Cell Phone Spy Apps

This section covers everything you need to know about spy apps. 
Think it all seems a bit too technical?
Don’t worry I break everything down into easy to follow steps.

Cell Phone Spy Software Apps – Main Guide – 2021

This main Spy Apps guide is a great place to start learning how this all works. You don’t need to be very technical – anyone can get started easily. I take you step by step through everything you need to start using cell spy apps today.

Whether you are looking for information about using spy software for cell phones or need advice on where to buy it, I think I can help.

I’ve been running this site since 2011 and it’s now one of the longest running sites covering spy apps. Over the years it has been updated and improved constantly to help you.

How to Use This Guide

If you are a total beginner, start at the beginning and read everything. For everyone else it is laid out so that you can scan ahead and find the information you require compiled in one place.

You’ll soon be a spy app expert!

Looking for Spy App Reviews?

I have a page with all spy app reviews in one place. 

All reviews are of cell phone spy software apps that I have personally tested. I only recommend a few quality spy apps – because only a few have performed well over a long period of time.

My Recommended Apps :

Not all spy software programs are created equal! It is important to take great care when buying any software – some are just poor quality … but some are outright scams.

Popular Spy Software Posts

best spy apps compared

Find the Best Spy Apps for a Cell Phone

Take a look at the Best Spy Apps available today. I compare prices, features and quality with quick reference tables. More than just a list of spy software programs … I have a detailed buying guide with tips on how to make a good choice.

How To Spy On An iPhone

Want to spy on any iPhone or Apple tablet device? This iPhone Spy Guide is for you. There are some unique differences when using spy software for Apple devices – lots of good information in this article.

iPhone spy software
spy without access

Remote Install Spy Software – Always a Scam?

Find out the truth about Remote Install Spy Software Apps – do they ever work as promised? This in depth guide reveals all and is a must read for beginners. There are scams to avoid ….

mSpy University

This section lists our articles covering mSpy. The aim is to teach you everything you need to get started using the mSpy app like a pro!

Latest Spy App Articles

What is a Spy App – What Can Spy Software Do?

It is basically software which when installed on a cell phone (the target phone), will monitor most activities that take place through the phone. If you haven’t looked at any of these programs before I can guarantee you will be amazed just how deep this monitoring can go.

The best programs have become very sophisticated and can monitor most phone use. If you’re totally new to spy software, I recommend you check out a couple of my reviews. These should help you get a better understanding of how it all works.

phone spy apps guide

The Problem With Spy Software

What’s the problem, why do you need this guide? At first glance cell phone spy apps can be quite confusing. There is a lot of information to take in: how does it work, what phones are compatible, what can you monitor.

Then you come across terms like Jailbreaking and Rooting it can quickly become confusing.

Take your time it is actually more straightforward than you first think.

The second problem is finding the right product from a reliable company. Unfortunately this market has been targeted by some unscrupulous companies offering software which does not work.

There are a lot of scams around and you really need to be careful what you buy. Sometimes these companies can look legitimate to the untrained eye, but they will basically take your money and run.

Also beware of companies offering “free phone spy apps” – always a catch!

Another problem is finding out how to use these apps effectively and get the most from them. There aren’t many places on the web with any reliable information on how to use spy phone software, apart from the companies selling it.

The fact is that most of the so-called review sites you’ll come across, have never even tried the software.

Any product on this site that I recommend, I have tested and in most cases have them permanently installed on my own cell phones. Not only does this help me to evaluate the various programs, but it means I can give valid help and advice on how to use them properly.

Cell phone spyware is a technical product. People do have problems with installing and using the software but most of these problems are easily avoided, when you have some real experience.

How Cell Phone Spy Apps Work?

Getting this part clear in your head will help you understand why certain requirements are important for the software to work well. They say an image can tell a thousand words so take a look at the picture below.

how spy apps work

The basic process is this:

  • The spy software is installed on the target cell phone (physical access is required!)
  • All monitored activity is logged and sent to the spy software company servers via a web connection.
  • You log in to an online dashboard with a unique password to view the reports – again with an internet connection from any device, anywhere in the world. Reports can be downloaded to your PC in most cases.

Will Monitoring Software Work on My Phone

People can get confused about the requirements for spy software to work and which phones are supported by the different companies.

Cell Phone spy apps will only work on Smartphones – that is phones with an internet connection.

The phone you intend to monitor MUST have some access to the internet. It is best if it has an active data plan but it can work with reduced features using a Wi-Fi connection at home.

Data logs – all reports – are sent from the target phone via a web connection. No internet connection means no monitoring.

So your ten year old Nokia brick will be safe from spy software!

The second thing you need is a phone which is supported by the software program you plan to use. Not all spy applications support Android and the iPhone for example.

This type of software will work in ANY country with any service provider – wherever you can get an internet connection.

The most important thing is to make sure the spy software supports the target phone Operating System.

Now let’s look at what else is required

I want to talk about a couple of other considerations before you rush out to buy some software. There are some requirements specific to Android phones and to the Apple iPhone (including tablet devices).

Android Phones:
Rooting an Android – there is some confusion around this one. Rooting is NOT necessary for spy software to work on an Android phone – but there are a couple of features which require Rooting to work properly.

For example Rooting is required to monitor WhatsApp on most programs. Apart from a couple of advanced features Rooting is not needed.

The iPhone:
For ANY spy software app to be installed on the iPhone (any version), the phone must be Jailbroken. No exceptions – no third party software can be installed on an iPhone unless it has a Jailbreak.

The same goes for any iPad you wish to monitor. For more information see my article – How to Jailbreak an iPhone.

It is possible to have limited monitoring without Jailbreaking, using the user Apple ID and iCloud backup – a service available from mSpy. In this case, no software is installed on the target device.

Monitoring an iPhone/iPad Without Jailbreaking

This new service has become very popular – it only works on Apple devices (iPhone and iPad etc), does not involve installing ANY Software on the target device and therefore you don’t need to Jailbreak.

It works by monitoring through iCloud backups – Apple’s free backup service. To use this service you will need to have the user’s Apple ID and password – and iCloud backups must be enabled. Remember the legal requirements still apply!

I have tested this No Jailbreak Version from mSpy and it works very well giving a very useful alternative to their main iPhone spy software.

I go into more details in my main mSpy Review.

Now get this straight, it’s not a regular cell phone spy app – it is not installed on any phone, and is in fact a computer software program which runs on Windows (hence no Jailbreaking).

It is quite limited in terms of features and shouldn’t really be compared to regular software.

If Jailbreaking the iPhone is not an option for you and you still want to keep an eye on your kid’s phone, this addon from mSpy might be worth a look.

It is a good example of how this market is changing quickly with new products and new ways of monitoring – who knows where we will be in another five years!

Installing Cell Phone Spy Apps

So now you have gone through the learning and evaluating process – you’ve selected the phone spy app and you just need to buy it and install it on the target phone.

This part is really important as most problems will arise from the software not being installed properly.

I have a detailed guide for Installing Cell Phone Spy Software – check it out. Here is the simple version :

  1. Choose the software wisely
  2. Buy the package you require
  3. You get a download link in an email
  4. Download and install the software onto the target phone
  5. Configure the options and settings
  6. Re-start (boot) the phone
  7. Sign in to the online Dashboard to view reports

Sounds easy – and in most cases it is. You must follow any specific directions from the spy software company to the letter.

Taking your time is a good idea if it is your first attempt at using these programs. Don’t forget to read the detailed articles!

Need Help With App Installation?

mSpy and FlexiSPY both now offer installation services – for a small fee. They will root or jailbreak your target device and install and set up your spy app.

You still need to have the target phone in your possession and have access to a PC/Laptop with internet connection.

It is a great service if you are worried about installation.

Can You Install Spy Software Remotely?

I love this one! I keep getting asked – can I install spy software without having access to the target phone. The answer is simple – you can’t!

You can monitor the phone remotely once the app is installed but you can’t install the app remotely.

The confusion comes from some software products online claiming that this is possible. Trust me on this one, they are all scams and will not work as they describe.

You must read my article about remote install spy software – linked above!

If you buy one of these programs you will lose your money and have a useless product. The only way to monitor a cell phone is by physically installing spy software onto the target phone – you need to have access to the target phone for at least a few minutes.

Alternatively if the phone is an iPhone you could use the no Jailbreak version to have limited monitoring features (remember there is no app installation with this system).

Can someone spy or hack your phone by sending a text message? – have a read here, I think you’ll be surprised!

Buying Mobile Phone Spy Software Safely

So we are moving on – you know a bit about how it all works, what it can do and the type of phones we can monitor. Now you need to find the right spy software for your needs but most importantly, you need to find one which works and won’t leave you feeling ripped off!

If you are starting from scratch, with no knowledge, this is the most difficult part – but you have this guide to help you!

The key to buying safely is to do some due diligence, this way you can avoid the scams and poor quality programs. You need to be able to evaluate the spy software company and if you are reading spy software reviews – you need to consider the review site and their motives.

I go into a lot more detail in my article – The Best Spy Apps – you must read this before buying any spy software.

Choose the Best Program for Your Needs

People get obsessed about which is the best cell phone spy software. Everyone will form their own opinions on this but the important thing is to find the best one for your needs.

To make that decision you need to find programs which:

  1. Support your target cell phone
  2. Cover your monitoring needs
  3. Suit your budget

There are no shortcuts here; you need to look at the programs in a little more detail. To help I have written some in depth reviews of the best ones. Using these reviews will help you to identify which ones meet your requirements.

Recommended Spy Software Programs

Here I will list the spy app programs that I recommend and can stand over with no worries – all have been tested by me over several years now. I actually use these apps and update the spy app reviews regularly to include any changes and added features.

mSpy – Our top pick for value! The best selling spy app on the market right now and in terms of performance and reliability it is easy to see why this program is the most popular. Feature rich, no jailbreak version and affordable pricing – and it just works!

FlexiSPY – the most advanced, but slightly more expensive! If you need call recording features, this is the best option. Pricing changes have made it more competitive and it is still a reliable, working solution.

MobiStealth – Their new and improved version makes this app worth considering. May not be just as sleek as the others but it works well and is from a reputable company with a long track record.

Don’t forget to look at my guide to The Best Spy Apps – a detailed comparison of my recommended Spy Apps – Reviews of the features, prices compared and ratings plus tips on how to buy the best spy apps.

There are lots of different programs available across the web but very few reliable cell phone spy apps that actually deliver on their promises. There is a good reason for this website only recommending a few select apps !!!

Things change in this market – some programs grow and some fall behind. I constantly monitor the products I recommend and report them when they fall short. So always check before buying!

Each software program will have its own unique set of features packaged together in different price plans.

They all offer the same basic features such as monitoring text messages, e-mails, web history, call logs and GPS tracking. These features and more are usually available with the cheapest price plans.

They also offer more advanced features for even more detailed monitoring.

Some of these include call recording, monitoring chat services such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Skype and Snapchat, monitoring social network use, phone surroundings recording and remotely controlling the target phone.

The top spy monitoring programs are regularly updating their more advanced features, competing with each other to offer more capabilities.

trust words

Other Phone Spy Reviews?

Due to demand and constant questions about some of the many software programs out there I have some detailed reviews of other products.

These DO NOT make my recommended list! Some because they are poor quality and some because they just do not offer any real value.

You can find these on the Reviews page:

Highster Mobile




Mobile Spy


Have a look at these and compare them to my recommended list of apps – I think you will be convinced to chose a safe and reliable spy app that will work as promised and offer real value.

With recent changes in the spy software market you only really have a few reliable options from trusted companies – mSpy, FlexiSPY and Mobistealth. No doubt some new players will enter the market – but beware of scams!

Legal Questions Around Cell Phone Surveillance

I focus solely on legal ways to use spy software apps – you can read more at the legal pages at the bottom of every page. Also check out our updated Legal Notice.

When people first discover these monitoring programs they wonder how they can be legal. It is perfectly legal to sell and use phone spy software but there are certain conditions.

  1. You must own or have legal authority over the target phone.
  2. You must inform any adult user of the target phone that they are being monitored.

Obviously it will be against the laws of most countries to just spy on anyone’s cell phone. Some seriously misleading advertizing has led people to believe this is possible – and many will ignore the legal requirements.

To stay within the law you can basically use this type of software in two ways:

  • You can monitor your own children’s cell phones – without notifying them if you wish.
  • You can monitor your company cell phones but here you must inform the users that their phone may be monitored.

Anything else beyond these circumstances and you will be breaking some privacy law or other. Of course human nature is what it is and people will ignore this in many cases – but you have been warned. (That is my disclaimer!)

Potential Spy App Problems

Spy software is a technical product and things can go wrong – people do have problems from time to time. If you buy a poor quality software program, the problems will never be resolved.

If you stick to the recommended spy apps you will at least have some back up when things do not work as expected.

Most problems will arise from three things:

  1. Selecting the wrong program or package – we go back to the importance of compatibility and is your phone supported.
  2. Incorrect installation – it is easy to slip up during the installation process, especially if you are trying to hurry. Consider using their installation services if you are worried.
  3. Poor Web connection – everything depends on good internet connections. If internet access is interrupted, the reporting will be interrupted.

Consider the technology at work and understand that you will have down time at some point. The best programs work hard to minimize any missed reports but if your connection lets you down you may encounter some breaks in reporting.

I continually monitor the programs which I recommend and part of my reason for a recommendation is service reliability.

Tips for Using Online Support

If you do encounter problems with your spy software it is good to know you can get some help and support from the software providers. Some are better at providing this support than others and in my opinion they could all do with some improvements in this area.

They will all help but the speed of reply can sometimes be too slow. I have found a few ways to get better support service.

  • If you are contacting a support line – by phone, email or live chat, be persistent. Try contacting them at different times – day and night, some support centers are in different time zones.
  • Try to ask clear and to the point questions – don’t just go off on a rant!
  • Be polite but get your points across.

Apart from sometimes being slow to respond, I have received some good help from support staff. The good companies want to provide help – they want you to keep using their software. Always bear that in mind.

Let’s hope the information in this site can help you to avoid any issues.

Help Make This Spy Guide Better!

That’s about it for now with this guide to cell phone spy software. I will keep this article updated as new programs or new monitoring features are released.

This is a fast moving market and the technology is continually developing so be sure to bookmark this page and come back.

Now you can help me to make this a truly “Complete Guide” – I will have missed some things, it’s impossible to cover everything so go ahead and ask questions using the Contact Page – this is totally anonymous – your email will never be printed.

Your questions and opinions can make this a really valuable guide – for real users. Thanks for reading.

Susan Kennedy

“Finding the right spy app and avoiding the scams seems daunting at first. I’ve been using these programs for years – I’ve learned the hard way so you don’t have to.”

Author - Susan Kennedy

Hi there - I'm Susan Kennedy, 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. I also teach you how to improve your online security and stop unwanted spy apps. Reliable information from a real person!

Susan Kennedy author