Need to know which mobile phone monitoring software works, and which ones might be a scam? Welcome to the only independent spyphone review site on the web. I provide unbiased and unpaid reviews on the latest and greatest Spy Phone software available. I make no affiliate commissions from my reviews and all my opinions are based on actual tests that I have conducted. Find out more about me and why this spy software assessment was created.
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As I don't have to sell anything here, we have the luxury of going into details and providing extensive and lengthy information so we can educate and compare software features and functions, and see what's really important.
Spy Software Product Comparison Summary
The Facts In A Nutshell
For those of you too busy to read the full reviews, here is quick summary of the main spy phone suppliers:
What is Spyphone Software
Before proceeding with the spy phone analysis, lets define spyphone software. Many common terms describe Spy Phone Software, call interceptor, SMS interceptor, cell phone spy software, cellphone spy, mobile phone spy software, mobile spy, SMS spy, iPhone spy, BlackBerry spy, bluetooth spy software, cell phone tap, and many others.
Spyphone software is a an application that you install on a smartphone cell phone (lets call this the TARGET) that will enable you to do a number of things, such as:
- See phone activity including what Voice Calls, SMS text messages and/or emails are sent or received from the target mobile.
- Listen to the environment the target mobile is in by remotely activating the microphone.
- Listen to telephone calls being made from or to the target mobile. Phone tapping.
- See and track the location of the target handphone on a map using GPS location.
- Record telephone calls.
- Upload pictures and video from the target device.
The best systems include a web account that you can use to log-in and view files (SMS messages, emails, call activity logs) from anywhere you have an internet connection. Not all products have these different features, so you need to read the review or consult the spyphone features matrix to see which spyphone product meets your needs. There are very big differences between vendors. Be careful - don't believe everything you read in advertising of these products. Only a handful of vendors are reliable.
Is it hidden on the target phone?
For spyphones, discretion is the biggest part of valor
From real experience using spyphone software I can tell you that no matter what features a spyphone software product has, or how cheap it is, the spyphone software is worse than useless if the target user can notice it while using the phone for normal purposes. The spyphone software ability to remain hidden in all situations is of prime importance.
The consequences from getting caught installing spyphone software are potentially serious - you could ruin a perfectly good relationship, or even end up in court - so the most important thing to look for in spyphone software is its ability to remain undetectable, after all, it is supposed to be a SPY phone.
Mobilespy's Nokia product is visible in the application manager, where you would expect to find installed software, and can be removed like any other Nokia program. Not good! Mobilespy's Windows product fares a lot better, but it can be detected by following the instructions on their web site. This really makes no sense. Why would you tell the world how to catch your own customers? The Mobile Spy iPhone product only works on the new 3G iPhone and can be detected in the Cydia installer application used to install programs on jailbroken iPhones. Mobilespy does not have a BlackBerry product. Check out the Mobilespy vs FlexiSPY spy phone head to head review.
Neo-Call's first approach to hiding its presence was better than MobileSpy, but was also very crude. It interfered with the Symbian native installer causing serious problems and suspicion when the user tries to install new software, or uninstall existing applications. While this sounds bad (and it is), from a stealth perspective, it was a better solution than Mobile Spy. With their latest versions of software they have decided not to hide the installation and it can easily be removed. Neo-Call doesn't have products for iPhone, Windows Mobile or BlackBerry. Check out the NeoCall vs FlexiSPY spyphone shootout.
FlexiSPY remains invisible on Nokia, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry with no indication at all of the installation; and it cannot be seen in the running applications or startup areas of Windows Mobile or Symbian operating systems. The FlexiSPY BlackBerry Spy product has two options. Simple and advanced. I selected the advanced option which required the BlackBerry device manager and a USB cable, and this resulted in a totally invisible install. FlexiSPY iPhone Spy product works on both 2G and 3G iPhones and has a really neat post installation routine that lets you jailbreak the iPhone, install and choose what state to leave the device. This means that an iPhone can be jailbroken, have the spyphone software installed and then returned to a state that makes it appear to have never been tampered with. Its little details like this that really inspires confidence that the FlexiSPY team really take privacy seriously.
eStealth / Bluestealth / Ultimate Mobile Spy and others Like the terrible mythical monster called Hydra, who's multiple serpent heads would re-grow even if they were hacked off, eStealth's nest of Bluetooth spy phone scam-brands refuse to die, and continue to multiply like a virus in the wild. Outright lies on websites, refutation of basic consumer rights, rejection of support, illegal terms and conditions, no money back guarantee, limited usability are the hallmark of this scam-ware.
What else do you need to know? Oh yeah, using it requires the Target to accept it ( not likely! ). Question their claims: the person you are targeting will not suspect a thing. Guaranteed! (not true, but no refund available) This will work on all phones! (not according to the documentation supplied with the software).
CONCLUSION: FlexiSPY is the only product that is undetectable across all their entire product range. MobileSpy Windows Mobile is hidden, but not their iPhone or Nokia products. NeoCall is clearly visible and only works on Nokia-Symbian phones.
Who has the most Features
Unlike men, not all spyphone products are created equal
Following hot on the heels of the ability to remain hidden, the next most important feature is how the spyphone transmits data from the target device to the person who is actually doing the spying. There are two main ways of doing this. GPRS or SMS forwarding. The choice of technique, has a direct impact on costs and more importantly the likelihood of being detected by the target. Check out the section on spyphone costs to find out why SMS forwarding is much more expensive.
MobileSpy and FlexiSPY are GPRS based products and send data to a website where captured event data is stored. Neo-Call uses the much more expensive SMS method. Having decided on the data transmission technologies, you are now ready to examine what features are available on the spyphone product. The advertised list of features may look good, but these are rarely available on all phones. Before getting too excited, check to see what each spyphone software product can do on your mobile device. If you are in the USA for example, you will be more interested in BlackBerry and iPhone, as Symbian and Windows Mobile are niche players, while in Europe the situation is reversed. For example, only FlexiSPY cover Blackberry and 2G iPhones, so if you have these devices, FlexiSPY is your only option. Neo-Call list Japanese specific devices, which neither FlexiSPY or MobileSpy do, so if you are in Japan, NeoCall is your only choice.
FlexiSPY is available in three versions - FlexiSPY LIGHT, FlexiSPY PRO and FlexiSPY PRO-X. FlexiSPY PRO-X is the flagship product with the greatest number of features of all the spyphone software products I reviewed. The PRO-X version has SMS, call logging, and GPS location tracking that is viewable on a map inside your web account. It also has Call Interception, which lets you listen to phone calls made from or to the target device, and spycall for listening to the surroundings of the target device. FlexiSPY PRO is identical to FlexiSPY PRO-X, but without call interception, while FlexiSPY LIGHT has everything except spycall and call intercept.
Neo-Call has similar features to FlexiSPY, except its spyphone software is supplied as stand-alone modules. Apart from the delivery technology( it uses SMS compared to GPRS) , Neo-Call lacks visual GPS mapping, and the contact name of SMS/text messages or voice calls is not provided. The limitation of Neo-Call's SMS system really becomes apparent when trying to read through and mentally organize hundreds of SMS on the monitoring device. The web based system of Mobile Spy and FlexiSPY are so much easier to manage.
Mobile Spy comes in last with the least number of features. Mobile Spy only offers SMS/text messages and voice call records on the Symbian version, and SMS, call logs and Internet Explorer URLs on the Windows Mobile version. To put this into a decision making context, Mobile Spy is similar to FlexiSPY LIGHT, but without the email capture data provided on FlexiSPY Light.
For a full list of the features provided by each of the three suppliers of spyphone software please refer to the spyphone features matrix table.
CONCLUSION: FlexiSPY PRO-X has the greatest number of features and the Mobile Spy product offers the least. Mobile Spy is $50 less than the basic FlexiSPY LIGHT product, but also has less features such as no Email or Contact List information. FlexiSPY LIGHT provides an upgrade path to FlexiSPY's more powerful higher-end spyphone products.
I pay you so I don't have to think!
Like most people, I hate to read manuals. I believe that products should be designed to be as intuitive as possible. Having used all the spyphone software on the market, I have come to realize that spyphones are an exception. They cost a lot of money, are used in a hostile environment, in 'mission-critical' situations, where there is no room for failure. For products this complex, there really is not way you can avoid doing some reading, so the documentation better be good.
So, before spending hundreds of dollars on a product that will be used in covert situations, I definitely want to make sure that I understand exactly what I'm buying. You may never get access to the target device again so you want to make sure that you get it right the first time, and that you can remotely change things later.
All three of the spyphone software suppliers reviewed here provide online documentation for their products. While online documentation is useful, sometimes you want to download a file or print it out to review while offline or at another location. Finding installation and support documentation for MobileSpy is easy. The company has a nicely designed website and the information is easily found and easy to follow, but there is no real attempt to educate the buyer. However, all of MobileSpy products are very basic, and unlike the others, there is not much to know.
On the other hand, FlexiSPY's website contains an incredible amount of information about its spyphone software products and how they work, as well as Flash video files showing how to install the software, and screen shots showing what the captured data looks like. In addition, FlexiSPY also has comprehensive step-by-step installation manuals for each of the operating systems its spyphone software operates on that users can download for offline review. This may be explained by the fact that they cover so many more models and have more features than the others, or may be just due to the fact that FlexiSPY has been around longer and has a better appreciation of what spyphone software purchasers want and need.
Neo-Call's website really is a disaster with only a limited amount of information available online which is made more confusing due to its product being sold as individual modules which are then combined on Symbian 9 target handphones only. It also has a downloadable PDF file of the remote control commands and the user guide, however during the evaluation process I was unable to get the PDF files to download.
CONCLUSION: Mobile Spy's documentation is sufficient as their product is very basic, but is more focused on selling than educating. FlexiSPY's documentation, from their website, manuals, flash movies do an intense job of educating the user and explaining how things work, almost to the point of overkill. For example, their Nokia product manual is a 23 page all-color tome that would choke a horse! Neo-Call is a waste of web space, with no information whatsoever.
A race against time
The next thing that is important when selecting spyphone software is the ease of installation. Here is why.
All the spyphone software reviewed here requires you to have the target device in your hands for a period of time. You cannot install spyphone software remotely, and getting hold of someone's mobile can be difficult. Therefore the quicker the install, the better.
Both MobileSpy and FlexiSPY's WM and Symbian spyphone software products are pretty good in this regard. Both are downloaded directly from the internet on to the target mobile, so you don't need a cable or computer, and most people should be able to install either of these spyphone products in less than 10 minutes. The difference with FlexiSPY is that the download URL is simple, consisting of five characters, whereas MobileSpy is over 30 characters long, making it very frustrating to enter on a mobile keypad. It may not sound a lot, but when you have only five minutes to install the application, you don't want to spend 10 minutes trying to get the URL correct.
Neo-Call's product on the other hand not only requires a computer, but also requires that you know the serial number (IMEI) of the target device before purchasing and downloading the software to your PC. Using serial number based products is a major problem for the average James Bond, and this is a major flaw in Neo-Call's spyphone software offering.
As a bonus FlexiSPY has a licensing system that allows you to transfer the activation code onto other handphones unlimited times during the subscription period. You may find this ability to change phones useful as it lets you use the software on several devices over the period of the license.
CONCLUSION: Both MobileSpy and FlexiSPY offer an easy download direct from the internet for their Windows Mobile and Symbian products. Neo-Call and Mobile Spy's iPhone spyphone software involves a much more complex method and is for tech-savvy users only, while FlexiSPY iPhone install is simple.
I am easily satisfied with the very best
It's at this point that differences between true spyphone software and simple backup software emerges and the old adage that you get what you pay for comes into play. here is the bottom line. You need to decide if you want a real spyphone, or if something similar will suffice. I can tell you that credible spyphone software should be undetectable, reliable, powerful, and controllable, with all the features that you need to get the job done. Reading SMS/text messages is one thing, but information is power and being able to see locations and listen to phone calls lifts your abilities to another level. Lets look at some of the features that a real spyphone should have.
Neo-Call and FlexiSPY both allow the microphone of the target handphone to be activated by the monitor handphone, enabling the environment around the phone to be monitored in a similar way to an open intercom connection. One difference being that Neo-Call will allow the microphone of a 'powered off' handphone to be activated, while FlexiSPY only allows 'powered on' handphone microphones to be activated. FlexiSPY and Neo-Call also allow the monitor handphone to listen-in to voice calls made from or to the target handphone in much the same way as party-lines in bygone days allowed everyone connected to a phone line to eavesdrop in on the calls of other people.
Balanced against this is the ability for FlexiSPY to access the target handphone's inbuilt address book and assign a name to the SMS/text messages and voice calls received to, or made from it. This makes viewing who has been contacted, or who is contacting the owner of the target handphone, considerably easier than just a list of telephone numbers as is the case with Neo-Call or Mobile Spy.
In addition to the above features, both Neo-Call and FlexiSPY allow GPS and the cell ID location of the target handphone to be logged. With FlexiSPY the enhanced features are supplied in a single, tightly integrated package, while with Neo-Call it is implemented as a series of individual modules that are combined on Symbian 9 handphones only at the time of installation.
Because of its tightly integrated package and ability to be installed on a wider range of handphones and different operating systems (e.g. Symbian 8 and 9, Blackberry, iPhone and WM), FlexiSPY comes out ahead of Neo-Call in this section.
While they look similar on paper, it's only when you use the products that the differences become clear. Testing on a Nokia N95M, showed that the Neo-Call product was very unstable, and the device would restart after about 90 seconds, as well as activate the the screen backlight if spycalls were terminated in less than 90 seconds. When the N95 was set in silent profile, the device would restart if the spycall was longer than 90 seconds. If the call was terminated inside this time, the entire display started flashing like a police light, which might be only a prelude to the real police lights you might end up seeing if the owner of the target handphone can figure out you are the one who installed the spyphone software on their handphone.
As previously mentioned, monitoring SMS/text messages and voice calls is the limit of Mobile Spy's capabilities. While its functionality is limited, it works well, except for one glaring problem. The Target device and the web account share the same password. If you ever charge the password for the web account, which you should do regularly, you stop receiving data, and the target device starts to choke up with data that it cant deliver. While this poor authentication may be sufficient for a product designed for data backup, its is a serious problem for a spyphone product.
CONCLUSION: FlexiSPY and Neo-Call appear similar on paper, but real-world testing shows Neo-Call's spyphone software products are seriously flawed and unstable. Mobile Spy's functionality is limited, inappropriate for spying applications, and there is no remote control, but it is at least stable. Considering that FlexiSPY is far cheaper than Neo-Call, I would recommend FlexiSPY if a credible, fully featured tool for serious spying is required.
Remote Control of Spyphone Software
Power is nothing without control
Any spyphone software worth its salt will provide the ability to control the software remotely. Why is this important' At some point you are going to want to stop and start the software, or change the settings. For example, if the target mobile has a pre-pay service or is roaming, you may need to remotely adjust the settings so as to not create large bills on the target handphone for example. You may also want to change the monitor handphone number, or change the list of phone calls you want to listen to.
Neo-Call and FlexiSPY provide full remote control using SMS commands to stop, start, and control everything needed to use their spyphone software to their full potential. With both FlexiSPY and Neo-Call these SMS commands are invisible to the target handphone owner. Neo-Call and FlexiSPY both provide a program that will run on any java equipped handphone to make the issuing of these commands a breeze. MobileSpy has no remote control options and once started cannot be stopped. This is a serious problem and as such cannot be recommended for any spy application.
CONCLUSION: Neo-Call and FlexiSPY provide great remote control and are serious spyphone products. MobileSpy does not allow any control and will certainly cause problems to the target so cannot be recommended.
The sum of the whole is greater then the sum of its parts
Neo Call and FlexiSPY offer Call Interception and Spycall. Using these features however is a manual process. For interception, you wait to receive a notification of an incoming or outgoing call, and you then dial in to listen. This requires you to be constantly available. FlexiSPY offer a product called FlexiRECORD that pairs with any number of FlexiSPY targets and automatically intercepts the call and records it to a PC or to a Windows Mobile device. They also offer a product called Monitor Plus that allows you to access your web data and control your targets devices from a windows mobile phone, which is very convenient when you are on the move. Neo-Call and MobileSpy do not have any such options
Cost of ownership
Apart from the initial purchase price, the biggest cost is determined by the type of data transmission technology used. All the spyphone software that I reviewed places the cost of event reporting onto the target phone. The two ways that events are reported are:
By SMS from the target phone ( SMS Forwarding)
For every event the target phone sends an SMS to the spying party. This has the advantage of being immediate and simple, but it can get expensive and it is very easy to run up a huge bill on the target phone, particularly if this is happening internationally. This method is called SMS forwarding and is the only method used by Neo-Call and one of two methods available for FlexiSPY. SMS forwarding has some advantages, but costs can skyrocket and the SMS destination numbers are likely to be visible on most phone bills. Because of the nature of SMS delivery it's not possible for Neo-Call to offer any delivery options.
By Internet from the target phone (GPRS)
This requires the target cell phone to have GPRS, with the operating cost dependent on the amount of data and the frequency of connection. As the amount of data transmitted is relatively small, this is a very cost effective method and has the added advantage of not being detectable on the target handphone bill. Both FlexiSPY and Mobile Spy use this method, however a major problem with Mobile Spy is that there is no way to control the frequency of delivery reports, or to stop the delivery of reports. This means it is not possible to take any action to minimize GPRS traffic costs.
In this regard Mobile Spy is like a runaway train and just keeps going EVEN AFTER the contract period runs out.
FlexiSPY on the other hand has the ability to control report delivery by the number of events that are collected, and also by time between events. In this regard FlexiSPY's event delivery control is way ahead of Mobile Spy and lets you do things such as schedule delivery at frequencies ranging from one to 24 hour intervals, or for when a pre-defined number of events to report is reached. This flexibility means that you can set delivery for times when the target phone is unused, such as 4am, once a day. This minimizes data charges and preserves the battery life of the target device.
FlexiSPY also offers GPS data and map visualization. For its GPS and cell ID location reporting FlexiSPY can be instructed to capture the location every five, 10, 20, 40, or 60 minutes, with this choice able to be be changed at any time using the FlexiSPY control software on the monitor handphone. FlexiSPY also allows you to set different reporting options for different events.
For the majority of applications GPRS delivery is the way to go. It's cheaper and the delivery URLs are impossible to detect on a phone bill.
CONCLUSION: Data transmission costs using SMS can quickly surpass the spyphone software purchase cost. GPRS is the way to go, but only if you can control the delivery times. In this regard FlexiSPY clearly wins, with Mobile Spy following. Neo-Call's SMS delivery is for specialist use only.
What does this mean, why is not working. Help Me!
When buying a complex and expensive product like spyphone software you need much higher levels of support before and after the sale than you do with other products. If you have limited access to the target handphone, or there is a lot at stake, you need to make sure you buy the right product and that it works as advertised. Before buying a complex product costing several hundred dollars, I think I have a right to expect support and timely communication with the seller.
MobileSpy and FlexiSPY both offer a live chat service, however, while FlexiSPY is 24-7 (Spanish, German and English) language , MobileSpy's was closed every time I tried over a four week period. Neo-Call not only don't have any live chat, they must have one of the most confusing websites I have ever seen.
FlexiSPY also provides telephone support from call centers in the USA, UK and Hong Kong, as well as phone call and IM support via Skype. Mobile Spy does not offer any telephone or IM support, while Neo-Call offer a telephone number in the Republic of San Marino only. All three spyphone software vendors also provide support via email.
During the evaluation process I had a number of questions that I just couldn't find the answers to on the different companies websites and tested their online support. Of seven attempts to contact MobileSpy I was unable to contact their online support representatives at all. Of a similar number of attempts to contact the FlexiSPY live chat support I was able to speak to an operator five times. Of the seven messages I sent to Retina-X Studios I never received a single response.
FlexiSPY website also contains an off-line support request form so that you can log a support question and receive an emailed reply later, as well as the ability to have unanswered live chat messages converted to text messages and sent as mail. Both of the two offline messages sent to FlexiSPY were answered within a few hours, while support questions sent to Neo-Call were answered in around 48-hours.
CONCLUSION: In today's environment, FlexiSPY's professionalism and willingness to support its products really shines, with all the support options available that you would expect. MobileSpy are far from sincere because they advertise live chat but it's never available, nor do emails get answered. When I called their American office during office hours the story was the same - no support. Neo-Call may as well not list any support options and is worse than useless. Considering that the prices for the equivalent spyphone software from the three vendors is similar I don't see why Mobile Spy and Neo-Call cannot deliver support.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of spying it is clear that the right tool for the job needs to be undetectable, reliable, remotely controllable, and provide listening, location as well as message capture capabilities.
FlexiSPY and Neo-Call offer all the features that you need to get the job done, but Neo-Call's choice of delivery technology and its instability means that it could only be considered for specialist applications where SMS forwarding. is the only choice. If all you need SMS/text message and call log backup software at the lowest possible price then Mobile Spy is worth considering. However its lack of voice call monitoring, the inability to turn the product off when not required, coupled with the constant sending of reports and the ease of discovery, means that it is really not suitable for spyphone use.
The requirement for Neo-Call to have to build a customized application for each cell phone, along with the protracted and awkward download and installation procedure means the target handphone needs to be accessible for a longer period of time than with either MobileSpy or FlexiSPY. But because Neo-Call also blocks access to the handphones native application installer it is likely that its use will be detected.
By any objective measure the most feature rich of all the three spyphone software applications I reviewed is FlexiSPY. The fact that even the basic version of FlexiSPY leaves no trace on the target handphone, along with the ability to tailor what events on the target handphone are recorded and the frequency that these reports are transmitted to the server, make it by far the leading spyphone software application of the three.
FlexiSPY's online and offline support, along with the installation videos, comprehensive documentation, and the fact that FlexiSPY Pro-X is less than half the price of Neo-Call make FlexiSPY a clear winner and the spyphone software to use where detection could be costly and/or embarrassing.
In general, if all you need is basic SMS/ Call Record snooping, and the consequences of being caught are low, and you don't need an upgrade path you could choose MobileSPY as its Windows Mobile and Symbian products are slightly cheaper than FlexiSPY. FlexiSPY iPhone spy phone software is however much cheaper and better than Mobilespy
If you need Call Interception, Spycalls, GPS, Email, Remote Control, a totally stealth product and the ability to upgrade to more powerful products, the choice is FlexiSPY. However, I feel its a false economy, as you could choose FlexiSPY light to get a superior product, and upgrade to the PRO or PROX at any point in the subscription period.
Neo Call is far too expensive, and its use of SMS forwarding for data delivery makes it unsuitable for most applications