It’s never been easy to keep a product at the forefront of any market, especially when we’re talking about a software product. And this seems doubly true in the world of cell phone monitoring apps.
Mobile tracking apps have been around for about a decade now, and the products have evolved rapidly to keep pace with the changing smartphone and tablet technology, not to mention all the apps and messaging platforms that these monitoring software products are designed to track.
It’s a tough and competitive market, but for many years the cell phone tracking app known as Mobile Spy remained among the top competitors. Mobile Spy was the first US-based monitoring app - they began selling their product in 2003 - and since then (at least up until now) they managed to stay abreast of the changing market.
The makers of Mobile Spy continued to upgrade their software, adding new features, expanding their compatibility - basically doing everything necessary to stay competitive and protect their share of the market.
But things have changed…
It’s perhaps not really the company’s fault, but Mobile Spy, along with a few other US-based mobile monitoring apps, have apparently been forced to make some drastic changes in their product in response to the growing controversy regarding the use of mobile monitoring apps and their possible violations of laws regarding privacy.
Although there has always been a “gray area” in terms of the legal usage of these types of apps, authorities in the US and elsewhere have begun applying serious pressure to the companies that market them. In fact, in September 2014, the CEO of StealthGenie - another top monitoring app - was arrested in Los Angeles on federal wiretapping charges and the product’s website was shut down.
Apparently, US authorities wanted to make an example using this case and it seems to have worked. The incident sent shockwaves throughout the industry and immediately after the arrest, many companies including Mobile Spy began scrambling to revise their websites and products in an effort to comply with the law.
In the case of Mobile Spy, the result was that the company removed several features (such as phone call interception) from the product. The company also added an icon to the software that appears on the screen of any device that has Mobile Spy installed on it, thereby alerting the user of the device that they are being monitored.
Needless to say, this has rendered the product to be nearly useless for most clients, since in general the main appeal of a phone tracking app is its invisibility.
Although there are legitimate and legal uses of these type of apps - the most obvious example being the monitoring of children (it’s legal to install monitoring software on a child’s phone without their knowledge if they are under 18) - the makers of these apps were advertising their use to catch cheating spouses, and that’s where the legal issues regarding invasion of privacy came into play.
The controversy has allowed non-US-based companies to gain an edge in the industry. Companies such as FlexiSpy - which is based in Thailand and therefore not subject to US or European law - have stepped in to fill the void.
In fact, FlexiSpy has now become the almost undisputed leader of the industry, at least in terms of features offered. They have recently revamped their website, added new languages and features to their product, and are now poised to dominate the market.
It remains to be seen whether the legal controversy will be resolved and companies such as Mobile Spy can begin to offer the old features again and remove the icon from their products. Meanwhile, those requiring advanced features - such as call interception, audio environment monitoring or the ability to take photos or video remotely using a targeted device’s built-in camera - will have to purchase a foreign-based app such as FlexiSpy.
It’s a shame, because Mobile Spy had built a reputation for reliability, performance, competitive pricing and good customer service and support.
However, it’s a little difficult to see how companies like Mobile Spy can continue to stay in business unless the legal issues are resolved and they can go back to selling an invisible phone tracking app.
It will be interesting to see how things eventually work out...