If you’re looking to buy mobile phone spy software, you should know about the various scams, and untrustworthy companies currently operating in this field. Additionally, even when you are certain a service is legitimate, it may prove difficult to select between your choices if you’re still new to these types of apps. In this guide, I cover most of the important information that can be helpful when purchasing cellphone spy software.
In most cases, the process of finding, choosing, and purchasing software is pretty straightforward. It’s just like doing any other kind of shopping where you’re required to make a choice between different brands, models, or even services. Nowadays, we use the internet to aid us in making these choices, and the number one thing we look for is user reviews. Think about Amazon for example, not only can you find the best selling products of any category, there are usually hundreds, even thousands of direct user reviews to help you make an informed choice. You can instantly tell the good from the bad, but the same cannot be said with spy and monitoring software for mobile devices.
There are a few pitfalls to watch out for, but with the help found on this guide, I will have you up to speed and able to tell the good from the ugly, and quickly. The guide is lengthy, therefore an index is included below for easier browsing. Bookmark this page in case you need to come back.
What is Cell Phone Spy or Monitoring Software?
If you already understand the concept of these services, you may skip to the next section. For beginners, a mobile spy app is a monitoring tool that is installed on a mobile device, or even a computer, and silently monitors all usage activity, and collects data from the device to later upload to your account. Also known as cell phone tracking software, these apps are capable of collecting text messages, emails, pictures, videos, and call logs made on the cellphone, and sending them back to your account. Additionally, some advanced features include the ability to track location by GPS, provide a history log of GPS locations, and even remotely activate the camera or microphone on the device itself, and have live coverage of the surroundings. Visit this page for more details on how they work.
Is it Legal to Use These Apps?
Generally, the first question that comes to mind is whether or not spy apps are legal. The answer is usually simple, and the rule of thumb is to never install such an app on a device you do not own. In a nutshell, ethical and legal use means that you are not spying on someone else’s cellphone without their consent. Monitoring apps are primarily used by parents and employers, but some use these services illegitimately, such as spying on your spouse. This guide covers the different legitimate uses and applications for monitoring software further down, but for more information on legal concerns, visit the legal questions page here.
Do You Need Physical Access to the Phone?
Absolutely. In order to be able to install the app on the targeted device, you must have full access to it. The app has to be downloaded and installed on the actual phone, tablet, or computer. Any service claiming to be able to remotely install is almost certainly a scam. There is an exception, regarding iPhone monitoring only, and that is what is called a jailbreak-free iCloud monitoring service. We discuss it further down, and how you most likely will still require to access the device regardless. So for now, just take note that you must have physical access to your device, and any offers claiming contrary should be considered scams, unless proven otherwise.
How to Choose a Service
Before we delve in into details, let’s first go over the main requirements of choosing an app that will meet your needs, and function properly. Determining what you need to accomplish, and finding a provider that offers a compatible service is the first step, but ensuring that you’re dealing with a legitimate service is also important. Firstly, let’s split up the main categories, and cover each one in detail.
- Step 1: Determining what features your need.
- Step 2: Confirming service compatibility with your device.
- Step 3: Choosing a service provider.
- Step 4: Confirming legitimacy, service agreement, and refund policy.
Step 1: What Features Do You Need?
Before you begin, you should have an idea of what you need a spy app for in the first place. Are you a concerned parent that wishes to monitor your child’s smartphone usage and online activities, or an employer that needs to track delivery trucks, online messages, and work productivity Do not stress over these too much. This is only to give you an idea of what you want, and later you can discover and compare services further. Bottom line, what are your needs? Quickly take note of the most important features you require, such as:
- Monitor text messages
- Monitor Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat Instant Messengers
- Provide GPS tracking
- Allow remote activation of camera and microphone
- Block apps, websites, and inbound calls
Spy, Monitoring, and Tracking App User Demographics
There are many different ways to use these services, some more creative than others, such as using an old smartphone as a security camera. The two main demographics are parents and employers, and although it would be a lie that such software is never used illegitimately, I am committed to keeping this website ethical, and providing honest reviews of spy software for people who use it legally only. If you wish to spy on the text messages of a possibly cheating spouse, be it your girlfriend, wife, boyfriend, or husband, you are doing so at the peril of being prosecuted in court if you are found to be breaking the law. You should also know that most services will provide your personal information to authorities when requested.
Parents can easily monitor and control their child’s online technology use, but also benefit from priceless security features that help them keep their family protected. One such feature is Geo-Fencing, which allows you to set a geographical perimeter that will keep tabs on your kid’s whereabouts, ensuring they make their way to and back from school safely. If they breach the set perimeter, a notification is instantly sent to alarm you, providing live protection against abductions, for example. Cellphone spy software is second to none for parental control over your children’s smartphones and tablets. You can utilize them to easily block certain apps, websites, or even phone numbers of your choice, all remotely from your online account. The software will also keep your kids safe from online predators, or from mixing in with the wrong crowd. The advantages are well worth the investment.
Employers benefit from being able to keep tabs on their employees and work phones, allowing them to improve on productivity. Calls can be recorded and logged for quality assurance and historical data. GPS tracking can be used as live feeds for delivery trucks, and travelling workers. Security can also be greatly improved, not only from communication logs, but also to protect against theft. If a device such as a smartphone, tablet, or computer is lost, stolen or misplaced, spy apps allow you to remote wiping of the device in case it contained sensitive documents and information. As a company owner, these services can prove to be indispensable productivity and security tools.
Step 2: Compatibility
Now that you have an idea of what you want to accomplish with monitoring software, you must determine what kind of smartphone or tablet you are wishing to install the software on, and what version of the operating system it is currently using. For starters, spy software is compatible with most of the major smartphone operating systems, which are: Apple iOS (iPhone, and iPad), Android (Smartphones, and Tablets), and older, BlackBerry, and Symbian (Nokia) phones. At this time, there are no compatible services with Windows Phones, and the latest BlackBerry smartphones.
Once you have your OS version number, you can verify on various service provider websites to determine the compatibility of your smartphone with the available plans. Additionally to your OS version, Apple iOS and Android smartphones will require jailbreaking and rooting in order to take advantage of all the possible features available. In this section, we will quickly cover OS versions, and what you need to know about Jailbreaking iPhones, or Rooting Androids. Verifying and preparing your cell phone to be compatible with tracking software is the longest, and most important step, but once you get through it, setting up and using the service becomes a breeze.
Determine your OS version
You can find the operating system version under your smartphone’s settings. Since this is not a difficult step, I have decided to outline them here for all the major platforms to help out beginners. If you are already familiar with finding your OS version, skip to the next step.
How to find your Apple iOS version:
- Set iPhone or iPad to the home screen.
- Tap on ‘Settings’ icon, tap on ‘General’, and finally tap on ‘About’.
- Locate the iOS version number currently installed.
How to find your Android OS version:
- Open Settings Menu.
- Scroll all the way down to, and tap ‘About Device, or About Phone’.
- Locate Android version number.
How to find your Windows Phone OS version:
- Go to start menu, and slide left to bring up the App list.
- Tap ‘Settings’, tap ‘About’, and finally tap ‘More Info’.
- Locate the ‘Software’ section and Windows Phone version.
How to find your BlackBerry OS version:
- Open your ‘Options’ app, often located in the ‘Settings’ folder.
- Locate and open the ‘About’ section.
- Locate the ‘Device Software’ version section, the OS version is the first set of numbers on the third line.
How to find your Symbian OS version:
- Open the phone app to dial out.
- Dial (*#000#) – star, pound, zero, zero, zero, pound.
- This opens ‘System Menu’, next locate the ‘Version’ number on top of the screen.
Jailbreak and Root Requirements for Apple and Android
Apple iOS and Android are by far the most used mobile phone platforms, and it’s likely you’re using either one of them. If you’re not on Android or Apple, than all you need to do is confirm your OS version is compatible with any given service, if not, read on for your appropriate platform.
This is where beginners can quickly get confused and frustrated over the process of purchasing spy software to later discover that it does not work properly on their cell phones. I will quickly cover the important points of both, as well as what choices you have regarding each platform. It is an important choice to make, as it will directly impact a number of available features.
Jailbreaking your iPhone
Apple strictly controls what apps are allowed to be sold on the Apple Store, and they keep all iOS devices locked in such a way, that it is impossible to install any app outside of the Apple Store. This helps them keep the devices more secure, but also limits the user’s choice. Cell phone spy software is unfortunately disallowed from the Apple store. Ironically, some invasive spying tools are allowed, but assuming they don’t want these services to be abused, they have blocked all these apps from being sold. This is where the term ‘Jailbreaking’ comes in. The process of jailbreaking an iPhone, is to modify the OS as to allow the user to install any apps from any source they choose, hence allowing spy and monitoring apps to be downloaded and installed on the iPhone or iPad. For more information, visit our how-to guide on jailbreaking your iPhone, for more detailed information on both advantages, and risks involved.
Not Jailbreaking your iPhone
If you are to decide that you do not want to Jailbreak your iDevice, it leaves you with much less of a choice. If you want the best cell phone monitoring services available on iPhone and iPad, jailbreaking is a requirement, not an option. Since you cannot actually ‘install’ any spy apps on the phone, you virtually cannot use standard monitoring services.
However, there is an alternative option referred to as the ‘Jailbreak-Free’ option. Instead of installing an app on the iPhone, you can collect logs through iCloud, but the features are very limited and don’t provide you any control over the device. Albeit being very limited in what it can do, you can explore jailbreak-free spy app software further, and see for yourself if it could be a suitable solution. With that said, there are many scams, fake apps, and simply bad software out there, so regardless of your choice, keep on reading this guide for more information on making a sound choice.
This is the only situation in which you do not necessarily need physical access to the iPhone or iPad, but that is a big maybe and here’s why: First, you still require the username and password for the iCloud account, but iCloud must also be activated and set to make regular backups. Therefore, if you don’t actually have physical access, you rely on the iCloud account being activated with backups or it won’t work.
Rooting your Android
If you’re using an Android smartphone, you’re also faced with the choice of rooting the device, in order to make it compatible with all the features offered by spy app vendors. Rooting an Android not exactly the same thing as Jailbreaking and iPhone, and is a little more advanced, as it completely opens up the smartphone down to the administration level, allowing the user to do much more with it. However, rooting is not required in order to install most spy apps, but many of the features only work if the device has been rooted first. Therefore, if you’re on the fence, it is important to determine the compatible features for both options. You can learn more on how to root your Android on this guide.
Not Rooting your Android
As mentioned above, rooting your Android smartphone or tablet is not always pre-requisite to install and use monitoring software, but you can expect many features, including some advanced functions, not to be present or working. In order to benefit from all the compatible features, rooting is the way to go, but if you decide not to do so, make sure to verify what features remain functional, if any, when consulting the vendor’s website.
Step 3: Choosing a Spy Software Service
Now that we have covered all the important points regarding service compatibility requirements, and a general idea of what features you want, we can move onto actually selecting a service. I chose to cover service selection before discussing service reviews, scams, and untrustworthy companies to provide an overview of the best services available, as a shortcut for the reader. Every service we suggest on this website has been tested, and we solely recommend services that we have determined to be safe, and trustworthy of handling your private data. However, I still suggest for you to read the next and final section regarding legitimate providers, scams, service agreements and refund policies, to have a complete understanding of what to expect.
Exploring Different Vendors and Features
The next step is to finally visit some cellphone spy software vendor websites in order to compare the available features, price plans, and verify that your smartphone is indeed compatible with the service. You may be attracted by the fact that a service is offering support for WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, BBM chat logs, Skype VOIP calls and chats, and so on, or you might be more interested in remote control features, and GPS tracking with Geo-Fencing.
- Best Tracking Apps for WhatsApp
- … for Facebook Messenger
- … for Blackberry BBM
- … for Skype
- … for Snapchat
- … for Viber
Once you have compared the available services and features, and confirmed that they are compatible with your smartphone, it is safe to say that you are finally ready to make your purchase, and download, install, and configure your new monitoring software. That is, if you also completed a background check, verified user reviews, and approved of the vendor’s service agreement, and refund policy, which we will all cover in the next, and final step.
As of 2016, there are only a handful of legitimate services available. Below I will cover the best available cell phone spy and monitoring apps on the market today. This list will be updated every now and then, or when a new service proves to be just as good or superior than the current leaders.
Monitoring Software Vendors I Highly Recommend in 2016:
In summary, mSpy has a proven track record of providing working software, matched with good customer service, and have sold to over 2 million customers since 2011. We have been pleased with the performance during testing. All services have worked as advertised, and they have plenty of parental and employer friendly features such as GPS Geo-Fencing, blocking apps, and anti-theft protection. They offer service across iOS iPhones and iPads, Android, Windows PC computers, and Mac OS computers.
- Loads of monitoring and logging features, including keylogger.
- GPS current location tracking and Geo-Fencing.
- Lots of supported IM apps, including Tinder and Hangouts.
- Full control of installed apps, website access, and blocking numbers.
- Lock or wipe device remotely.
- Offers a jailbreak-free service for Apple devices.
- No longer supports remote camera or microphone activation.
- No longer supports voice call recording options.
- Strict refund policy, device compatibility must be verified, and tech assistance accepted if needed.
FlexiSpy is also a longstanding provider, having been around since 2004 and also serving more than 1 million customers. They offer the widest range of features, and are the only provider to still offer call recording, live call listening, remote camera and microphone control, as well as a wider range of device compatibility. They lack any kind of Geo-Fencing and parental control functions such as blocking apps and websites. The service is currently offered across Android, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, and Nokia Symbian phones, but no service for computers at the present time.
- Offers the widest range of features on the market.
- Live call recording including VOIP, and remote camera recording functions.
- SMS remote control commands allow remote control of certain features.
- Detailed reports of usage, such as installed apps, when they are opened, closed.
- Refund policy is not strict, and if the app was never used, service is refunded no questions asked.
- More expensive than most competitors.
- Advanced features only offered in top package.
- Not shy to advertise towards romantic couples, or other illegal password cracking activities.
Another respectable provider worth noting is Mobistealth. Slightly less known, but still very much functional, they offer all the popular features ranging from call recording, text message logs, and GPS tracking. The service is just a bit less advanced than its competitors, and the user interface would benefit from a big update. The website could also be revamped when it comes to comparing plans. It can be a difficult process to browse and compare available features across a certain phone types, but they have great overall compatibility, and competitive pricing. The service is currently compatible over Android, Apple, Blackberry, Nokia Symbian, as well as PC Windows, and Mac OS computers.
- Wide range of compatible devices and features.
- Call recording and remote microphone functions.
- Competitive pricing and varied plans.
- Offers a jailbreak-free service for Apple devices.
- Complicated to browse and pick between plans.
- No longer offers remote camera control.
- User interface and features slightly less advanced, less control.
Vendors I Don’t or No Longer Recommended, and Why:
Mobile-Spy and Phone Sheriff:
Both Mobile-Spy and Phone Sheriff come from the same company. Although once popular, these services have declined in quality and customer feedback has been low. They no long offer the option to hide the application and also send repetitive reminders that the device is being monitored.
Highster Mobile, Auto-Forward and Easy Spy:
All three of these services actually come from the same company. These are what are known as one-time payment spy apps that you should watch out for. The software is buggy, and barely works as advertised. We have covered the whole story here, and explain in detail how they are able to charge so little. The service is untrustworthy and is known to sell your private data for a profit. Highly advised to stay away.
SpyBubble is currently Not in Service, but the website is advising they will be re-launching. SpyBubble has proven to be very buggy during our testing, with many features flat out not working. Recently, they have also removed the option to hide the app, and constantly pop-up reminders that the device is being monitored.
Overall, you can tell your choice is limited when it comes to selecting the best cell phone tracking service provider. I will continuously review more options and update the website accordingly. You can better compare services by features by using a comparison chart. Before you make a choice, you should consider reviewing the next and final section, which covers all the pitfalls and scams to avoid when shopping for cellphone spy software. Also, you don’t have to take my word for it, and can spend more time searching and exploring various vendors available, and the information below will tell you exactly what to look for.
Step 4: Confirm Vendor is Legit and Secure
The final section actually comes before choosing a cell phone spy software vendor. I skipped directly to suggesting how to choose from the best options available, but in this section I will show you exactly how to determine the good services from the ones you should avoid. Shopping for spy and monitoring apps can be tricky, as there are a few different scams and shady vendors to watch out for.
Additionally you have to deal with various online reviews and websites which you have no idea whether or not to trust. In fact, this website, being a review website, should also be scrutinized to assure yourself that you’re reading up to date, and accurate information, and not just some bogus advertised review.
Can Review Websites Be Trusted?
To start, let’s cover review websites. At the beginning of this guide, I mentioned how user reviews are an important and dominant way to make a choice when shopping online, and referred to Amazon as a perfect example of utilizing user reviews to quickly find the best, or most popular item in any category. Review websites can provide useful user feedback, as well as honest and detailed reviews of different software vendors. But, not all of them are legitimate.
I found some fake review websites that seemed to be operated by shady spy app vendors themselves. They only suggested services they owned, and even went as far as advising visitors not to trust other review websites. These websites often contain drastically inaccurate information. Not surprisingly, the website blocked all user comments, and also disabled YouTube comments, giving away the fact that they had something to hide. There’s a few signs to watch out for when determining if a review website should be trusted or not. Follow the list below, and you will quickly become a pro at spotting fake cellphone spy software reviews.
- Does the website block users from leaving comments on reviews?
- Does the YouTube review block users from leaving comments?
- Are all the user comments positive? Are they deleting negative feedback?
- Does the website only suggest one-time payment or free services?
- Does the website contain useful information, or just a few reviews?
- Is the information up to date, and regularly updated?
All and any of these are a good indication the website is either providing inaccurate information, sponsored advertisement disguised as fake reviews, or down right scams. Next, let’s look at the popular scams and shady practices found in this market.
The Remote Install Scam
Many vendors out there claim their service can be remotely installed, and they often refer to doing it through Bluetooth. Beware, there is no such available service, and even if there was, it would quickly get shut down by authorities. But the reality is, that it remains impossible to install monitoring software remotely. These websites make you pay for software that does not work, and possibly sell your personal details elsewhere, such as name, address, and credit card used for the purchase. Stay clear of such offers, they are surely fake.
The Free Spy Software Scam
Another redundant type of scam I come across is free software. Unfortunately, we have never found legitimate free monitoring software capable of similar tasks to the ones we review on this site. But worse, every one we have attempted to download and test was scanned as a virus, and often tried to fish personal information such as your credit card number for age verification purposes. Free cellphone spy app offers are to be avoided, due to mainly containing fake files with viruses and stealing your credit card number.
The One-Time Fee Scam
You might have noticed that the top rated cellphone spy apps offer their service on subscription plans. You can sign up for variable periods ranging from a single month to a full year. The longer the package, the better the discount, but single months allow you to test the service thoroughly, if needed. Any family or business on a budget can automatically be attracted by services offering a single one-time fee for lifetime access to their spying tools, and so was I.
That was until I explored, tested, and reviewed these services down to the last detail. Many of them ended up being fake viruses just like free offers, while others simply didn’t work as promised. I was appalled to discover that some vendors had a service agreement in which they could claim full ownership of the contacts information found on your device, and sell it to third parties, while still providing horribly bad software.
Why One-Time Fee Services Are Not Sustainable
Spy and monitoring services require the company to provide a way for the data to be sent back and stored for the user to access. This requires infrastructure. Not only does the service provider have to operate and upkeep expensive servers, these computers store very private messages, pictures, and recorded calls from your devices. Pretty much everything that is being backed up is being stored by the company you have decided to trust. Worried yet?
Additionally, the service has to include technical support in order to help you troubleshoot through various possible problems and glitches when setting up the service. All this costs money, and a single onetime payment of $50 could not possibly sustain hundreds of thousands of subscribers for life. That is unless, the vendor was making more money behind your back. And that is where we found that onetime fee vendors had shady business practices linked to taking ownership, and selling your personal data. Which brings us to the next part, privacy.
What to watch out for:
- Services that claim they can be remotely installed.
- Free spy apps – Credit card for age verification.
- One-time payment lifetime services.
- Unprofessional vendor websites.
As we just covered, using spy apps implies that you will need to trust a company to handle the private date from your devices. This should not be taken lightly, especially if the data includes texts, pictures, videos, and audio recordings of your underage children. This is why you should carefully review all service agreements and privacy polices both during purchase, download, and install of the spy app. For every review completed, I carefully take the time to scrutinize these agreements, and ensure that there are no hidden clauses that permit the vendor to take ownership of your data.
Refund Policy and After Sale Support
Because there are various problems that could arise during the configuration, and usage period of your monitoring software. It’s better to have a clear understanding of your vendor’s refund policy. I have come across plenty of negative feedback regarding declined refund requests where the user did not carefully consider the requirements. There are a few common restrictions found with most spy app vendors regarding their refund policy, such as:
- You must verify phone compatibility before buying.
- You must own and have physical access to the device.
- Device must be jailbroken or rooted.
- You must have internet on the device for the service to work.
- You must accept and follow tech support assistance during install troubles.
These are only some examples, and every vendor has a different policy that should be reviewed. Beyond possibly needing a refund, more importantly is the quality of the service offered by the company. Does the website provide a good knowledge base and FAQ, and can you quickly contact support and get the answers you need?
I believe I have covered all the information required for an individual to be able to identify, determine, and pick legitimate cell phone spying software, and avoiding all the risks associated with fake, or shady service providers. I hope you found this guide helpful, but if you still have any questions, please do to hesitate to leave a comment below, and I will do my best to answer in a timely manner. Although I did provide my top suggestions, you are free to explore further and possibly find other legitimate options, as you are now armed with the knowledge required to make the best possible choice.
Here at SpyAppsMobile.com, we make a real commitment to provide honest and ethical reviews for the various spy and monitoring services available. We buy every product we review, even if a review copy is offered to us free of cost. We choose to buy it in order to be able to experience every step taken throughout the process of purchasing, downloading, installing, configuring, and using the services. Every review includes and careful inspection of user service agreements, privacy policies, and refund policies. Just like any other website, some of the products we review do allow us to earn a small commission if you decide to purchase their product after visiting their website by clicking on a link from our website. However, unlike fake ad review websites, we will never allow a payout to merit a fake review with misinformation.