You don’t need to be Bond to get your own spy gadgets. You’ve already got the ultimate spy tool in your pocket: a smartphone. And who would suspect you’re spying when you’re probably just texting a friend? Here are the apps and peripherals you need to take your phone on a covert mission without Q in your corner.
Eavesdropping used to mean carrying around a purpose-built recording device. If someone spotted it, the jig was probably up! But with a smartphone audio recording app and gigabytes of storage, your phone could theoretically record everything within earshot all day long. Just make sure you know the law. I use Talk-a-Tape Audio Recorder to make sure I don’t miss great quotes in interviews (but I ask people first).
But maybe you can’t get close enough to your mar to eavesdrop just by being a dude or dudette on a smartphone? Put on some headphones too. EarSpy is an Android app that routes the audio from your phone’s mic straight to your headset—so you can hear everything around you while remaining that much more inconspicuous. If you’re particularly daring, leave your phone near the mark and use a Bluetooth headset to listen in.
And if you don’t want to risk your smartphone but still need to get wireless ears on the target, SoundHawk is a smartphone-assisted hearing aid that comes with a wireless microphone you can leave nearby. If they catch you, just explain that you’re hard of hearing. Hell, use your phone to pull up the company’s website.
If you want to covertly snap a photo or video, your smartphone’s a fantastic tool… except many smartphone cameras make an obvious sound, and the extra-large viewfinders mean you won’t be fooling others around you. Mobile Hidden Camera for Android is about as stealthy as it gets. The app lets you take pictures from a totally blank screen, or even inside a fully-functioning notepad app. And get this: if you type a designated kill word into the notepad app, it’ll immediately erase all the photos and videos you’ve taken. We’ve also seen other hidden camera apps that can take pictures when you whistle, or when they detect motion.
Slow Motion Video
You’ll have to figure out how to hide this one yourself, but some recent phones (including the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus) let you capture ultra high-speed video and slow it down for buttery smooth playback. Which means that nobody in the world can type a password into a device fast enough that you can’t follow their fingers.
FLIR One / Seek Thermal
There are so many reasons a good spy might need a thermal camera attachment for their smartphone, but one immediately comes to mind: keypads. When you’re trying to infiltrate a facility, wait for someone to punch in the code—then look for the residual heat left by their fingers. Assuming they don’t wear gloves.
Ryobi Inspection Scope
You’re inside the facility. Now what? Don’t get caught! Peek around every corner, look under every door, with this $100 Inspection Scope from Ryobi. Just one of a collection of snap-on smartphone tools recently introduced by the company.
GammaPix Radiation Detector
Depending on what kind of facility you’ll be infiltrating, it might not hurt to check your radiation levels. Believe it or not, you can do that with this app and your smartphone’s camera. Even the US military is using it.
iPin Laser Pointer
Time to signal for backup. What do you use? How about a laser pointer so small it can fit into your iPhone’s headset jack? It doubles as a distraction tool or a way to send Morse code messages. Alternatively, there are a number of apps that can use your smartphone flash to send Morse code, too.
Your target is leaving the building. How to track them? If you were brazen enough to slip your smartphone into their pocket—or car—that phone can double as a GPS tracker. Not only will Apple’s Find My iPhone and Google’s Android Device Manager tell you where your devices are, they’ll let you remotely wipe your sensitive data in case you get compromised.
Smartphone Spy Lens
Sometimes, you can’t point your smartphone directly at your mark. Or maybe you want to see around corners in a hurry. This magnetically-attached rotating periscope lens is a steal for $20 from PhotoJojo.
Wickr Top Secret Messenger
Once you’ve got the intel, how do you safely send it back to base? Nothing’s foolproof, but Wickr’s messaging app sure sounds like it’s got the right features for amateur spying. Military-grade encryption, self-destructing messages, and an anti-screencap design means your sent snapshots will probably stay for-your-eyes-only.
The perfect disguise: a camera that looks just like an inhaler. Don’t laugh too much. The HTC Re wirelessly beams a live view to your smartphone, which you can now broadcast live on YouTube as well. Give your spy chief an instant appraisal of any situation, then cough, stick it in your mouth, and pretend to puff.
No, not this one. But sometimes you’d like to get a little closer to your subject, or get a slightly wider angle, or maybe even magnify some trace substances if you’re also playing detective. The glass you need is out there.
Your Smartphone’s Web Browser
No, really. Don’t forget about the internet. Because information is power.