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Are you suspicious that someone is trying to guess the password to your Android phone or tablet when you leave it lying around? Or do you just want another layer of security for your Android device?  Then you’ll want one of these four apps.

Each of these apps can take a picture of anyone who types a wrong password or PIN into your device while trying to unlock it, and they can send that picture to you remotely. Whoever was trying to sneak into your phone is busted. Additionally, it can also be used to hunt down criminals; when they try to unlock the phone, you’ll be send photographic evidence of the thief that you can submit to law enforcement officials.

Whether for security or to stop snoopers, you need one of these apps.

Setup

First, you’ll need to setup a password, PIN, or pattern protection for your lockscreen. You can customize the security on your default lock screen under Settings > Security > Screen Lock.

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If you’re using a third-party lockscreen replacement app 3 Best Free Lockscreen Replacement Apps For Android 3 Best Free Lockscreen Replacement Apps For Android Calling all Android tinkerers! Are you tired of looking at the same, boring screen every time you wake up your phone from sleep? Why not customize it and breathe new life into your phone? Read More , you will want to remove it. These apps works by tapping in directly to the Android OS and waiting for an incorrect password or PIN to be entered. If that incorrect password or PIN is typed in a third-party lockscreen app rather than Android’s built-in lockscreen, these apps can’t detect that.

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You can also follow these tips for improving your lockscreen security Improve Your Android Lock Screen Security With These 5 Tips Improve Your Android Lock Screen Security With These 5 Tips You're perhaps reading this thinking "hah, no thanks MakeUseOf, my Android is secured with a lock screen pattern – my phone is impregnable!" Read More .

Unlock Alert (Free)

First up is a completely free, ad-free option that requires no sign-in and is as simple as it gets. It can capture an image via the front-facing camera and your location (if you have location tracking turned on in Android’s settings). It can then save this information to the phone, email it to you, or upload it to Dropbox. You can also have it delete the local copies after emailing or uploading it.

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However, it would not take a picture of me no matter how many times I entered the wrong password. It did capture my location extremely accurately, which is a plus for security purposes, but the lack of image is rather disappointing. I’m thinking this is an issue specific to my Galaxy S3, though, so you should still give it a shot on your device.

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You can set a “Scare Screen” which will warn the snooper/thief that they’ve been photographed, but that’s probably unnecessary. All that happens with the Scare Screen turned off is a little notification appears in the notification bar — but that can’t be pulled down anyway without the correct password or PIN.

Also be sure to whitelist “unlockalertservice@bitourea.com” to be sure it doesn’t land in your spam folder, which is where it went for me.

GotYa! (Free, $2.99)

GotYa! costs $2.99, but it also has a free trial version so you can try it out first. Upon setup, you’ll need to sign in with Google and grant it some permissions to your Drive. To send an email to yourself, you’ll need to grant it permission to view and manage your email too.

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It steps you through the setup, making it incredibly easy. Within seconds your phone is secured. You can then alter the settings at any time by swiping in from the left in the app.  You can turn on or off system notifications, take a picture every time the screen turns on after 3 failed logins, change GotYa!’s icon so that it doesn’t appear to be a security app, or set a password to protect GotYa! itself from being opened and changed without your permission.

The email you receive is well put together, with the image embedded in it and the location embedded in a Google Maps image with the option to open the location directly in Google Maps. This app is incredibly easy to use, and the free trial version seems to only be missing one feature — automatic uploading to Google Drive. You can purchase the upgrade in the app, though, if you really want.

Hidden Eye (Free, $0.99)

Hidden Eye shows a big difference between it’s free and paid versions. The free version doesn’t email you the location or picture, it has ads, and it doesn’t have Dropbox sync. To unlock those features and remove ads, it’ll cost you $0.99, which really isn’t bad. In the free and paid versions, though, you can have it play a certain ringtone if someone tries to unlock your phone three times.

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This app certainly gets the job done, but doesn’t do much in the way to differentiate itself unless you are an avid Dropbox user. The interface is pretty plain and drab, and the free version is quite limited. There is no notification, though, so if you don’t have the alarm set to ring after three failed attempts, it’s a great way to secretly catch nosey people.

Lockwatch (Free)

This app takes the cake for simplicity, while also including some standout features. However, you’ll need to pony up $2.99 for an in-app purchase to get the best features. For free, it will snap a picture of someone after a failed attempt and has the ability to delay sending if a correct password is entered within 10 seconds (in case you mistype your password).

Lockwatch-1

The premium features are rather interesting, though. It can also record 20 seconds of sound using your device’s microphone after the incorrect password is entered, send you an email if the SIM card is changed, take multiple photos at a time, send an SMS to a friend with location info if no data connection is available, and retry sending emails if the device moves from being offline to online.

Lockwatch, for me, was unable to take a picture — the same problem that Unlock Alert ran into. I’m not sure why this is, but the location was accurate. A strange feature about Lockwatch though is that you don’t have the ability to view the captured images and locations within the app; you can only access that information via the email you receive.

Which Is The Best?

In my testing, GotYa! was the best. Its free version provided all the features I needed, its interface was slick and easy to use, and it successfully captured both my image and location. Whichever works best on your device, though, is up to personal preference.

For even more security, you should enable Android Device Manager Was Your Android Phone Lost or Stolen? This Is What You Can Do Was Your Android Phone Lost or Stolen? This Is What You Can Do There are many good options for remotely locating your stolen phone, even if you never set anything up before you lost your phone. Read More or one of the great third-party security apps 4 Android Anti-Theft Solutions Compared: Which Is The Best? 4 Android Anti-Theft Solutions Compared: Which Is The Best? Anti-theft apps like Lookout, Cerberus, Prey, and Android Lost offer a wide range of options for finding or protecting your device: GPS location, sounding an alarm, locking the phone, wiping the data completely, and more.... Read More out there. These apps allow you to better track your devices location if it’s stolen and even remote lock or wipe it.

What is your favorite app for catching possible snoopers or thieves? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits: Transparent gadget Via Shutterstock

  1. charlie
    February 13, 2015 at 7:38 am

    All this security stuff is great. But what I was looking for was a way to tell if people I aam sending emails to are opening them. I am using a Samsung Tab2 android tablet.

  2. clb
    November 18, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    No password or picture taking. Just simply records what's being looked at..

  3. clb
    November 18, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    Looking for an app for android that records activity on the phone after activating app...there used to be something for iPhone years ago but(trust something) can't find it for android.

  4. Jay
    November 12, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    I have a "new" refurbished droid 4 and it makes a camera shutter should when I unlock the screen. Does that mean someone put an app on my phone that is taking pictures? The sound happens when I push the off button as well?

  5. John
    November 7, 2014 at 4:24 am

    These are pretty good thanks for the tip! Do you guys also recommend any VPN apps for security? So far, I have used SmartShield VPN - seems to be free with fast connection time and no limits.
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.magneticmediastudios.vpn&hl=en

    Any other suggestions?

  6. Zonrox
    July 28, 2014 at 1:45 am

    is there something like this for iPhone user and Mac user please let me know thank u

    • Justin D
      July 31, 2014 at 6:49 pm

      thanks for the idea! we'll look into it.

  7. Rushinth John
    July 22, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Hope there's an app that records all activity after we activate it and hand over the phone to someone who wants your phone.

    • Justin D
      July 31, 2014 at 6:49 pm

      that would be cool! let us know if you find anything like this.

  8. Cole
    July 20, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Lookout is the best. I used to use Smart lock (an app for password protecting specific apps, and also able to replace the initial lockscreen) but I don't think it sends emails. It can take picture, video, and sound an alarm, but it stores it in the device under the smart lock app.

    • Nahum L
      July 21, 2014 at 9:20 pm

      Lookout can take pictures BUT on the paíd version. Has notifications by email for sim removal, mugshot and gps, as well lock phn, erase and make a sound on the free app

  9. tabi
    July 20, 2014 at 4:30 am

    I use lookout it has many features including a hidden camera shot n locator.

  10. Chinmay S
    July 20, 2014 at 4:08 am

    It only works when the phone is connected to Internet. A thief won't try to unlock it when it's connected to network. These apps work well in home otherwise they are pretty useless.

    • Justin D
      July 31, 2014 at 6:48 pm

      unless your phone as a 2G/3G/4G data connection, which we can safely assume it does.

    • Chinmay S
      August 1, 2014 at 11:05 am

      What if the thief removes the sim?

  11. Vaibhav G
    July 20, 2014 at 12:58 am

    I never tried any of these, will try any!

  12. Eins
    July 19, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    *and more

  13. Eins
    July 19, 2014 at 11:28 pm

    What about cerberus, it takes photo, video, audio, location, and a more

  14. Mehdi
    July 19, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    You said : " ... Then you’ll want one of these three apps."
    but you introduced 4 apps in the topic... ;)

    • Justin D
      July 31, 2014 at 6:47 pm

      whoops, good catch. fixed. thanks!

  15. Bely B
    July 19, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    Hidden eye is the best

  16. Spark media Svcs.
    July 19, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    Lookout has it built in

  17. Anonymous
    July 19, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    I put a sticker over my FF cam....

    • patrick walls
      January 14, 2015 at 3:15 am

      Catch some one going on my phone

  18. Scottie
    July 19, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    I use secret control. Great free app. It notifies via email with a picture and location. Also, when the battery drops below a certain point it sends an email with the last location in case it has been lost. Great features

    • Justin D
      July 31, 2014 at 6:46 pm

      thanks for sharing!

  19. Pugwash
    July 19, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    I use Hidden Eye. It works well.

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