You don’t need to be a rookie burglar trying to live out GTA heist fantasies to take an interest in police scanner apps. These let you tune in to police scanner radio feeds of your local police, fire and other vital departments, putting you (almost) live in on the action as these services go about their vital work.
We say “almost” because for obvious security reasons there’s usually a delay between the original broadcast and what you receive in the app. It’s not great for criminals, but enthusiasts and reporters should appreciate it!
1. 5-0 Radio Police Scanner
This iPhone app is possibly the most polished police scanner out there, giving some credence to the view that the App Store is far more selective about what it allows into its hallowed halls than the Play Store.
5-0 Radio Police Scanner lets you set up alerts and listen to feeds in the background while using other apps. It’s focused around feeds in the US, Canada and Australia, but really you can listen to live feeds worldwide. You can see the exact location of broadcasts and even chat with other listeners on the same broadcasts as you, creating a cool, covert little community.
The daddy of all broadcasting and police scanner apps, Broadcastify has access to “over 6000” broadcasts from numerous official and unofficial sources, including police, fire, shipping, aviation and amateur radio. Its Material Design-inspired interface makes it instantly familiar to use, with a search function, the option to use your location to find your closest feeds, and a Favorites list so you can quickly jump into the feeds most important to you.
One of the best features, however, is the option to set up Push notifications for specific radio stations, so if any major incidents occur on them, you’ll be informed right away. This is the most complete police scanner app out there.
3. Scanner Radio
The most popular option on the Play Store actually draws its streams from Broadcastify, which effectively translates to one of the biggest repositories of police and other streams on the Internet. Likewise, any breaking news and push notifications you get will be beamed over from Broadcastify.
Beyond that, Scanner Radio does its own thing. As well as the usual perks of letting you save favorites and look for scanners near you, one of its better features is Android Auto support, which means you can listen to police radio while on the move. Just don’t go driving around town trying to get to crime scenes before the police, okay?
4. Police Scanner X
Police Scanner X tunes in to many of the biggest police precinct radios all around the U.S. and features a table of 10-codes so you can decipher the cryptic, codified language used by the police during communication. You can set your favorite police streams to tune into quickly and can also auto-resume the last one you were listening to. It’s pretty minimal beyond that, but it’s quite possibly all you need.
Between all of the above apps, you should have everything you need to scan police, fire brigade, or amateur ham radio wherever you want. For more phone-based tinkering, check out our list of the hacking apps for Android. Also, see this trick for running iOS apps on Android.