How to Find Hidden Apps on Android

Find out what your teens have been doing on their phones

A teenage girl hiding apps on her Android smartphone.

Tim Robbins/Mint Images RF

Very few people prominently display every app they use on the front home screen of their Android smartphone or tablet. Sometimes apps are moved to help clean up the home screen while other times they might need to be hidden due to their embarrassing subject matter.

Hidden apps on Android phones aren't generally something to worry about but when it comes to managing a son's, daughter's, or student's device, it's important to know exactly which applications they have installed and how they're using them.

Here are the easiest and most-efficient ways to find hidden apps on an Android tablet or phone.

Understanding Android Folders and Screens

Like most smartphones and tablets, Android devices feature a home screen that extends horizontally beyond what you can first see when you turn them on. These other parts of the home screen are used by many users to sort apps and widgets into groups and also hide certain apps from prying eyes.

To view all sections of the home screen on an Android device, simply swipe your finger from right to left.

There may be more than one additional screen so continue to swipe left until the visible icons are unable to move any further.

Another basic way to hide apps on Android is to place them within a folder. Folders are visible on the home screen and look like a collection of four small app icons. Simply tap on the folder to open it and view the apps.

How to Find Hidden Apps in the App Drawer

Viewing apps on the Android home screen is a good start but this still won't show you every app installed on an Android device. To see the complete app list of installed apps, you'll need to open the app drawer by tapping on the icon in the lower-middle of the screen that looks like a circle with six dots in it.

After tapping on this icon, a full list should appear with all of the installed apps sorted alphabetically. This should show you most of the apps on the Android device but there may still be some hidden. To show these hidden apps, do the following.

Screencaps showing how to find all apps on Android.
  1. From the app drawer, tap on the three dots in the top-right corner of the screen.

  2. Tap on Hide apps.

  3. You will now be shown a list of any apps the user has chosen to hide from the app list on the previous screen. If this screen is blank or the Hide apps option is missing, it means that no apps have been hidden.

How to Find Hidden Apps in Settings

A full app list can also be accessed from within the Settings app. The Settings app can be opened by tapping on its icon that looks like a gear. From within Settings, tap on Apps & notifications and then See all apps.

Screencaps showing how to find Android apps in Settings.

The app list within Settings can also display system files and apps which are used to make the Android operating system run correctly. These can be shown by tapping on the three dots in the top-right corner and tapping on Show system.

Check for Android Trick Apps

Unfortunately, just looking at an app's icon and name may not be enough to tell what's really happening on an Android phone or tablet as there are numerous apps in the Google Play app store that look like one sort of app but are designed to hide images, videos, and other data.

One of the most-popular examples is the Smart Hide Calculator app that looks, and even works, like a basic calculator app but is in fact a file storage application. The calculator UI is fully functional but, when a user types in their PIN code, it unlocks and reveals its true purpose.

To double-check the true identity of any Android app, do the following.

Screencaps of an Android app information screen and Google Play app listing.
  1. Press on an app's icon until a small menu pops up.

  2. You should see a small i in a circle next to a pencil. Tap on the i.

  3. You will be shown a page detailing everything about the app from its storage size to its permissions. Tap on App details.

  4. You will now be taken to the app's product page in the Google Play app store where you can read official information about it including reviews by other users.

Don't Forget About Web Apps

More and more companies are adding full app functionality to their websites which means that users no longer have to download and install an app to access it. Instagram is one example of a functional web app that can be used in a web browser such as Chrome, Edge, or Firefox. Tinder is another.

To check if a user has been accessing a specific site, you can open the web browser apps on their Android smartphone or tablet and check its browser history. Browser history can be deleted in most browsers though so this isn't a foolproof way of finding out what websites have been visited.