Smartphones have gradually morphed into one of our most personal devices – they withhold almost every bit of information there is about us whether it’s personal or professional. Location, messages are just some of the basic aspects of your life that are being collected on your device. Anyone who can relinquish control over it can learn about your habits, hobbies, and whatnot. This eventually, gave rise to smartphone spying software platforms (or “Spy apps” in layman terms) that allow users to monitor someone else’s smartphone usage. Of course, this is different from the usual phone tracking software.
Originally targeted at concerned parents, spy apps are now being utilized by worried partners, bosses for keeping an eye on their employees and others. Although companies like Google and Apple don’t directly allow these in their respective app stores, spy apps can be installed with a couple of additional steps. However, these tools do question a user’s ethicality, but given the perilous digital environment we live in, there are some justified scenarios where they can be appropriately employed.
Are Phone Spying Apps Legal?
The first and foremost thing that should concern you is whether these software tools are legal. Every application available out there states that they’re designed to help parents and companies for tracking an individual with their consent. None of them can be installed wirelessly, and you’ll be requiring access to the person’s handset. However, the names do raise some doubts behind their intentions. Additionally, it will be your responsibility to entirely reveal the consequences, coverage points, and purpose to the person. In case you face any trouble, the software company won’t be responsible at all as per the T&C. Hence, if you’ve mistaken this article for hacking into someone’s phone without them knowing, then stop reading right now.
Should You Use Phone Spying apps?
At the end of the day, though, it comes down to the user on how he/she utilizes these Spying apps. It will definitely require you to have physical access to the device, although, once you install it, there are ways you can get away with sneaking. They are also not free, therefore be prepared to pay on a monthly/yearly basis if you want to benefit from the entire feature set. Obviously, you need to ask yourself if all this is worth the fuss as even getting past the installation process isn’t an elementary step because of app stores’ policies which restrict these type of titles. So be prepared to do some tinkering.
There are a bunch of factors you need to keep in mind before making a purchase,
- The target phone must be connected to the internet all the time.
- If you plan to install them on an iOS device, jailbreaking is a must. There are a couple of alternatives, but they require Apple account credentials.
- For accessing history for third-party apps like WhatsApp, you’ll require a rooted Android phone.
- There are a lot of scam schemes present on the internet which promise free plans or complete coverage without rooting and jailbreaking, don’t fall for that.
- In case you’re confused about anything else, drop your questions in the comments section down below.
Installation of Spy apps
Once you sign up, the specific spying software will guide through the installation process. For each and every one of them, you’ll need to turn off a bunch of security settings and give administrative rights so that the target installation cannot directly uninstall it. The major issue I faced was that the APK files are not updated and will crash a bunch of times before installing. Additionally, given the recent smartphone malware attacks, we won’t advise turning off app verification.
The Best Spy Apps
PhoneSheriff is primarily being advertised as a parental control platform packed with a ton of features including application filtering, real-time location tracking, photo logs, panic alerts and more. The user will need to install an application on the target device, data from which will be reflected in the dynamic online dashboard. This spying app also displays comprehensive charts representing most contacted persons, websites, etc. Parents can even define time frames beyond which the phone will automatically get locked, and additionally, there’s geofencing too. Phonesheriff supports all the major mobile platforms. However, it requires an iOS device to be jailbroken. It costs $49 for six months and $89 for a year.
Unfortunately, in my testing, Phonesheriff performance couldn’t really match up to what the company promises. Basic tasks like monitoring calls or SMS do work, but things get buggy when we move on to more advanced functions. Location tracking is slow; geofencing doesn’t work, application filtering is just terrible. In a nutshell, there are more problems I encountered than solutions while using this one.
The team behind PhoneSheriff has also developed “Mobile-Spy” which is aimed to at a wider audience and skips parent-specific capabilities like sending panic alerts. Similar to PhoneSheriff, it supports all the major functionality you’d expect from a spying software like location tracking, media logs, network history and other. However, the main highlight here is the live dashboard where you can monitor usage in real time and also execute commands such as “lock device”, “start alarm”, “send text from device” and more. There’s also a section for tracking third-party applications, but as expected, it requires root access.
Fortunately, this one actually works as marketed and I had no troubles whatsoever. Location tracking is a little buggy but not as much as Phonesheriff. Although with better implementation also comes an increased price tag – Mobile-Spy starts at $50 for the basic plan for three months. It supports all the leading mobile operating systems including BlackBerry and requires an iOS device to be jailbroken.
Thetruthspy is yet another spying software, the best thing about this one is that the installation process is a piece of cake, unlike others where you feel like killing yourself. Another advantage of investing in this spy app is the performance with better location locking and quicker refresh rates. However, the interface is in need of a desperate update, and you won’t get those pretty graphs and charts here. Additionally, you can log WhatsApp chats without root access, although it requires a premium account (there’s a trial version too unlike others). The rest of the experience is identical, and yes, it requires a jailbroken iPhone. Thetruthspy starts at $16.99 for a month and goes all the way up to $23 for the gold package. This is one of the best I’ve tested, however, the next item on the list gives it tough competition.
mSpy is yet another good option with all the usual functionalities and a working dashboard. But the crucial pro it withholds is that you don’t need a jailbroken iPhone or not even an iPhone at all. On the contrary, mSpy requires iCloud credentials and will sync data from there. Other than that, it comes with a typical array of features and costs at a massive starting price of $30 for the basic plan.
5. Couples Tracker
Lastly, we have an Android app on the list for someone who isn’t looking for a full-fledged solution. Couples Tracker is essentially aimed at merely two people for tracking each other’s call logs, SMS, and location. Once you get past the setup process, you’ll be able to view your own history and your partner’s. The free version allows monitoring only the last five records, but you can opt for the paid version that comes with a $4.99 one-time fee which I think is quite reasonable given the functionality and ease of use. It’s a straightforward approach to smartphone spying and works flawlessly. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find such an application for iOS devices, probably because of Apple’s guidelines and restrictions.
If you’re planning to track more than one person and need a comprehensive report on the logs, then go ahead and purchase mSpy if you can afford, else Thetruthspy. But if you’re a couple and want to keep track of your partner’s actions, then Couples Tracker isn’t a bad solution after all. So these were the best spy apps we suggest, but don’t forget what we said right in the beginning. Use responsibly.