By Deena A. on May 23, 2018
Originally written for parental control for web.
Because wiretap laws vary by state (USA), we do not advocate using cell phone parental control software to record phone calls, either audio or video. Some states require consent from all parties in a recording, and it may not be feasible to prevent your child from contacting someone living in one of those states.
Spy apps can be used to track a person without their knowledge. Worried about what your kids are up to on the internet? You could install a spy app on their smartphones. These apps let you monitor their social media, read their text messages, track their whereabouts, and even record their calls. All recorded data is stored online, so you can access it from anywhere.
6 Best Spy Apps for iPhone & Android
There are a lot of spy apps available for Android and iOS, but only a few are worth your time. We couldn’t physically test every program. This is because many mobile monitoring programs require you to root your Android phone or jailbreak your iPhone to track certain apps and monitor email messages.
Rooting and jailbreaking require you to break your phone’s most basic file structures to override permission-based files, alter file structures and control files using pseudo commands. Beyond the security risks, jailbreaking or rooting your device can prevent vital operating system updates and void the warranty. As such, we do not advise it.
#1 – mSpy
mSpy is one of the most popular cell phone monitoring and tracking software packages on the market. It works on both iOS (iPhones & iPads) and Android devices. It's also capable of monitoring both Mac and Windows based computers. One of the biggest advantages of mSpy is you don't have to jailbreak or root the target device to begin monitoring. If you're not technically savvy this can save you quite a bit of time and some frustration as well.
Of all the tracker apps we tried mSpy had the easiest and most intuitive interface. From one dashboard you can quickly see all the pertinent information about the target phone. Tremendous Tech Support
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.
mSpy also offers an installation service that handles everything for you. While it does cost extra, the savings in time and frustration can be well worth it.
This particular function is very clever. Not only is this app a great tracker when you want to know they're current location, but by using your control panel you can setup zones that are considered safe or unsafe. The software tracks when the phone enters or leaves one of these areas you are immediately notified.
Let's say you want to track your child's activity throughout the day. Simply setup a safe zone around your home and their school. Any time they leave one of these designated "safe zones" you'll be notified immediately. This same technology can be used to monitor the activity of an employee (or a spouse if you're so inclined). Keylogging Tracker
The keylogging feature from mSpy allows you to capture all keystrokes from the target phone. From here you can see what's being typed in various apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Skype. It also allows you capture internet searches, usernames, and passwords. Control Access to Apps and Websites
Another great feature of the mSpy spyware is it's ability to block specific applications and websites from being accessed. You specify the apps that are blocked and the user will be unable to open them on their phone. The same goes for websites you deem inappropriate. App Activity Tracker
If you're willing to go through the trouble of jailbreaking the target phone mSpy allows for very nearly complete access to everything on the phone. This includes popular social media apps like Snapchat, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Line, Tinder, and Telegram. This means no matter how the user chooses to message, you'll be able to monitor it closely.
When it comes to anything technical solid customer support is a must. As you'll see in our reviews of other spy apps the functionality of each of these differ only slightly. What separates mSpy fom the others is their highly intuitive interface and their 24/7 customer support. Yes you pay more to get this level of service, but if you don't enjoy troubleshooting technical issues this can be a Godsend. Works with iPhones and Androids
Many spy software packages work with only one operating system or another. mSpy can work with both. Even if you're looking to monitor both an iPhone and and Android device they've got you covered. You can quickly switch between phones in your control panel. 3 Available Software Packages
mSpy offers 3 different pricing structures based on the features you need. Here's a quick rundown of what you'll get with each.
No Jailbreak Tracker Package: can be installed without jailbreaking the device. In fact you don't even need physical access to the device if you have the user's iCloud credentials and the phone is setup to perform regular backups. The mSpy software will simply extract all of the necessary data from the phone's iCloud account and post it to your dashboard to view at your convenience.
While it is the most convenient in terms of installation, the no-jailbreak package offers the fewest capabilities in terms of tracking the phone. Here's what you get.
Call history & contact list
Calendar, notes, & tasks
24/7 chat and email support
What you wont get is access to Geo-fencing, apps like Snapchat, Tinder, or Line, keylogging features, or GPS tracking.
Basic Tracker Package: available with or without jailbreaking the phone. The Basic package offers many of the same capabilities as the no-jailbreak package.
That said the functionality increases dramatically if you're willing to jailbreak the device.
You can either do this yourself or you can have a technician at mSpy do it for you remotely for a small additional fee. Either way you will need to have physical access to the phone. In addition to the features in the no-jailbreak package you'll get the following features.
Photos and videos
24/7 email support
Premium Tracker Package: the Premium package basically offers you full access to everything on the phone from your dashboard. Getting the full feature set from the Premium package does require jailbreaking the device. As with the basic package you can do this yourself or have an mSpy tech do it for your remotely.
This does require having physical access to the target device. In addition to the features of the basic and no-jailbreak package you'll get the following functionality.
App & website blocking
Incoming call block
Remote device lock & wipe
Remote device lock & wipe
Snapchat, Tinder, Line, Skype, Telegram, Viber, & Hangouts
24/7 chat & email support
Try Before You Buy
mSpy wants you to be completely comfortable with their product before you make your purchase. They offer a full demo on their website that allows you to see exactly how their tracker app works. Check it out yourself by going to their website
Final Thoughts mSpy is far and away our favorite spy software of the group. It offers both a non-jailbreak and jailbreak version, simple installation, intuitive control panel, and very competitive pricing.
While it's feature set for non-jailbroken phones is somewhat limited, 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.
Cost: mSPY basic version – $29.99 /mo, Premium version – $69.99 /mo, Mobil Family Kit for 6 month - $359.97.
1-Year Licenses are available at cheaper cost per month.
Developer: mSpy. The company was founded in 2010, and is based in London (UK).
Visit their website: mSpy
#2 – FlexiSPY
FlexiSPY is one of the most feature-rich and powerful cell phone spy software we have tested. It’s one of the very few spy apps to offer something called Call Interception, which lets you secretly record and listen into phone calls. The only catch is that you’ll have to root or jailbreak the target phone in order to install it.
If you’ve jailbroken an iPhone, or rooted an Android phone, you can take advantage of the FlexiSPY spy app. Once installed and configured, it runs in the background and silently records all user activity, including call recordings, call history, GPS, texts, emails, photos, social media and instant messages (Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype, etc.), and more. All the data collected can be viewed through a web-based portal or mobile app.
FlexiSPY has been around since 2006, and it’s still a popular spy app today. There are two versions: Premium and Extreme. FlexiSPY Premium offers everything you generally need from a phone spy app, but if you want more advanced features, the Extreme version might be what you need. Here’s what it does:
- Live Call Intercept: Intercept a phone call and listen in on the conversation.
- Record Phone Calls: Remotely record all phone calls they make and receive on their cell phone. All call recordings are uploaded to your FlexiSPY control panel as MP3s.
- Record Surroundings: Remotely activate the microphone on their phone and hear what’s really going on. You can also record their phone’s surroundings at any time. All recordings are uploaded to your FlexiSPY account.
- RemCam: Remotely activate the camera and take a secret picture to view the phone’s surroundings.
So should you use FlexiSPY? I would only recommend using it on a jailbroken iPhone or rooted Android. I tried to install it on a non-rooted Android phone, but it doesn’t work. If you’re new to cell phone tracking, and don’t want to root or jailbreak their phone, I highly recommend starting with Highster Mobile. In my opinion, FlexiSPY is the most feature-rich spy app available, but it’s also the most expensive. Make sure you NEED all the features before you spend the money.
Cost: FlexiSPY Premium version – $68/mo, FlexiSPY Extreme version – $349 (1-Year License)
Developer: Flexispy, Ltd. The company was founded in 2006, and is based in Thailand.
Visit their website: FlexiSpy
#3 – Qustodio
Qustodio lets you monitor chat history, app use, and text and email messages without rooting or jailbreaking your child’s phone, keeping the device secure and any warranties intact. It monitors an impressive amount of activity on your child’s smartphone, including texts, newly added contacts, photo messages and videos your child takes. Its detailed reports let you see exactly where your child has been and what they accessed using their device. Qustodio runs invisibly on your child’s cell phone, and it gives you the power to remotely lock the device.
This cell phone parental control software is easy to navigate and use. Its interface is colorful and intuitive, so it’s easy to find reports, view activity and manage devices. There is also a general overview report on the homepage. The cell phone tracker shows you a variety of charts and statistics and gives you comprehensive reports with a breakdown of what percentage of time your child spends on which app. You can see installed apps, browser history, recent calls, sent and received text messages, and contacts stored on their device. You can also use the GPS feature to see exactly where the phone, and your child, is.
This cell phone spyware lets you set a few limits and alerts, which makes monitoring a bit easier. For example, you can block any website you deem inappropriate. This software has categorical restrictions you toggle on and off as needed. When you select a category, such as drugs, the software automatically keeps any website that promotes or talks about drugs from showing up on your child’s phone browser.
Also, if you’re worried about your children spending too much time on their cell phones, Qustodio allows you to place time limits on when they can use the phone itself or set usage limits for specific apps and websites. For example, you can allow your child to use their phone to research information for a homework assignment and block social media access during that time.
Qustodio customer support representatives are available to answer questions over email. To find answers on your own, you can consult the help section on the company’s website, where there are user guides and informational articles. Qustodio is compatible with iOS and Android devices but not BlackBerry phones. Consider PhoneSheriff ( indefinitely halting it's products May 2018 ) if you need a program that monitors BlackBerry phones.
Qustodio has powerful tracking reports and provides useful statistics on your child’s cell phone activity. In addition, it lets you customize and set limits and alerts. You can track text messages and email communication without having to root or jailbreak the device, making Qustodio a high-quality cell phone parental control solution.
It is tough to implement on iOS devices since Apple blocks most interactions between applications on its mobile devices. It is worth noting that Apple offers a native set of parental control features. For iOS devices, Qustodio now makes use of Apple's mobile device management (MDM) technology and VPN filter, which respectively allow it to enforce device rules and enable cross-browser web filtering.
The iOS variant looks identical to its Android counterpart and most features work as advertised. For example, it supports time quotas and scheduling, web filtering on Chrome and Safari, and device locking.
The biggest omission on the iOS side is that it cannot monitor or block calls and texts. You also cannot enable the Panic button on iOS Devices, which might be a concern for parents of children who live in unsafe areas. There's also a slight limitation with location reporting. On Android devices, you can specify how often Qustodio checks for its location, but on iOS, Qustodio just updates the location every time it changes. Further, Qustodio's app blocking and scheduling feature only work for a list of about 70 supported apps. Most of the basics appear here, but you certainly might encounter some apps or games that are not supported.
Cost: Qustodio Premium version – $49.95 (1-Year License), they also offer 30 days free trial.
Developer: Qustodio The company is based in Spain with offices in USA.
Visit their website: Qustodio
#4 – WebWatcher
WebWatcher is a budget cell phone monitoring program that helps you track your kids’ smartphone activity to make sure they aren’t viewing inappropriate content or talking to dangerous people. You can view basic activity, such as calls and texts, along with the apps they have installed and their GPS location and history. The program also shows you low-resolution versions of any photos taken on the device. A single license costs much less than other, similar cell phone trackers.
This cell phone parent control program is simple to install and navigate through. The app starts monitoring instantly, provides real-time reports and runs invisibly in your child’s cell phone. It is compatible with iPhone, Blackberry and Android devices. You also have the option of adding computer monitoring so all the devices your children have access to are monitored when they use them.
WebWatcher captures text and SMS messages from popular chat apps such as Viber and Kik. It also provides a call log and website history list so you can see who your child talks to and what they search for and view on the web. This cell phone monitoring program is especially good at tracking activity on popular social media websites and apps, including Snapchat, Tinder and Facebook. WebWatcher captures images of sent and received photo messages so you can make sure your children are being appropriate in all their communications.
If you have any questions or run in to problems while using this cell phone tracker, you can connect with WebWatcher’s customer support representatives via email, phone or live chat. There is also a decent FAQs section under each product description that may answer many of your questions. In addition, WebWatcher has a blog that reports on popular and recent news from the mobile security industry.
The WebWatcher cell phone monitoring software is compatible with most cell phone operating systems and tracks a variety of data. It is backed by quality customer service, and its monthly subscription costs less than most others, making it a good budget option. Overall, program easy to install and use.
WebWatcher is reported to be caught by antivirus programs and flagged as a virus. There are also some functionality issues where the app glitches and removes itself from the phone. Keeping everything in mind, we are not quite sure why WebWatcher costs as much as it does (only $49). All of its features can be had for a much lesser price in the form of other programs. However, if multi-platform support is your preference, then WebWatcher is one of the best options you have. In order to contact WebWatcher via email, you must use its online contact form. There is no way to send a direct email.
Cost: WebWatcher Premium version – $39.95 /month, 1-Year Licenses are available at cheaper cost per month.
Developer: Awareness Technologies, the company is based in USA.
Visit their website: WebWatcher
#5 – Net Nanny
Net Nanny lets you track you kids’ internet activity as they browse on their smartphones, and it has powerful tools to block apps and websites. The software makes it easy to limit the kind of content your child has access to thanks to the built-in filter. You can block certain categories of sites such as those that deal with pornography or drugs. You can also blacklist specific websites and apps so you child can never access them or whitelist sites and programs you are ok with them using. In addition, you can block phone numbers you don’t want your children sending or receiving texts or calls from. Net Nanny alerts you if your child searches for specific keywords using their cell phone’s internet browser.
This cell phone monitoring program works with both Android and iOS mobile operating systems, and it is easy to install and use. Net Nanny’s mobile apps are only available as part of the company’s Family Protection Pass, but you get the added benefit being able to install the software on up to five PCs, Macs or smartphones.
From the Net Nanny portal, you can set limits on what your child can access and how much time they can spend online. You do this either by setting an allotted number of usable hours per day or choosing for the phone to only work during a certain block of time. The software’s biggest drawback compared to other cell phone monitoring apps is that it doesn’t track texts or email messages sent to or received by the cell phone.
This app has a variety of simple reports, charts, statistics, data logs and other useful information that show what your child accesses with their cell phone. Reports list the websites visited and how long your child stayed on them. Net Nanny shows you photos and videos you child takes and contacts they’ve stored on their smartphone. The software doesn’t run invisibly, so your children may notice the cell phone tracker on their phone. If you’d prefer a program that supports incognito mode, consider Mobistealth.
Net Nanny offers multiple ways to contact its support representatives directly – live chat, phone and email – so you can use whichever method is most convenient for you. If you don’t want to talk to anyone directly, you can check out the informational resources on the company’s website.
Net Nanny lets you set filters for internet browsing and limit phone use. It provides outstanding reports and has a unique filter capacity. The software is backed by terrific customer service and can help you protect your kids as they browse the internet.
Net Nanny might have been well situated at the top of the parental control category a few years ago, but it's getting more and more out of date. It still has a flexible and comprehensive content filtering system, its internet time scheduler can't be fooled, and it can control what Android apps your kids can use. On the other hand, it's expensive, it has gone a long time without a significant update, lacks any sort of location tracking for mobile devices, and doesn't have robust time-management scheduling. You can forget about extras like watched video history or SMS logging, as some competitors offer.
There is no way to set a geofence that disables the device or alerts the parent whenever the child uses the device beyond a designated area. You can't remotely lock the device, either. Net Nanny also doesn't offer much help in monitoring texting. You can't know who your child is texting (or calling) or read their texts.
Cost: Family Pack 5 Devices – $59.99 (20% Discount - 1-Year License), Family Pack 10 Devices – $89.99 (25% Discount - 1-Year License)
Developer: Content Watch. The company is based in USA.
Visit their website: Net Nanny
#6 – PhoneSpector
PhoneSpector allows the user to view just about everything on the target cell phone or tablet without physically having the device. Once downloaded the software establishes a remote connection with the monitored device and uploads the data to a secure online account. You are then able to view everything in your user dashboard. The Top Cell Phone Spy App…Here’s Why
Being new to the spy app market PhoneSpector boasts 2018’s most cutting edge technology.
Its super advanced features include:
Read texts (even deleted texts)
View photo albums
Access social media accounts installed on the phone
Read emails (even deleted ones)
View browser history
One of the things that sets PhoneSpector apart from the typical spy apps is its ease-of-use with none of the telling signs other spy software apps have. PhoneSpector will not
Decrease battery life
Show pop-up notifications
Show the app icon on the phone screen.
Essentially anything that might give the target phone owner an idea that the phone is being tracked.
How it Works
PhoneSpector’s installation is quick and easy. In three steps you will have access to your child’s, significant other’s, or employee’s cell phone.
Text the download link to the phone you want to monitor.
The activated link installs automatically.
Sign in to your online account from your cell phone, tablet or laptop to view data anywhere, anytime!
Once installed the software pulls contacts, photos, texts, calls, social media accounts and videos within minutes.
Features and Benefits:
Text messages & SMS messages: Text messages that is sent or received from the device can be recovered; the information will include the date and time of the text, the phone number and the contents of the message itself. Even messages the user deletes will be accessible to the dashboard once the software is on the target phone.
iMessages: On Apple devices the program will backup iMessages that are sent or received. Like the text message function, it will extract old and deleted text messages from the Apple device and the exact message, date, time, etc.
Calls: The dashboard records incoming and outgoing calls and logs history. As well as date, time, and duration of the call.
GPS location: The GPS tracking system of PhoneSpector tracks the phone within 50 feet of its actual location. The location of the phone will be viewed on Google Maps with a pinpoint. The coordinates are updated every 10 minutes.
Photos: All photos, new and deleted and old, will be displayed for you in your online control panel. As with all other information gathered by PhoneSpector, you will be able to see all of your photos on your computer and any other device.
Videos: Videos recorded on the target phone are available to view in your online dashboard.
Calendar Events – Events that have been saved to your calendar previously, old, and new, will be recovered and downloaded to the online control panel.
Social Media Access – Click on Facebook Messenger conversations to see all messages between participants. You can also view direct messages on Twitter, Instagram, WeChat, WhatsApp and Kik.
Dashboard: The dashboard is an easy-to-use online overview of all data collected from the phone. Menu on the left provides quick and easy navigation.
While PhoneSpector’s software was easy to install we still had some questions.PhoneSpector Customer Support was helpful. They walked us through the process and answered all of our questions.
Cost: Premium – $69.99 ( One Time Charge)
Developer: PhoneSpector LLC, the company is based in USA.
Visit their website: Phone Spector
Older Device Compatibility
Mobistealth is a good choice if your child uses an older cell phone model since it is one of the few programs that is compatible with iPhones, Android and BlackBerry cell phones. It also works with all major cell phone carries. This means your child can use an old hand-me-down cell phone instead of the newest and most expensive model, but you also don’t have to worry about purchasing another program if you do upgrade.
You need to purchase a separate license for each phone you track, but you can monitor them all on one parent control dashboard on the Mobistealth website.
Cost: Android PRO – $79.99 ( 3 month ), Android PRO X – $99.99 ( 3 month )
iPhone Premium – $99.99 ( 3 month ), iPhone Premium Plus – $119.99 ( 3 month )
As a parent, you do your best to raise your children and prepare them for adulthood. Along the way, you can get a little extra help from cell phone monitoring software. It can help you teach them responsibility and time management while also protecting them from inappropriate content.