to an online control panel.
SpyBubble costs $12.49 per month when you choose a one-year subscription plan. For more details visit our SpyBubble review article.
- Installation time – 6 minutes
- Only Monitors 1 Chat App (WhatsApp)
- Real-time Location Tracking
- Monitor SMS & iMessages
- Slightly less expensive than uMobix
mSpy is a spy app that can monitor any iOS device. It works without installing anything on the target phone and does not require jailbreaking.
mSpy has great name recognition, but it lacks some of the features of uMobix. mSpy monitors texts, WhatsApp chats, iMessages, web browser history, call logs, contacts, and calendar events.
It also records recent Wifi network connections, notes, and apps installed on the phone.
All data is sent to an online control panel that can be viewed from any computer or smartphone.
mSpy is compatible with all versions of the iOS operating system. For more in-depth information read our detailed analysis of mSpy.
My Rating: 4.5 ★★★★★
How Can Spy Apps Spy on a Phone Without Software?
Spying apps can spy on iOS-based phones without installing software on the target phone. They do this by accessing backups stored in the iCloud account of the phone’s owner.
Using this type of spy software requires you to know the AppleID and password of the target person. Before viewing the user’s phone data you will need to enter this information into your spy software account.
Once this information is entered, the spy software downloads the latest phone backup from the iCloud account. The data stored in the phone backup can then be viewed through an online control panel.
Benefits of Spy Apps vs Location Trackers or Built-in Apps
Spying apps monitor much more data than location tracking software or built-in apps.
Location tracking software can only monitor the GPS location of the target phone. It cannot spy on text messages, phone calls, emails, or other forms of communication.
Built-in apps are only capable of monitoring location information. These apps have an additional disadvantage because they send regular notifications to the owner of the device. This is done for privacy reasons.
Use a Phone Location Tracker
The ONLY reliable way to spy on a cell phone without installing software on the target phone is to use a spy app.
However, only iPhones can be monitored without installing software on the target phone.
Spying on an Android phone isn’t quite as easy.
If you need to spy on an Android cell phone you WILL have to install a spy app. To do this you WILL NEEED physical access to the phone.
If some company is telling you can install their app remotely, watch out. It’s probably a scam.
Phone spy apps are a type of spy software that captures data from a target device and uploads it to a dashboard for you to view.
Surveillance apps spy on cell phone activity like instant messaging apps, social media accounts, phone calls, GPS locations, text message conversations, web browser history, photos, and videos. They allow you to monitor almost everything on a target smartphone. These apps can be used to spy on loved one, employee, or child.
Spy apps are different depending on the type of phone you need to monitor. Let’s take a look at options for the two most popular types of smartphone.
Read More: My Top Spying Apps for Android Devices
How to Spy on an iPhone Without Installing Software
Spying on an iPhone with a spy app is easy if you have two KEY pieces of information.
You need the iCloud (Apple ID) login credentials of the user. This is the target user’s email address and a password.
If the device has 2-step authentication enabled this could stop you from spying on their phone, but there is a way around it.
Simply login to their iCloud account on your computer BEFORE you request the code. This will cause the code to be sent to your computer.
There are only a handful of spy apps that allow you to spy on a cell phone without installing any software. Before choosing a particular spy app, make sure it is compatible with your target device.
This will show you everything you want to know including: texts, phone activities, and the phone’s exact location, without installing software.
Below is a list of my favorite apps for either an iPhone or Android phone.
My Favorite Phone Spy App: uMobix
uMobix is my top pick when it comes to iPhone spy apps. It has all the important features. Plus it’s stable, reliable, and has the best customer support in the industry.
They also offer the best refund policy and live technical support.
uMobix Compatible Devices
The uMobix spy app is designed to work with any type of cell phone on the market. It is compatible with both Android and iOS cell phones.
The app is compatible with any Android device running versions 4 and above. For iOS it is compatible with all versions current versions.
Unlike the iPhone, an Android phone requires physical access to install the spy app. The target device can then be monitored after the successful installation.
Not to worry though, as uMobix will give you certain options while you are setting up the app that allows for discrete monitoring of any Android device.
Once uMobix is installed in the target cell phone, you can access it to monitor on a regular basis by simply logging into the website online. You can access the website through any browser on any device to receive the information.
uMobix uploads the data in the cloud and it gets updated every 15 minutes. This enables you to monitor instantly and in real time. Even the call logs and search history can be viewed using the same. It does its work silently in the background, and the target phone will not be able to view this application installed under the “Settings” icon.
MSpy is one of the leading software for parental control. While it used to be my #1 pick, it’s now in second place. You can read my mSpy reviews here.
All you need to do is install the application on the target phone and your child will not even notice that there is a monitoring app on their phone.
It has two versions, and based on the features you want, you could opt for a basic or premium version of the application.
It provides you with reports from your MSpy account, through which you get detailed information on the activities of your target person. One major advantage of this application is that it can be installed on an iPhone, iPad, Android mobile phone and even on your desktop and laptop.
mSpy Compatible Devices
MSpy supports both Android and iOS users. You can check your device compatibility through the MSpy website. It supports Android smartphone users above Android Version 4.0+ and Jailbroken iOS versions 7.0 – 8.4 and 9.0 – 9.1.
However, non-Jailbroken iOS apps are compatible on all versions of iOS they run on.
For desktop users, it supports Windows, Mac OS and Linux users. This helps tremendously in spying on mobile phones and desktop computer use.
How Does It Work?
Once MSpy is installed on the target phone, you are required to create a login account, then you can log onto your control panel and get reports from any browser. You will get regular notifications and updates on the phone you are monitoring.
The software gathers the data from the target phone and sends it as a viewable dashboard version to access and monitor.
You can even use it to monitor multiple cell phones, though a subscription is required for each.
What’s Unique About MSpy?
The key features that makes this app popular is its stable network connection.
One other unique feature of this spy app is the MSpy keyboard, which replaces the default keyboard in the target device. This is useful in monitoring their most used keywords, the usernames and passwords of the website they log into.
One major highlight feature is that in case the target phone is lost or stolen, parents can factory reset the target device, which would help you protect your device and at the same time help track it. You can restart or lock your child device without physical access to it.
As it has a lot of features, it is quite expensive when compared to other parental applications and has very minimal customer reviews, making it take second place in the eyes of the customer according to reviews.
Key Features of mSpy
Call History and Contacts
Helps in tracking recent call logs and gives a list of all the contacts on your child’s phone or tablet.
Spying on Text Messages
Keeps you informed on the messages that are received, sent and deleted. It supports iMessage for iPhone users as well.
Monitor the Messaging Applications
Messaging applications like Skype, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Twitter, Viber and Tinder can also be tracked, and you can view all the multimedia files that are stored in the gallery.
You can set safe zones like “home”, “school” and “Grandma’s house” and you can set alerts when your child leaves those safe zones. In case of an emergency, if your child is far away from your home at a particular time it alerts you to keep you updated.
You can take control of the list of applications that are installed on your target phone and can uninstall the applications which you don’t wish your child to use.
View Multimedia Files
This feature copies of all the photos and videos saved on the phone. If your child records a new photo or video, it gets uploaded to your MSpy account.
Monitor Internet and Read Emails
This feature monitors all the websites that your child has visited and gets you access to block unwanted sites. All the incoming and outgoing emails can be viewed with the use of this feature.
Not only does it do this, it also helps you know the events scheduled on their calendar activities.
The most advanced parental control application is FlexiSpy. Are you looking for something much more advanced like voice recording?
This is your best option.
But these advanced features come at a price. The FlexiSpy Extreme package starts at $199 per year.
However, two different versions are available to support customers based on their expected features.
How FlexiSpy Works
The application has to be installed on the target phone where it silently monitors in the background. The data from the target mobile will be uploaded to the server and is available in your control panel.
One unique feature in choosing this application is that it allows you to record the phone’s microphone, which acts as a bug to the parent. The information gathered can be accessed by using your login credentials.
FlexiSpy Compatible Devices
FlexiSpy is supported by operating systems including Android versions above 4.0.3. It also supports iOS versions up to iOS 11.4.1 and Blackberry versions 5.0 to 7.1
You can install this application on desktops and laptops that support Windows and Mac OS as well. The Windows versions are compatible with and support Windows versions 7 and above as well as Mac OS 10.9 (X Mavericks) up to Mac OS 10.12 (Sierra).
How to Install the Software?
FlexiSpy is not available on the Apple Play Store or the Google Play Store. The app is available straight from the company’s website where you can directly download it.
One thing to take into consideration before downloading the application is to physically have the target phone with you. If the device is an iPhone or iPad, you would need to jailbreak before getting it installed.
For Android users, you need additional features to get access to the root before getting it installed on the target device. While you install the software, it is necessary for you to log in to your online portal.
FlexiSpy Premium Version
FlexiSpy has two major versions to support customers based on the features they like the best.
FlexiSpy Premium is the standard version with all the basic features that can also be seen in other spy apps. It allows you to
- Track your target’s GPS location
- Monitor call logs
- Text messages
- Browser history and bookmarked pages
- Access to multimedia files
- Connect to social applications such as Facebook activities, Whatsapp, Messenger, Instagram etc.
FlexiSpy Extreme Version
The extreme version has advanced features that can act as a bug to track the target phone. The unique features that come under extreme includes:
- Call Recording and Call Interception – With the live call intercept, you can get hooked into a call as a third party without the target user knowing. Your phone stays muted, and you will be able to hear their conversation. The only requirement is that the target device should have a 3-way calling feature in order to have this available to you. Call Recording helps you record the conversation, which can then be monitored at a later point in time. This includes Whatsapp calls and Skype calls that can be directly downloaded to your computer.
- SpyCall Option – this feature lets you activate the microphone in iPad or smartphone and listen to the surroundings. This acts as a secret bug to hear the noises of the location.
- Ambient Recording – It is similar to voice recording but also secretly records the sound around the phone. Once you set the timer, it records the voice around the target phone and saves it on the server. This is a top-notch feature for high end users.
- Take Photos and Videos Remotely – This automatically enables the camera option and helps in taking pictures without the knowledge of the user. These photos are saved and can be downloaded through your browser.
Read my full review to see more about this powerful app.
This application is more expensive than any other spying software as it provides you with high end features and better performance. If you do not mind paying a higher price, then this could be a good choice for you.
While the apps in the list above are by far my favorite spy apps, there are plenty of others on the market. Here are a few of the features you should expect to get with anything you might buy.
View call logs: With the use of spy apps you can view the incoming, outgoing and even the missed calls instantly with accurate data on the date and time.
It also provides you with the duration of the call.
Phone Messages: All the received, sent and deleted messages can be retrieved from the target phone with contact details.
Track GPS Location
Some spy apps allow you to track a phone’s current location without installing an app.
You can create safe zones. When the target moves in or out of the a safe zone, the app sends you a notification.
Monitoring Browsing Details And Read Emails
- Records emails: All the sent and received emails can be accessed from the default email address of the target phone.
- View web browser history: The entire history of browsing details, the number of times they have visited the website and a count of the login times into a particular web page can be obtained.
- Wifi Network Log: Most interesting part is the wifi connected locations along with date and time. It also stores the wi-fi connection history to get it monitored.
- Bookmarks Bar: The targets bookmarked websites can be accessed to gain information on their interests and likes.
Phone Call Recording and Ambience Recording
All the phone calls are automatically recorded and stored on the server. Whenever you need to access them, you can download the dashboard and listen to them
Ambient Recording: It helps to record the external surroundings in order to know what is going on at the target’s environment by sending commands remotely. This data can be accessed in the future through the dashboard.
Of course you don’t want to spy on someone’s phone, but you might as well use something that actually works. While you’ll only be able to monitor iPhones without installing software, there are ways to monitor just about any phone.