After a weekend of protests against police brutality that spawned even more police brutality, there’s no wonder that police scanning apps are on the rise in the app store rankings. According to app analytics firm Apptopia, the top five police scanner apps were downloaded 213,000 times over the weekend alone.
Now, we can’t tell you if those are concerned citizens, protestors, journalists, or other users of the apps. What we can tell you is that if you’re a peaceful protestor, knowing where heavy police presence is situated, or where fighting is going on, is going to keep you safer than if you find yourself in those hotspots. Knowing where to avoid is important, as the heavily-militarized police departments nationwide have been breaking out their hardware to quell these protests.
Oh, and a quick word on legality before we go further. Zipscanners says that there are no federal laws against scanners, as “Airwaves in the U.S. are public property and information sent over them does not presume privacy which was established in the 1934 Communications Act.” The only exceptions to this are the bands that cellular telephones use, and some military bands (both of these exceptions will be blocked in any scanner app).
There are some state laws against using scanners while driving or “in furtherance of a crime” so read up on these to see if they apply to your state.
Here are the top-ranking police scanner apps on both app stores
5-0 Radio Police Scanner
5-0 Radio Police Scanner is still the number one app in the Utilities category on the App Store, and it’s number six overall. It bills itself as “the largest collection of live police, firefighter, aircraft, railroad, emergency, news, and ham radios, and while we can’t verify that claim, it’s true that its got a slick interface, and feeds from countries across the globe.
The app has pre-sorted lists of the top 100 most listened to, so those are probably the easiest way to get to the feed you want, depending on if you’re in one of the major metro areas that are experiencing heavy protestor presence right now. You don’t need to pay to download or use the app, but there’s an in-app payment if you want to remove ads, add more feeds or use any features you can’t see on first use.
Scanner Radio Pro – Fire and Police Scanner
Scanner Radio Pro is currently the second-most-downloaded paid app from the Google Play Store. For $2.99, you get access to over 7,000 fire and police scanners, weather radio, amateur radio, air traffic control, and marine radios from across the planet. You can also turn on notifications once a feed has over 2,000 listeners and get real-time news broadcasts as things develop. That’s pretty cool.
The app also has home-screen widgets for easy access, it supports Android Audio (although be careful using it when driving depending on your state), and there is a list of the top 50 most active scanners to easily find the one you’re after.
Police Scanner Radio and Fire
Also on Android, Police Scanner is the next-most downloaded scanner app, charting at number 27. It’s free to use, with a minor in-app purchase that probably removes ads and access to over 6,500 scanners from around the world.
One thing this app has that I’ve not seen on others is an in-app alphabet for police, fire, and emergency codes. That’ll help you decipher the shorthand used in the broadcasts, and is a welcome addition without having to Google anything you hear.
Police Scanner Radio & Fire
The iOS version of the last app, Police Scanner Radio & Fire is sitting at number three in the News category currently. It’s pretty much the same app as the Android version, with the addition of CarPlay support (again, the same warning about using this while driving applies depending on your state).
You can set it up to give you alerts on multiple events, such as when a scanner hits a certain number of listeners, and you can sort scanners based on their distance to your location. As with all the other apps, it can access thousands of scanners from public safety to air traffic to railroad and more.
Charting at number 33 on the overall iOS paid chart, Broadcastify Pro is one of the best scanner apps around. The Broadcastify network is used by many of the other apps on the market, so why go there when you could go to the original? It’s got 6,500+ scanner feeds, searches by name, and location feeds near your location and the ability to favorite scanners once you’ve found one that’s of use to you.
There are also real-time push notifications for major incidents, listings for feeds that show top 25 feeds, news feeds, and other alerts, and speedy feed loading times.