Note: 4/1/2014, I'm going to post an update to this article soon. A lot of the apps have had updates since I wrote this article that may change some of my ranking. Apple also update the IOS which impacted some functionality.
I spent the last few months reviewing as many decent spy camera apps as I could find for my iPhone 4. Below you'll find a list of the apps worth mentioning, their capabilities, prices, the pictures they don't show you on their advertising screenshots and more. The idea behind these apps is to be able to record video without anyone knowing. This could be used in undercover law enforcement investigations, private investigations, or just to catch a friend doing something embarrassing. I'm sure there are some legal aspects to consider when using these apps in your state so pay attention to those laws before proceeding.
Developer: Imaginary Feet, LLC
Version Reviewed: 1.1
This apps first version, 1.0, started out like all the rest of the spy apps in the appstore. It had an obvious recording bar that made the app a novelty instead of a true spy recording application.
The good features the app provided were as follows:
- Alibis - you can load pictures and screen shots to flip through so you can pretend you are doing other things while the app is really recording video.
- Swipe Transparency - you have the ability to swipe your finger up and down the screen to adjust the transparency if you want to see what you are recording. The swipe speed could be a lot faster but it still works pretty well.
Once the first version hit the store, me and a few other people posted mixed reviews about it and mostly moved on. A few weeks later the developer released a new version 1.1 that put the application way ahead of the rest. They allowed longer recording times, front or back camera recording, video quality control, and the ability to COMPLETELY HIDE THE RECORDING BAR AND DOT.
If you want a true spy video application, this is the best one on the market right now.
This app would be 100% perfect with the following little updates:
- Make sure the alibi photo's retain the quality of the photos taken from the photo store on the phone. For whatever reason the quality is lowered when they are loaded as an alibi.
- Add a vibrate when stop or start recording, b/c with the recording dot and settings bar hidden it's hard to tell when recording has started and stopped.
- Improve the performance when going to the recording screen, sometimes the app gets stuck 'Readying Spy Cam' when flipping out of and back into the application.
Operation: Tap top of screen to enter settings. Tap anywhere to start recording, tap anywhere to stop. Very simple :)
Pictures: Here is a picture of some of the SpyVid settings and also one of their demo backgrounds (alibis) before you could hide the settings bar (recording) and after they updated the application (where you can now hide the settings bar and red recording dot).
Developer: Code Chim Software
Version Reviewed: 1.2
This was the first video spy iPhone application that I tried on my phone. It looked promising from the screen shots but has a few very obvious limitations. Firstly, they completely limited your ability to hide the act of recording. They plastered the word 'Recording' in a 14 point font large across the screen during recording sessions. If this weren't bad enough, they also limit your choice of fake screen to, a fake dial pad, fake caller screen, and a blank screen. Those screens aren't bad by themselves, but the simplicity of them amplifies any attempt at hiding the large and obvious 'Recording' on the screen.
In the latest version they gave you the option to use red dot recording which has a small blinking red dot on the screen instead of the 'Recording' words. This helped make it a little more clandestine, but hardly enough to make it a serious spy app.
Operation: Tap screen to start recording, tap bottom corner(s) to stop recording and return to main menu (sometimes this is a pain to do, it is much easier to tap anywhere to start/stop). Also the fact that it returns to the main menu every time sucks because you can't do sequential videos without re-clicking the fake screen.
Pictures: Here is a picture of the settings (note the limited background options with no option to set custom backgrounds). Also not the only to visibly obvious recording screens. One with 'Recording' really large and the other with a smaller red dot.
Developer: Sebastian Arena
Version Reviewed: 1.3
Cam-u-flage looked promising when I read it's description and capabilities. After downloading it I realized it also suffered from the major downfall of most of the spy apps in the appstore, it had indications on the screen that it is recording (the little piece of video film on the visible menu in the bottom right flashes). Cam-u-flage does allow you to load custom screens and to set the transparency so the image takes up the full screen, but they do not let you fully remove their little toolbar overlay on the bottom of the screen. The next issue with their little toolbar is that it always opens to camera/picture mode, you have to click a small icon to change to timed pictures, then once more to get to video mode. There is no setting to open directly to video mode. Even if you set it to video mode, then leave the app and come back (trying to take advantage of iPhone 4's multitasking), it still brings you back to the picture mode. I wouldn't use this app unless you want an app that can take time pictures, but there are probably better apps for that on the appstore somewhere. I'm only looking for a spy app with the best video capabilities.
Operation: Tab icon in bottom right corner to switch to proper mode. Tap screen to start recording, tap screen to stop
Pictures: The pictures below are using the blank background, custom backgrounds can be loaded but don't really help because of the unhideable toolbar. I've attached a few pictures so you can see the various modes you have to switch through as described above. Also keep in mind that the little film strip also blinks when recording (also mentioned above).
4. Disguised Cam
Developer: MASAKA Inc
Version Reviewed: 1.5
Like many of the above mentioned apps, this one also looked promising. The screenshots had no indication that your recording would be shown, but the app have a big blinking red dot in the corner when it's recording. Like the other apps, you can load custom screens, or use some of the built in ones. It gives you a few extra options to control the double tap speed, or switch between video and picture mode. But when you start recording there is an obvious red dot in the bottom right corner that blinks. If these apps at least used a single color, non blinking recording dot it could be hidden with a custom background. But the blinking makes this impossible. You may be able to attempt to cover the edge of the screen with your hand while recording, but it's definitely not inconspicuous. Probably the best feature this app has is renaming itself on install to DG Cam. This way if someone ever gets a look at your phone it is less conspicuous. If an app developer could find a way to give the user the ability to change the name or icon themself that would be a really big perk (this app doesn't do that).
Operation: Tap to start recording, tap screen to stop. Double tap screen to enter settings. Optional vibrate when finish recording.
Pictures: This picture is one of the example screens that are provided with the app (you an load custom ones though) showing the obvious recording dot in the bottom right corner (Note: it flashes)
Summary: SpyVid wins by a longshot, also if you want to get a screenshot of your homescreen to use as a custom background for one of these spy camera apps, just go to your home screen and press the home button and the power button at the same time. Your screen should flash indicating that it took a screenshot. The picture will then be saved with your photos, this is also how I got all of the screenshots above.