[Android] ‘Phonespy: Secret Camera’ snaps a photo of people who unlock your device

Phonespy UIIf you’re living in a household with several other people, I’m sure there’s been a time or two where you felt like someone snooped through your phone. A personal lock code or pattern lock will take care of that in most situations, but if you’re around people enough it wouldn’t be difficult for them to memorize the code or pattern. Want a way to catch them in the act? Phonespy: Secret Camera is an Android application that automatically snaps a photo of the culprit after the device is unlocked.

What is it and what does it do

Main Functionality

The premise is simple, activate a service that runs in the background quietly, which captures a photo of the user every time the device is unlocked. That’s how Phonespy: Secret Camera operates, and it’s a great tool to discover just who’s using your device in your absence. The photo is captured secretly, and then stored in a specific directory on your device.

Pros

  • While active, secretly captures a photo of whoever is using the device as soon as the screen is unlocked
  • It uses the front facing camera (obviously) to capture photos
  • Images are stored in a directory labeled “Phonespy” and they’re visible from the stock Gallery, this is also a major con as described below

Cons

  • Requires Android 4.0 and up
  • The application is clearly labeled “Phonespy” which is pretty obvious to resourceful snoopers
  • The images are clearly visible in the stock image gallery, which means it’s likely an intruder will see their thumbnail
  • The application includes a “clear all photos” button in the main UI, so if a snooper opens the app they can easily delete all evidence (of course, they could do this anyway through the stock Gallery)
  • What happens when you phone is stolen? App has no ability to automatically email or somehow send out the photos that are taken.
  • Is a bit heavy on RAM usage, using roughly 34 MB

Discussion

Phonespy is a very simple application, in that you install it, run it and then leave it alone. Of course, every once in a while you may have to restart the service by running the app. Taskkillers and similar task cleaners can affect the service, rendering it useless if it’s running in the background.

As soon as the device is unlocked it snaps a secret photo of the intruder, using the front facing camera. It goes without saying, you must have a front facing camera on your device to take advantage of this app.

Phonespy GalleryAfter the photo has been captured, it’s stored in a special “Phonespy” folder which can be viewed through the standard Android Gallery. The silly part about that is, anyone snooping through your phone is likely to take a peek at your photos. If they see a Gallery named “Phonespy” with a thumbnail of their face, there’s a good possibility they’re going to delete it. After all, to delete an album from the device it’s as easy as long pressing on the offending content and selecting “delete”.

There’s also a “clear all photos” button within the app UI. This is great if you want to delete all the captured photos yourself, but what if someone curious opens the application? On top of that, the application is called Phonespy, who wouldn’t check out an app with that name?

The main point here is that while this is a great application at what it does, it doesn’t really try to be very secret at all. That’s why I would suggest using it as nothing more than a silly deterrent or jesting tool.

“After the photo is taken it is saved in your photo gallery […], from there you can embarrass the intruder by uploading the photo to social networks such as Facebook or send the photo to the intruder via text.”

Phonespy captured photoI suppose that would be a good way to embarrass whoever is going through your phone while you’re not around, but I’m willing to bet that would tick off more than a few people if you captured them and uploaded the photo to Facebook or another social network. Oh well, you reap what you sow I guess?

The application works great, and it really does snap a photo every time the device is unlocked. I did notice a bit of lag when unlocking the screen, but there’s no real indication that a photo is being taken. No shutter noise plays, and no popups appear. In fact, the only way you can tell if the application actually snapped a photo is by navigating to the gallery and viewing the photo for yourself. A true spy cam, just as it should be. Well, unless you count all of those other giveaways that I mentioned above.

For reference, Phonespy uses about 34MB of RAM while running.

Conclusion and download link

Phonespy IconPhonespy: Secret Camera is a great idea in theory, but the final product is a bit silly. Not because of the app itself or how it works, because it works perfectly. It’s silly because even though the images are discreetly captured and saved, there are so many other signs that the app exists on the phone. For starters, resourceful snoopers can clearly see there’s an app installed on the device called “Phonespy”. If they happen to open that app, they’re rewarded with a brief description of what the app does and they can even “clear all photos” from the main UI. Furthermore, the images are stored to a directory called “Phonespy” which shows up in the stock Gallery and other image gallery apps. I’m pretty sure anyone that’s snooping through your phone is going to take a peek or two at the pictures, so they’ll probably discover the hidden pics when they see a thumbnail of their own face. Plus, what happens when (if) your device is stolen? Photos are useless unless they are sent out remotely and not just stored locally.

That being said, it does capture a photo successfully every time the screen is unlocked. So if you want just that functionality, check out this app. Personally speaking, though, I feel it’s a shame that the app doesn’t take its own secrecy very seriously.

Price: Free

Version reviewed: 1.02

Requires: Android 4.0 and up

Download size: 303KB

Phonespy: Secret Camera on Play Store

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1 comment

  1. David Roper

    So we have this app that doesn’t have a name of “Bread Crust uses” instead of PhoneSpy.

    Anywayyyy. what is the best FREE Camera app to replace the S3 camera utility? it should have zoom and BurstShoot mode, if not also lighten and darken (ISO) sliders.