Ever suspected someone of trying to unlock your phone while you’re away, but haven’t been able to prove anything? One of these apps might come in handy. They take a picture with the front-facing camera when someone enters the wrong PIN.
You could also use some of these apps to track down a lost or stolen device since some of them give you a location along with a photo. Whatever your use is for it, let’s find the best app for the job.
Lockwatch is a tried and true option that has been around for a while. The free version will take a photo when someone enters the wrong unlock code (unless you enter the correct code within 10 seconds) and then emails it to you. Setup is extremely easy because it just uses your default Gmail address.
There are no ads, which is a huge positive, but there is no way of accessing your photos from within the app. The photos only exist in the email you’re sent, which makes Lockwatch stand out from the other apps on this list. It also doesn’t offer any type of notification letting you know if someone tried to unlock it — it just sends an email. I’m personally fine with that, but if you want it all centralized within the app, it might bug you.
The email also contains the location of the device, so you can track down a lost device if necessary (though you should call the police if you believe it was stolen).
Upgrading to premium for $4.99 will give you access to a lot more features like taking multiple photos, recording sound, sending an SMS if email isn’t available, and more. Overall, Lockwatch is a great free option with standout features in the Premium version if you’re willing to pay.
Download: Lockwatch (Free)
Third Eye is really as simple as they come. It’s not loaded with features, and as such, it’s super easy to use. It will simply take a photo when someone fails to unlock the phone and store it in the Photo Log section. No emails or other fancy features aside from being able to show a toast notification when you unlock your device that shows the time it was last unlocked.
Small banner ads line the bottom of the app, but they can be removed for only $0.99. If you’re not interested in a ton of features, it’s a very cheap option that works great if you’re only trying to catch a friend breaking into your phone.
Download: Third Eye (Free)
Intruder Selfie is a completely free option that is supported by small banner ads. There is no paid version, so you’re stuck with the ads, but it does have a fair number of features.
It can take up to 5 photos of the intruder and even take a photo whenever the screen is turned on. You can toggle whether a notification appear when someone fails to unlock your phone, and you can set it to automatically delete old photos after a certain timeframe. Like Third Eye, it relies on you opening the app rather than receiving an email.
Aesthetically it’s a bit different than the two previous apps, making use of a slide-out menu rather than tabs along the top. Whether you like that style or not mostly comes down to personal preference.
Download: Intruder Selfie (Free)
CrookCatcher has a darker theme than the other apps in this list, and it’s also the only one that has both an internal gallery (like Third Eye and Intruder Selfie) and can email you photos (like Lockwatch).
It can show the location of the failed unlocked attempt, making it more of an anti-theft tool than Third Eye or Intruder Selfie. That perhaps makes it the most versatile of all the apps in this list.
Annoyingly, it did show me a fullscreen ad at one point, and there are banner ads throughout, but all of that can be disabled for $2.49. That also gives you access to the Premium features, like adding an alert message to your device after a failed unlock attempt.
Download: CrookCatcher (Free)
Which Is Your Favorite?
Lockwatch and CrookCatcher offer the most features, and I’d say that Lockwatch has a better free version while CrookCatcher has a better paid version.
Third Eye and Intruder Selfie seem less secure since they don’t send an email from the device or include a location of the failed unlock attempt, but they could be viable options if you’re just looking to catch a sneaky sibling red-handed.
Though remember to always keep a secure lock screen, even if you don’t want to take pictures of any intruders.
Which of these apps is your favorite? Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments!
Originally written by Riley J. Dennis on July 19th, 2014.
Explore more about: Smartphone Security.