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Welcome to the Spy Equipment UK Help Desk, where we aim to answer any technical questions you might have about our products. If you can not find the answer to a question on this page please feel free to contact us with the question so that we can improve the help desk. Customer input is also very welcome on this page so if you have any comments or suggestions please feel free to contact us through the contact us section of the website.

Help Page Sections


What is GSM?

Global System for Mobile communications (GSM: originally from Groupe Spécial Mobile) is the most popular standard for mobile phones in the world. GSM differs from its predecessors in that both signalling and speech channels are digital, meaning that data communication is easily built into the system. GSM is a communication system that has been utilised for a range of our live listening devices. Originally these operated on the 2nd Generation (2G) frequency networks, but recently our products have been evolved to use 4th Gen (4G) network availability for a number of reasons:

  • GSM 2G networks are no longer available in many countries worldwide
  • 2nd Gen based PCB modules are no longer being manufactured
  • 3G was quickly superseded and is already being phased out globally
  • 4G networks are now cellular standard for (audio) communication transmission
Why won’t a GSM device work in my country?

Since the advent of the cellular communication networks, the technology that supports mobile communication has been constantly evolving. The original analogue system was gradually phased out across the globe, superseded by a fully digital system, which started with 2nd Generation (2G) cellular network. Over an extended period of time 3rd, 4th and 5th Generation networks have been added to the comunication networks, whilst at the same time the older technology has been phased out.

In some areas of the world early cellular services were never rolled out because of lack of infrastructure investment. In other countries 2G services were initailly adopted, but are now not available because they have been phased out and replaced by newer technology. Although there is generally a timeframe set out by each country for the switching off older technology, these are of course only guidelines and cannot be relied upon to the letter.

Due to market driven requirements and the availability of GSM technology, at Spy Equipment UK we are now only able to produce devices that function using 4G radio frequencies worldwide, so in some areas of the world that have not adopted or upgraded to 4G our GSM units will unfortunately not function. Our previous 2G devices will still continue to operate in countries that have networks that still support the 2G cellular infrastructure (this includes the UK) until the final phasing out of these older services.

Prior to purchasing one of our new GSM listening bugs, please be certain to check out the availability of 4G cellular services in the country in which it will be used.

Why am I unable to get a call through to my GSM device?

There are four main reasons why you are uanble to get an answer from the SIM card in your GSM product:

  • The SIM card in the GSM device has been switched off by the network provider
  • The SIM card in the device has been inserted incorrectly or has not fully inserted
  • There is limited or no GSM network reception in the area the unit is being used
  • The battery of the unit has fully discharged and will need recharging
  • The SIM card was swapped over when already switched on (battery powered device) so will neeed a restart
Why am I having problems with the sound quality of my GSM listening device?

There are a few different things can affect sound quality with a GSM unit;

  • Certain networks are better in relation to audio transmission and reproduction, so experiment with different networks if possible
  • Poor signal strength affects reception and therefore has a knock-on effect, audio quality
  • Our GSM units have high gain microphones and as such constant background noise can affect sound quality
  • Placement of a GSM device closer to the subject of the audio surveillance will enhance audio pickup and therefore quality
  • Be sure not to place a GSM device behind a ‘wall of noise’ such as behind a television or beside a radio
  • On a battery powered device, poor or dying batteries can cause poor sound quality, so be sure to recharge before power fades
How do I check the best GSM network coverage for my area?

Although our GSM listening devices are generally supplied with an EE SIM card, this may not necessarily be the best option for where you intend to place the product. EE has a reputation of providing the best geographical network coverage, however in some areas the alternative mobile network operators can still provide a better service and would therefore be worthy of serious consideration.

Ensuring that you are getting the strongest signal provides certain distinct advantages when using a GSM product:

  • A consistently strong network signal will increase the chance of being able to remotely monitor the device at any time
  • Strong network coverage enhances the chances of optimal audio capability
  • Battery powered devices will benefit from increased battery life when the network signal is consistently strong

Here is a link to a free OFCOM mobile availability website that provides detailed coverage information for all UK networks for Voice, Data and 5G –

Spy Phones

Can I Monitor a Phone Without Having Access to it?

If we ignore government agencies who maybe authorised under special circumstances, in a criminal investigation of a serious offence, have access to some phone data usage, then the answer will always be no!

We get this question asked on a weekly basis and have done for years. Yes, there are unscrupulous websites out there that offer spy phone software that can be installed on your phone and then give you access to someone elses phone by just having a phone number. However, invariably these websites do not have an contact number and are linked to offshore unregulated locations and have offshore accounts, etc., so no form of redress when it’s discovered the claims are simply false.

If things were that easy and phones were so insecure, then anyone carrying a mobile phone, such as senior officials or figures in authority would be open to an integrity breach merely by someone having their mobile phone (cellphone) number.

So, if you are not a specifically authorised government official and you want to monitor a mobile phone, then you will need physical access to the phone and the phone operating system, which also means that you will need to get past the screen lock, which would mean knowing the PIN Code, lock pattern, which are used these days as a back up to fingerprint or facial recognition access.

Can I put Spy Phone Software on an iPhone?

This is probably our most asked question. The simple answer is that spying on an iPhone is not very easy to achieve, so the availability of spy phone software for iPhones is very limited and NOT something that we offer – we only sell software to monitor Android handsets.

Not only would you need to know the phone’s PIN to install software, but also iPhone operating systems are secure by design and do not allow third party applications to be installed on the handset that are not listed on the Apple App store. Apple have never authorised the listing of a phone software app that would not alert the phone user that they were being monitored.

There is a way to install third party software onto an iPhone, which is by ‘jail-breaking’ the phone. This involves altering the operating system firmware to run in a less secure mode, which can interfere with access to certain apps, such as those used for online banking. There are other issues as a result of jail-breaking. Effectively you will void the phone warranty and Apple will also automatically reset to factory Apple operating system when the phone data is backed up, which will mean that any third party app running on the handset would be deleted.

At Spy Equipment UK it was decided that offering spy software for iPhone presented so many barriers and resultant issues that it was deemed not to be worthwhile.

Will all Spy Phone Features Work on the Latest Android Handsets?

Android operating system 1.0 was offered on general release in 2008 and has since been upgraded regularly. It is now on OS14 with OS15 in the process of being rolled out (as of April 2024). The earlier operating systems are no longer supported by Google as older handsets that featured these versions effectively are no longer in existence or at least not being used anymore.

When we rolled out our Android Ultra spy phone software in 2017, Android phones in general use were using variants of Android 7 and 8 OS. From this point forward our software has been under constant development for changes in features, especially in relation to security updates which progressively restricted the software feature functionality.

In addition to security upgrades to the Android operating system, Android phone manufacturers themselves, to varying degrees, tightened up security on certain phone handset communications. An example of this being that on older Samsung handsets it was possible to record both side of a conversation and there were even many apps that would allow you to do this. However, in recent times it has only been possible to record the handset users side of a phone conversation and there are now no apps available on the Play Store to enable this.

Essentially It has been a game of cat and mouse, where Google has limited access to or sometimes made completely secure communication apps being used on the phone and handset manufacturers have limited software capabilities through their own security upgrades.

The result of all this is that over time certain features of the software will become non-functional, some permanently, because there is no way to circumnavigate the new security protocols and others temporarily until a workaround has been found and implemented. Fortunately our software developers are consistently doing a fantastic job of keeping the most important spy software features alive.

Will the Spy Phone Work When Outside of the United Kingdom or if the SIM Gets Changed?

Some people assume that Android Ultra Spy Phone software is installed onto the SIM card in the phone and if that SIM was changed the software would no longer function. However, the software is actually made to run as part of the the phone’s Android operating system, albeit totally discreetly, in the background and it communicates over the Internet by piggy-backing the WiFi and mobile data connection being used by the phone. This means if the SIM card was changed, the software would still remain on the phone’s operating system, working with the available Internet connectivity.

The availability of a mobile data connection will depend upon the setup of the SIM card operator. Using mobile data in some countries can be very expensive, so if the phone user hasn’t got a SIM contract that includes unlimited data or reasonably priced data package, then they may choose to switch the data roaming off. Of course if the phone user purchases a local SIM card for use whilst in the region, then normally this would get around the data restriction issue.

In the event that the user failed to do either of these things, then as long as the phone was within a useable WiFi range, such as maybe a hotel WiFi provision, then the spy software would still be able to send out communications whilst connected to that WiFi. In the modern world there are more opportunities to log on to free WiFi sources, so the incidence of no Internet availability whatsoever should be less.

It should be borne in mind that should Internet access be patchy then some actions that take place on the phone when there is no connection may not be sent out and therefore be missed, as they are not stored for any length of time on the phone. Having said this, with so many phone transactions taking place when the phone has an Internet connection, there is far less chance of missing that much.

Will the Spy Phone Software Monitor Absolutely Everything on the Installed Phone?

The range of activities that a modern phone can be used for increases year on year. Early mobile (cell) phones were simply used for calls and text messages. However, the advent of phone Internet usage and the speed, capacity and capability of evermore sophisticated handsets, along with increased network connectivity has ensured that modern phones are capable of so many things.

To design a software to cover absolutely every activity conducted on a Smartphone would neither be possible nor would it really be that useful. For example some people use their phones for gaming. To have this monitored, recorded and fed out to a monitoring panel would generally not be useful and would also use far too much data and phone battery that it would negatively impact phone functionality.

In addition there are many different communication programmes that maybe country specific and not in global use. Some communication apps used in Eastern regions of the world are never used in the West, so bearing this in mind, the software has been designed to monitor what the software developers believed are the most commonly used apps. On top of this, it is not easy to monitor all email systems in that are in common use, so again not every one is catered for. The common ones such as Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo are covered , but there is limited access to what can be obtained.

In short, with so many thousand of different phone handsets being made over time, working on different operating systems, the capabilities of what the Android Spy Software on each one will vary, sometimes significantly. We cannot know and certainly have not been able to test the specific monitoring capabilities for each and every case. We recommend contacting us for a free download (active for 24 hours) to ensure that the software will suit your specific needs.


How does GPS tracking work?

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is the original global navigation system that uses a constellation of at least 24 Medium Earth Orbit satellites that transmit precise microwave signals, the system enables a GPS receiver to determine its location, speed, direction, and time. This American military system was originally started in 1973 and for an extended period of time it was the only system of it’s type available. However, over the last few decades other systems have also come online including GLONASS, a Russian system and the European Space Agency system, GNSS. Despite the fact that there are now several different systems, the commonly used phrase used to describe all systems of this type tends to be GPS.

Modern satellite tracking systems more often than not use more than one system for location services and as such are fitted with several different receiving systems to assist in accuracy and response speed. Global satellites are passive, which means they broadcast onto the surface of the Earth, so do not require two-way GPS communication from a device on the surface. The device simply needs to be in a position where it can receive the broadcast signal that is strong enough from a number of satellites to enable a positional calculation.

The tracking device does however need to communicate it’s positional data so that it can be remotely tracked and although there are some large and expensive systems that do use two-way GPS communication to send out this data, the normal method is over the available GSM networks. This is why tracking devices are as a general rule fitted with an active SIM card that either needs to be on a contract with network providers or a prepay SIM card with available credit.

The positional communications sent out are directed to a website platform that configures the data onto mapping systems that generally use Google Maps to show exact easy-to-understand locations. Over time the cataloguing of locational information on the tracking platform can provide historally arranged data to show patterns of movement.

What can cause interference or weaken the signal for a Tracking Device?

Although GPS technology has come a long way since being made publicly available in 1983 there are still limitations and many sources of interference and jamming, both natural and artificial.

The most common cause for GPS failure is due to line of sight, if the unit has little or no direct line of sight to the sky this can cause either weak signal issues or full GPS failure. Most vehicle trackers are mounted beneath the vehicle and as such the unit does not have direct line of sight, however as long as the unit has been able to get a strong fix before being deployed this should not cause too many problems. The actual physical location of the vehicle, can throw up problems, such as if a tracked vehicle has stopped in a heavily built up area, such as narrow alleyways and streets, the GPS broadcast signals will be limited and could be prevented from making a connection with the tracking unit. This can often cause intermittent reporting problems with the unit, particularly from a ‘cold start’ situation when the movement sensor has just activated and the unit is already under strain establishing a firm signal.

Since GPS signals at terrestrial receivers tend to be relatively weak, it is easy for natural sources of electromagnetic radiation to desensitise the receiver, making acquiring and tracking the satellite signals difficult or impossible. Solar flares are one such naturally occurring emission with the potential to degrade GPS reception, and their impact can affect reception over the half of the Earth facing the sun, however due to irregularity of such an occurrence this is unlikely to cause a consistent problem. GPS signals are also subjected to interference from Van Allen Belt radiation when the satellites pass through the South Atlantic Anomaly, this occurs on a regular basis and can last for up to 8 minutes at a time.

Man-made Electromagnetic Interference can also disrupt, or jam, GPS signals. In one well documented case, an entire harbour was unable to receive GPS signals due to unintentional jamming caused by a malfunctioning TV antenna preamplifier. Metallic features in windshields, such as defrosters, can act as a Faraday Cage, degrading reception just inside the car. Intentional jamming is also possible. Generally, stronger signals can interfere with GPS receivers when they are within radio range, or line-of-sight. Although GPS jamming devices are available worldwide they are generally illegal in most countries and extremely easy to detect with specialised signal detectors.

What is the difference between live and historic tracking?

The need to know what is happening now or what has previously occurred or maybe both will determine what is absolutely necessary for your tracking needs. Not all tracking devices are set up to provide both aspects of tracking information.

Live tracking relies on up-to-date positional data being received from a tracking device on a regular basis that enables the receiver to be kept up-to-date of the exact current location of a tracking device and therefore the person or object that it is being used to track. Dependent upon the system being used, the live information can either be requested at that time or live updates are automatically sent out by the tracking device at specific intervals without the requirement for an on-demand request.

An on-demand live location request is generally conducted using a Smartphone where a call or a text message is directed to the SIM number in the tracking device, which triggers the device to respond with its current locational data. This is received on the Smartphone as a text message in the form of a web link, which when opened displays on-screen a pinned location on Google Maps. For tracking systems where live updates are automatically sent out the software sends a new position every 5 to 30 seconds and this information will instantly update the pinned map location. If the pinned location moves from one update to the next then it can be assumed that the tracking device is moving. Generally 5 minutes after the tracking device has stopped moving the tracking software ceases to send any further live locational data, which helps conserve the power source of the tracker.

On-demand tracking devices do not generally have a way of storing and displaying historical positional data. With a dedicated tracking app/website the more sophisticated tracking systems are able to catalogue a large amount of historical data over an extended period of weeks and months which can then be presented in numerous way to enable the user to analyse the positional history in a way that suits their needs. This could be the ability to playback information on a mapping screen, show just the locations where the tracker stopped, the examination of speed data, etc. A racking platform will also have an alert system to notify the user of certain tracker or locational events. As such a dedicated tracking platform can be viewed on both Smartphone and computer, as a website, with secure login. A dedicated tracking system of this type will have an ongoing cost, usually in the form of an annual fee.

Are there any invisible tracking devices?

When people ask this question they generally mean that they are interested in knowing about tracking devices that are hidden or not easily spotted by the naked eye.

Satellite tracking devices (GPS) need a power source to enable them to feed out positional information over the cellphone network and process locational data from many satellites overhead. When fitted to a vehicle on a permanent basis then the power is drawn from the vehicle’s own battery, which means that the tracking device module can be generally completely hidden from view. However, popular stand alone trackers that are temporarily deployed require their own power source, which invariably is a Lithium battery pack.

Whilst micropchip and PCB technology, including antennas can now be made extremely small, the size of the battery required to power the tracking device for a useful length of time is the factor that will bloat the overall dimensions. And the longer the battery life required, the bigger the resulting product. Small asset trackers are compact, but in plain view are clearly obvious, yet still giving a maximum deploymemnt time of say three days, whereas magnetic vehicle trackers need a much larger rechargeable battery pack, which will increase dimensions drastically whilst providing a realistic deployment time of between three and six weeks.

So, when it comes down to invisibility these devices would seriously attract attention in plain view, however they do rely on them being hidden during the deployment. The asset trackers being more compact dimensionally can be tucked into a bag or secreted into a box or slotted into a thin void of whatever is being tracked to effectively make them invisible. In the case of a magnetic vehicle tracker, the fact that they can be attached to the underside of a vehicle in a position that is away from normal line of sight, again rendering them invisible when the vehicle is being used.

Effectively a tracking device can never be invisible in the purest sense of the word because of physical size. However, there is one type of tracking system that would be regarded as invisible and this takes the form of specialist software that can be hidden into the operating system of of a smartphone, using the phone’s own battery, mapping system and battery to enable its use as a secret tracking App. Not all Smartphones will accept surveillance tracking Apps, but those that can be programmed in this way will leave the phone user oblivious.

Can Air Tags or Other Bluetooth Tags be Used as Tracking Devices?

This has become a fairly regular question in recent times. Tags and Bluetooth location devices are not designed with GPS capability, have no location service. They are simply a bluetooth beacon with a unique ID code. They are setup by pairing with the users phone adding to their personal account. When in bluetooth range the Tag will show as connected and will give the user the option to make it ring (good when tag is attached to something like keys). When out of range the tag will show where linked phone last was when it was connected.

The tag can also update location if a compatible phone, with the tag app on, gets within bluetooth range – if say it’s an Air Tag, then any iPhone, bluetooth and location service on and Internet connected. Other types of tag such as a Tile Tag, the same principles apply, ie correct type of phone, etc. The passing phone used to connect to the Tags is used as the communication conduit and therefore as a rule will not be notified.

When theft mode is activated (Item tag is attached to is lost/stolen), the user can activate theft mode on the app. The benefits are that the user will be notified of updated locations and when the user is within bluetooth range of the tag.

There are however anti-surveillance restrictions built into the system as bluetooth tags were never designed as surveillance trackers. So, the creators have designed them to alert a person whose phone is being used as a communication conduit if it appears the tag is following them around for some time. When this happens, not only will the person with the alerted phone know that there is a tag close by, but also it will then allow them to call the tag to enable its easy discovery. This means that if a tag was used for example to surveil an individual by using their phone as the communication tool, then they would soon discover its presence.

Other limitations are that without a compatible within range phone the tag will not be able to update locations, so for example using a tag to track a car would not prove fruitful as it is unlikely that the tag would be able to connect by bluetooth to passing/nearby vehicles to allow updated locational data to be reported. Using a tag may seem like a cheap alternative tracking solution, but in the real world they simply are not capable of being used as a surveillance tool.

Can I Track a Mobile (Cell) Phone

Quite ofte we are asked whether it is possible to put a tracking device inside a Smartphone, which is based on the assumption that if you can gain access to the inside of a phone, there would be enough space to conceal some GPS based technology. In reality there has never been space within a cellphone to accept an additional tracking chip. What’s more is that modern Smartphones more often than not cannot be easily opened up and certainly free space within is completely unavailable. As a result this leaves only one solution to allow locational tracking, this being specialist software that utilises the phones inbuilt systems.

Software can be designed for installation onto the phone operating system, using the inbuilt GPS chipset to log locational data and the phone’s Internet connectvity to report a regular intervals the positional information. The capabilities are limited by the need to have location data switched on, the battery use capabilities and the limitations of some operating systems to accept a third party software that will secretly run in the backgound.