Let’s be honest: There’s absolutely no reason to justify spying on your significant other. Not only because relationships are built on “trust” and “mutual respect” and “honesty” and all those other words you’d find on the back of a 1980s afterschool special VHS, but because nine times out of 10, you’ll probably be caught red-handed.
If the ethical implications of snooping through your partner’s stuff aren’t enough to dissuade you, then the prospect of being spotted crouched over their phone, red-faced and frantically swiping through their texts while muttering expletives to yourself, certainly should.
But what if you don’t care about getting caught? What if you don’t care about “trust” or “mutual respect” or “honesty” or “having respect for another person’s space” or “being a decent person instead of a stain on the boxer briefs of humanity”? What if you’re 100 percent convinced your partner is cheating, or something, and all you need to do is find the evidence of his/her indiscretions so you can shove it into his/her stupid face? Then you can purchase one of these helpful apps to track them down and corner them like the rats they are.
Did we forget to mention that spying on your partner is a bad idea? Well, it’s a really, really bad idea. But if you’re absolutely, positively, 100 percent sure you want to do it, here’s how to catch a cheater.
The Best Spy Apps
1) Couple Tracker
Available on the Google Play store, Couple Tracker is like equal opportunity spying. Both partners must agree to allow their digital activity to be monitored, so you guys can check each other’s calls, texts, Facebook activity, and GPS location from afar.There’s one catch, though: You and your partner only have access to the first 30 characters of each other’s texts, and you can only track your GPS locations within a 30-minute interval. That might seem like a pretty minor caveat, but people who want to cheat tend to figure out a way to do it regardless of the obstacles, so don’t be surprised if you see your wife sends out a message like, “Hey Alex can you grab the McAllister file I think I left it at my desk before... OH GOOD THAT’S MORE THAN 30 CHARACTERS NOW TAKE ME, TAKE ME RAMON YOU ARE COLUMBUS AND I AM AMERICA DISCOVER ME, RAMON, DISCOVER ME!!"
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Begin fueling your obsession by downloading the cheating app on your phone, registering your mCouple account, and getting a personal ID. Once your partner does the same, you will exchange each other’s IDs for unlimited access to each other’s information. We’re talking practically everything from Facebook chats to cell phone contact entries. It may sound fishy, or too good to be true, depending on what side of the spectrum you’re on, but mCouple bypasses those anti-text and phone call tracking laws in the U.S. by pitching its purpose as an app for “building trust between couples.” Dare you use it for espionage, you can buy a phone and load the software onto it before handing it off to your potentially conniving, heartless, cheating sweetie.
The app is no longer available in the Google Play store, but you can still download it in iTunes. Just be careful: It doesn't appear to have been updated in a while.
The software mSpy, of the parent spying company that created mCouple, is basically the granddaddy of surveillance apps: For $30 a month, you can access a loved one’s contacts, call logs, text messages, phone recordings, Skype calls, locations, photos and videos, WhatsApp activity, and browser history. If you’re a micro-manager on top of a snoopy SOB, and your partner has a nasty porn or gambling or takeout habit, you can even remotely block access to his/her favorite sites using the software. On top of that, mSpy plans to sell bundled packages, so you can theoretically give someone a cellphone with the software preloaded onto it.
The legality of mSpy and other surveillance apps is up for debate. MSpy founders Andrei Shimanovich and Alex Herz say it is, as long as the person under surveillance consents to it beforehand. But there’s clearly no way to ensure that all of mSpy’s users are adhering to those guidelines, and the fact that the website’s demo is of a father tracking his wife and son indicates that most people probably use the software for less-than-totally-legitimate purposes.
4) Find My Kids—Footprints
“But I don’t have kids,” you say. “Why would I use an app called Find My Kids to track down my wayward lover?” Good question, Imaginary Rhetorical Device Person, but Find My Kids comes equipped with a real-time, automatic tracking and sharing function. So if your partner has it on his/her phone, you can find out where they are at any given time, unlike other apps that merely show you their last known location.Because the app is targeted at anxious parents who want to make sure their kids are still in school, there’s a geofencing feature that notifies you if your target (ahem, sorry, I meant “loved one”) strays outside of a certain area. Plus, the app has a handy-dandy speeding notification, which is great for those who care about their partners’ vehicular safety way more than they care about respecting their privacy.
5) The rest of the internet
You wouldn’t necessarily associate sites like Facebook and Instagram with cyberstalking (jeez, it was hard to even type that clause without snickering), but it turns out their utility for tracking love interests goes beyond clicking through your ex-boyfriend’s vacation photos and snarking about how much weight he’s gained since your breakup.
On mobile, Facebook users’ posts usually include a time stamp as well as a location, so if your partner posts a status update or likes a post while on the go, it’s a pretty safe bet you can gauge his or her location, without having to shell out $40/month for a questionably legal surveillance device, you adorable psycho, you. Same goes for Instagram: the “upload location” feature tells you exactly where a photo was taken regardless of when/where it’s actually uploaded, so if your partner was knocking back shots at a strip joint instead of working late at the office like he/she said, and someone happens to snap photo documentation of it, you’ll know. Oh, yes, you’ll know.
6) GPS Trackers
If you try most GPS-based trackers, you’ll have to work a little harder to be discrete. Designed to consensually report the whereabouts of your friends and family, a GPS-based app must be downloaded to you and your partner’s phones to work. Tap into your inner paranoid James Bond and get your hands on the suspect’s cell to download the app (there are several to choose from below) and hide it by dragging it to a clear, unused screen. (You can do this by holding down the app and dragging it to the right or left of your screen until you come to a blank screen.) Some apps come with a “stealth” or “invisibility mode,” so you may not have to do this. Keep in mind you’ll have to find a way to get around password-protected phones.
Once you’ve expertly downloaded and hidden the app, your significant other will live forever as a tiny icon on your cell phone screen, conveniently displaying his/her location on a map in real time. When you’re spying, it’s best not to use the messaging features provided on some of these apps, unless you want to text your SO about how you’ve finally caught him or her and that you’re leaving. (Not a good move to pull over text.) Here are just a few of many GPS-based apps out there.
- Locate and Find My Friends
- GPS Phone Tracker
- Track GPS Phone
- Track Any Phone
- Cell Tracker
- Trick or Tracker 3.0
- Phone Tracker
Just in case it bears repeating: Before you try any of these apps, why not try a direct conversation with your partner? You might be surprised what you find out.
Additional reporting by Kristen Hubby
Editor's note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.