How Cell Phone Spy Apps Work - Explained -

How Does Cell Phone Spy Software Work?

I want to quickly cover how cell phone spy apps work. It is important to understand the process behind the scenes. This will give you a better understanding of the requirements and can help you figure out any problems you might have if it is not working correctly.

Don’t worry this isn’t going to be a technical inspection of the inner workings, just an overall view of the process!

All of the major spy software programs work in a similar way – their reporting and set-up may differ but the process is the same.

how spy apps work

The Overall View

You start by choosing the correct monitoring software package – one that will monitor all that you need to cover and is compatible with the target phone and Operating System.

You make the purchase and follow the download instructions. You download to the target phone and install the software on the target cell phone – the one you want to monitor.

You’ll want to take some care when buying a cell phone spy app – to avoid scams and bad programs. Make sure to check out my main reviews of recommended spy apps:

  1. mSpy review
  2. FlexiSpy Review
  3. MobiStealth Review
  4. XNspy reviews

Stick to one of these for a reliable solution that will not leave you feeling ripped off!

You need to have physical access to the phone – no remote install – no exceptions!
how spy software works

How Cell Phone Spy Apps Work

Keep in mind that if the target phone has a password lock you will need to be able to open it. Follow the links for more details!

The software is installed and configured and now when any activity takes place on the monitored phone it is recorded by the software – we call these the data logs.

Exactly which activities are recorded depends on the software package you chose.

The data logs are then sent to the spy software company web servers – via a web connection! This is why an internet connection is needed. The data logs – all of the reports – are stored and presented in your own personal online Dashboard.

When you sign up for the spy software you will receive a user name and password giving you access to the online dashboard. Now you can log on to the dashboard and view the reports. Below is a screen shot of the mSpy dashboard.

mspy dashboard

The dashboard is just a protected part of the company website where individual users can access all of their reports. You can view the information from any web browser using any device which has an internet connection – anywhere in the world.

The data is stored securely online and only you, with your unique login details, can view it from any device, laptop or PC.

The Online Dashboard

This is the hub of the system, where you can view all of the reports and configure your account settings. Once the software has been installed everything can be managed using the dashboard control panel and you shouldn’t need to access the target phone again.

Depending on the program, there are various functions you can perform using the dashboard.

  • You can download the report files – including any recordings, photos, videos or logs – to your PC.
  • You can control the target phone via the dashboard with some programs – lock or unlock the phone, start recordings and even delete the software.
  • Manage your account settings including payment plans.

Overall it is a simple enough concept – of course you can imagine the technology behind the scenes is more complicated. At the core of everything is software compatibility and internet access. These are the two things which can cause problems.


If your target phone operating system is not supported the software will not work. Remember that for any iPhone or iPad the device MUST be Jailbroken. Rooting an android is NOT necessary for most features to work but a few advanced features do require rooting. Read those articles if you are confused – follow the links!

Internet Access

A good, reliable internet connection is crucial for the software to work to its full potential. Everything depends on the connection. If the target phone has no connectivity the spy software can’t send the logs to the dashboard – and you can’t hack the phone data.

If you don’t have a connection you can’t view the dashboard. Sometimes this can lead to a delay in receiving the reports – so keep it in mind.

If you have any problems with your spy software not working properly the most likely causes will be:

  • Incorrect installation at the start
  • Compatibility problems
  • Bad Internet connection

Get these things all in place and you should have no troubles.

So now you know a bit more about how cell phone spy apps work – get back to the main spy phone guide!

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About the Author Susan Kennedy

Hi there - I'm Susan, a regular mom who has used spy apps for years now. I was fed up with spammy reviews and poor information so I started this website. It keeps growing!

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Leave a Comment:

Free says

Why can’t the spy software send the data over a regular cell phone connection ? Seems counter productive that wifi needs to be used as some places aren’t wifi equipped and cell phone users may turn off wifi to save battery or for security reasons.

    Susan Kennedy says

    You seem a little confused. By default the data is sent by regular cell connection – but it will then use Wi-Fi whenever possible. If there is no wi-fi connection the data is sent via the phone. Hope that makes sense.

Ngoc Linh Ly says

Hi sussan, i was wondering if a phone have an encrypted txt msg app installed can you bypass that too? Apprarently it was advertised to be safe even down to the US police couldn’t hack into “Wickr Me” “Signal” as for “Cover Me” it protects everything on your mobile photos, hinden contact folder, txt msg so forth.. As i was saying these are the 3 apps i know of today that promised privacy

    Susan Kennedy says

    These spy programs actually bypass encryption because they are installed on the phone itself – they are not intercepting the messages, rather they are reporting the received messages if you get my meaning. You see what the actual message is.

Jim says

This is the exact reason why I would NEVER own a cell phone that CAN connect to the internet. Karma, for those it comes back to haunt , and I have seen it happen more than once, Love it !

Jan Lawrence says

If a phone that had spyware on it is destroyed, and a new phone is activated, but has the same SIM card, would the spyware still be active on it?

    Susan Kennedy says

    No – the spy software is installed directly on to the phone, not the SIM card. The card will be safe to use again.

cwright says

Hi Susan. Quick question. Could the software be removed and if so, will there be any evidence that it was installed in the first place???

    Susan Kennedy says

    Yes it can be removed – some such as Flexispy can be removed by the user without even accessing the phone again. There will be no obvious signs that it was ever installed.

Bariyo says

Hello Susan if the target is an IT expert or suspicious of a potential tap could they not find traces of this software if they probed downloaded software on their phone?

Secondly does it not increase consumption of data on target phone which could also then lead to suspicion?

    Susan Kennedy says

    A good IT expert would be able to find any software on the phone – but most people either don’t know what to look for, or have any reason to look in the first place. It is very rarely found by anyone in my experience. There are so many strangely named files on an average phone that it becomes incredibly difficult to spot anything suspicious. Data consumption is tiny these days (with decent programs) and will not be noticed unless you start monitoring large video files for some reason.

srds says

Hello. Interesting topic.when the phone establish a wi-fi connection will the software reports ALL phone activity (i mean activity for the time that the phone wasnt connected to wi-fi) or only phone activity during connection? Thanks

    Susan Kennedy says

    It will send all the logs since the last connection. If the phone has a data connection the logs are uploaded continuosly but for wi-fi it only happens when the connection is live. Hope that makes sense!

dev says

Hello. Is there any software available for Iphone 5 with 6.1.4
version? do you recommend any that you know of?

    Susan Kennedy says

    At this time there is no software which will work on the iPhone running version 6.1.4 – there is no Jailbreak available for this version – Yet!
    There is always a period of time when new versions of the iPhone operating system are released, that there is no Jailbreak. It takes the developers a while to get one developed and released. In the meantime the only workaround is to roll back the phone operating system to an earlier, supported version.

      OB says

      Hello, Great site. A lot of good information. I read you said an internet connection is required on the target phone’s end. Do you know if any of these monitoring software will work if target phone does not have a wifi connection but it can use the internet via 4 G lte connection on Iphone? The target phone is capable of browsing the internet, sending and receiving emails but there is no wifi connection. Will any of them work like this? Thanks

        Susan Kennedy says

        Hi there, a Wi-Fi connection is NOT required. The best scenario is where the target phone has it’s own data plan (internet connection) – this is ideal. A Wi-Fi connection is only useful if the target phone does not have it’s own data plan. As long as the target phone can connect to the internet the software will be able to report phone activity.

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