Software Mango

Beginners Guide to Cell Phone Spy Software

Maybe you’re looking for more information about monitoring software for your phone, or perhaps you’re just curious about it. Whatever the reason may be, we’re here to help.

We’ve created this walkthrough for beginners, explaining what cell phone spy software is, what it does, and much more. After you read this, you should have some knowledge about how it all works.

What is Mobile Monitoring / Spy Software?

The software is what you expect: an app that allows you to spy on someone else’s device. In this article, we’ll refer to the person you’re trying to spy on as the target, just as a head’s up. There are many apps to spy on someone, but all the legitimate apps have one thing in common: you need to have access to the target’s phone in order to install the software onto it, as well as your own device to monitor theirs.

Different spy programs have different features. Some are bare bones and only allow for text and call log tracking, while others are a little more advanced, allowing you to listen in on phone conversations. Each program has their own pros and cons, and what app you need will usually depend on what you’re looking for.

Also, by “mobile,” we mean any device such as a smartphone or tablet. There is software that allows you to monitor laptops and desktops, but that will be in its own separate article.

Here are the top 3 spy programs as of this article.


We start with one that is objectively the best, having much more features than the others. It’s the only app that allows you to listen in and record someone’s call, provided they have an Android and an iPhone. While it is expensive, their prices have become more affordable as of late.


While it doesn’t have the call recording, it still has many monitoring options to choose from, allowing you to keep track of your target with ease. It’s the top selling spy software as well, and that makes sense, considering it’s more affordable than Flexispy.


This one is good for beginners, or for someone who just needs the basics. It’s an older program, but it has upgraded to compete with the other two. Despite being a bit more bare bones, it still boasts a lot of features, and its price will make you smile.

If you want an individual in depth review of each product, they are available on their separate pages - follow the links!

But the short version is that all of them are able to work, and they do their job well. We don’t recommend a specific one, because all of them have their own uses - and your needs are unique.

There are also guides telling you about the not-so-great spy apps, as well as scams. They’re an interesting read, but the gist is that if you find software that promises you a way to spy on a phone without manually putting the software in the target phone, it’s a scam. But that’s for its own article. Instead, we’ll go into detail about the legality and the kinks of these programs, starting with the legality.

The Legality of Spy Software

Yes, it’s legal to make, sell, and use this software. However, it’s illegal to use it in certain ways.

Pretty much, you can’t put it on an adult’s phone without their consent. Many will use this app in an attempt to spy on their spouses or exes, but that’s against the law. Just like with anything, there are those who will use a program for bad, and the developers are not responsible for that.

We aren’t lawyers, but we will tell what you can use this program for legally.

In the US and UK, you can use this software to monitor your child’s devices, provided that they’re under 18. Once they’re over, you can’t do that, nor should you.

If you’re a boss who gives your employees phones, devices, or computers that are owned by your company, you can use the software. However, notify your employees that they are being monitored. No, you can’t use spyware on an employee’s personal device to see if they’re back-talking you.

To monitor an adult, you must be paying the bills, and you must tell them they’re being watched. Good luck with that.

If you want more legal peace of mind, check out your local laws.

We’re not ignorant, though. We know that some are going to use these programs for nefarious purposes. To spy, to steal, and to ruin people’s lives. People are turning a very useful tool for employers and parents into something it’s not.

That’s why we’re here to help if you think you’re being spied on. You can learn how to find spyware on your phone, as well as remove it. Also, we are not going to tell you how you can break into your husband or wife’s phone, so don’t bother asking. Instead, we’re going to explain types of phones that can be monitored.

Types of Supported Devices

Will this spy software work on my phone or Tablet?

Really, all you need to have is a phone that can connect to the Internet. If you’re monitoring one of the last people in the world who has a bare bones phone, you’re not going to get much use out of it. The software’s logging and reporting works via mobile data or Wi-Fi, and not much else.

However, it’s not restricted by carriers or country. If your target is traveling the world, you can keep up on them as long as they have an Internet connection.

So what kinds of phones do they cover? Obviously, they’ll cover the big two, Apple and Android, but some have support for Symbian, Windows, and BlackBerries. If your target has a phone that’s a little obscure, make sure your software covers that.

What About the OS?

The operating system, or OS, needs to be supported by the software in order for it to work on the targeted device.

What do we mean by this? Well, every phone is constantly updating. They update to fix bugs, add protections, and keep software such as monitoring spyware out. A good monitoring app will stay up to date with the newest versions, being one step ahead and making sure the program works for any version.

To figure out which version the monitoring software supports, just take a look at the software’s website.

You want to make sure, because if you get software that’s not supported, you’ve wasted your money.

Can I Install Spy Software on a Phone Without Physical Access?

For true spy software programs - you must have the target device in your possesion for at least a few minutes. One sort of exception involves iCloud monitoring of the iPhone - I cover this below. For everything else physical access is a must!

You can’t message your target the software and have them download it onto their phone. You can’t use your phone like a remote to install monitoring software. Any program that claims to do that is a scam.

If a program could do that, they’d be in hot water, and cyber crime would skyrocket.

You must have access to a person’s phone, including getting past any passwords. You’ll need to connect it to the Internet, download the software, and install it. Then, you can control and monitor their phone via an online dashboard.

If you can’t access an adult’s personal phone to spy on them, you shouldn’t be doing it, anyway. Monitoring software is all about consent, as well as monitoring your children. Don’t break the law. There is no magic app that can install software on the target phone without having access to said phone.

iCloud Spying - an Exception

This is a feature available on some monitoring apps, such as mSpy, and it’s only able to be used on iPads and iPhones - Apple devices. You don’t need to install anything, nor do you need to jailbreak a phone.

Instead, it logs onto the phone’s iCloud, which is Apple’s online backup, and makes reports based on those backups. The reports are limited, however, but is a good alternative if you don’t want to jailbreak a phone.

However, this isn’t a magic app that you can use to spy on anyone’s phone instantly. You must have the target’s Apple ID and password, and hope they’re running backups in the first place. So it’s quite limited, and probably not what many are looking for - but still an option for some.

Jailbreaking? Rooting?

If you aren’t the biggest mobile geek, you may have heard these terms, but don’t know what they mean. Pretty much, jailbreaking/rooting is a process where you hack a phone to remove the limitations imposed by the manufacturer.

It allows you to customize your phone more, and it allows you to install apps not allowed by the manufacturer.

Rooting applies to Android and jailbreaking applies to Apple. We’re not going to tell you how to jailbreak/root in this article, but we do have helpful guides to do so. So do you need to modify your phone to install spyware? Let’s find out.

Rooting for Spy Apps?

Rooting a simple process. All you have to do is use software that’s available for free and it’s easy to find. Android has always been less restrictive than Apple, so this makes sense. But if you don’t want to root your Android, we have some good news: you can still use monitoring software on an unrooted phone.

However, some features may not work, such as spying on chats and recording someone’s calls. If you’re looking for the basics, however, rooting won’t be needed.

Rooting should still be used if possible, but it’s not 100 percent unnecessary. Jailbreaking, on the other hand…

Jailbreaking - Necessary for Monitoring Software?

Jailbreaking is a must if you want to install monitoring software on an Apple device. Regardless of if it’s an iPod, iPad, iPhone, what have you. This is because Apple is a lot stricter about downloading apps.

Android gives you an option to run third-party, but iOS makes you download apps that are approved by Apple. Jailbreaking gets past that block, so you must do it.

Although jailbreaking and rooting is common, some are still intimidated by doing it. They fear they’ll mess up and render their phone as a paperweight. The good news is that there are easy guides to root and jailbreak, and a good monitoring software company will have tech support to help you out.

Flexispy and mSpy even have a service, for a fee, that will help you jailbreak or root your phone - and set up their software. Good if you want a professional to give you peace of mind.

Besides, jailbreaking and rooting is reversible. By updating the OS, you can remove it, so you don’t have to worry about a dead phone. Just back up everything beforehand, and you will be good. Do some research and read our guides - if you plan to do it yourself - it is easy!

What Can Monitoring Software Do?

Okay, maybe monitoring software won’t be as good as the movies make it out to be, but it comes pretty close. This software can be extremely powerful, especially if you’re using a more advanced program. To explain, let’s talk about humble beginnings.

Early monitoring software was, admittedly, limited. You could cover call logs, text messages, GPS data, and that was about it. It was somewhat good, but left room for the target to evade the software. However, monitoring software has gone a long way, and now, it’s quite advanced.

Even the cheapest program can do a lot. We’ll cover what each program can do in its own review, but here are some of the main spy features:

Call Recording

Only available if you have Flexispy Extreme, you can listen in and record calls without the target realizing it. It sounds dirty, but it’s good to figure out what your target is up to.

Microphone Recording

If you want to feel like a true spy, you can manipulate the target phone’s microphone and record its surroundings. This can be useful for obvious reasons.

GPS Tracking

Is your kid really going to their friend’s house? Find out with GPS tracking. It allows you to see where the device is in real time, and get reports of where the device is. You can even have a defined area of where the kid should be, and get a notification should the kid get out of that area.

Internet Browsing Reports

Yes, you can even record browsing history! Besides giving you the obvious list of sites visited, you can block websites if you so wish. Good for keeping your child from seeing something they’re not supposed to.

Phone Data Viewing

It covers everything from contacts, reminders, photos, videos… if the phone has it, you can see it.

Blocking Apps

If you don’t want your child surfing on Instagram when they should be doing homework, you can block apps from being used on your phone. You do this via a control panel, which we’ll discuss later.

Chat Messenger Spying

There are many chat apps people use to communicate online. Some even use it more than regular texting. Spy apps can create a log of what was said from popular apps such as Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and more. You can even see video chats as well if you have Flexispy.

And more! There are tons of other features, and we don’t want to bog down the article listing them all to you. They’re good as parental controls, or just for keeping tabs.

So now you know what a spy phone app can do for you, but you may not know how it works. Let’s find out.

How Do These Apps Work?

We won’t bombard you with jargon, but instead explain in simple detail how the apps work. Let’s start with figuring out which app you need. When you decide which app will suit your demands, and which app will work for your target, you will begin the installation process. We have a detailed guide in another article, but here’s the gist of it.

Buy the app. Once you do, you’ll get an email with details on how to download and install the program. You may get a link, a license number, etc.

You use the link and put it into the target phone - the internet browser. There, you get installation instructions. The app will be downloaded to the phone discreetly, working in the background.

After that, the app starts recording. A good monitoring app will be energy efficient so the target won’t know they’re being spied on.

Each piece of data is sent to the company servers, and they’re so small that there will be no huge data use.

To view the data, log into the online dashboard. Usually, this will be through a device with internet connection, but the app will give you more details. Now, let’s look at the dashboard.

The App’s Online Dashboard

This is where the magic happens! Here, you can send commands to the target device, as well as see what’s happening on the target.

You can view texts, listen in on calls, and do everything we’ve described earlier - all from within the dashboard - from anywhere in the world.

You can feel like a conductor as you block websites, set alerts, and control the phone to your pleasure.

Best of all, once you install the software to your targeted phone, you don’t have to do anything with said phone. You can even uninstall the software via the control panel, and the target will never know the software was even on their phone.

See, the developers know what they’re doing. They know to hide the app from even the most tech-savvy eyes, constantly changing their file names and keeping one step ahead of everyone else.

Modern spy software for mobile devices is extremely well hidden these days. It is rarely ever found as the technology has moved to hide all traces from the user.

It makes you feel like a spy from a movie, doesn’t it? With that said, who is using these apps?

The Users - Who?

mSpy says they have over a million users, and if this is the case, a lot of people use monitoring software.

It does make sense, though. No longer are these devices meant for adults; children use them too. So parents can use monitoring software to keep an eye on them and make sure they don’t get into any trouble.

And companies who want their work ethic to be on the rise use monitoring software to make sure their employees aren’t dilly-dallying on Facebook or on the Internet. It’s a good way to save money for a company.

And, sadly, we have those who will use the software for bad. Whether it’s spying on your ex or trying to steal someone’s identity, hackers and thieves are using this software for malicious intent, and it’s a shame, really. A sign of the times I guess.

The majority of customers are using this software in legal ways and it provides some really useful tools for employers and parents.

Phone Monitoring Scams

We touched on this earlier, but it’s worth mentioning again. The mobile spying market has a lot of scammers. Usually, they’re overseas people who do it because they know they won’t get in trouble for it.

The gist of the scam is this: they claim the software can do something amazing, such as remote installation, and when you buy it, you either get nothing or get something that’s poor quality. It’s usually a cheap, one-time payment that you can’t refund.

Once victims start calling out the company, they retreat and rebrand their product as something new, and thus continuing the cycle.

If a product sounds too good to be true, it is. A product that can remotely install wouldn’t be selling for cheap - or at all for legal reasons! There are some guides you can read, but otherwise, you need to use common sense when looking at these apps. If you see any red flags, do some research. You’ll more than likely find complaints about the product.

Read our reviews - and all of the information we provide on this site. We only recommend spy software that we trust and have tested. You might think that cheap app sounds great .... until you get burned.

Overall ... the End is Near

Now you know a bit more about spy / monitoring software. We’ll be adding more as the future brings us more. In the meantime, surf the other articles if you want to figure out more details about this software.

If you have any questions, just message us. But we won’t answer if you ask us how to break into your spouse’s phone.

Otherwise, we accept comments and criticisms. So feel free to comment and share with a friend.

About the Author Terry Dawson

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