Want to Know Who’s Trying to Unlock Your Phone? Catch Them in the Act
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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.

Your phone will need to have a PIN, password, or pattern Which Is More Secure, A Password Or a Pattern Lock? Which Is More Secure, A Password Or a Pattern Lock? Our smartphones carry a lot of personal information. All of your text messages, emails, notes, apps, app data, music, pictures, and so much more are all on there. While it's a very great convenience to... Read More set for any of these to work, and they won’t function if your device stays unlocked due to Smart Lock Smart Lock on Android Makes Locking Your Phone Way Easier Smart Lock on Android Makes Locking Your Phone Way Easier It's annoying to always have to unlock your phone, but it's unsafe to never lock it. Thankfully, there's a nice middle ground: Smart Lock. Read More .


Want to Know Who's Trying to Unlock Your Phone? Catch Them in the Act lockwatch 2 670x390

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 Find My iPhone for Android? Meet Android Device Manager Find My iPhone for Android? Meet Android Device Manager Jealous of the iPhone's Find My iPhone app? Well, lucky for you there's an equally awesome app for Android called the Android Device Manager! Let's take a look at it. Read More 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

Want to Know Who's Trying to Unlock Your Phone? Catch Them in the Act third eye 670x390

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

Want to Know Who's Trying to Unlock Your Phone? Catch Them in the Act intruder selfie 670x390

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)


Want to Know Who's Trying to Unlock Your Phone? Catch Them in the Act crookcatcher 670x390

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 4 Android Anti-Theft Solutions Compared: Which Is the Best? 4 Android Anti-Theft Solutions Compared: Which Is the Best? Be sure to install one of these anti-theft apps before your device is stolen. It could happen to any of us. Read More 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 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 , 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.

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  1. Sharon
    September 6, 2017 at 12:39 am

    I am looking for an app that will sound an alarm when someone tries to open the phone with the incorrect password even if the sound is turned down. My child steals my phone and wipes my apps and installs his own. Would like an alarm so that I can hear it or someone near him can hear it when he tries to break into it.

  2. 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.

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

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

  4. 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.

    • Marvin Hollander
      January 16, 2017 at 6:13 pm

      Cerberus app is your answer. Take a look @ it

  5. 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?

  6. 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.
    [Broken Link Removed]

    Any other suggestions?

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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

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

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

  11. 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?

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

    I never tried any of these, will try any!

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

    *and more

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

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

  15. 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!

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

    Hidden eye is the best

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

    Lookout has it built in

  18. 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

  19. 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!

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

    I use Hidden Eye. It works well.