Whether you're getting off scanner apps and looking for a scanner, or you're trying to decide if a scanner will do more for you than a free or low-cost phone app...
We're here with our handy dandy yellow legal pad to weigh the pros and cons right there with you!
With apps and streams, you can listen to basic police dispatch and car-to-car frequencies, along with some Fire/EMS. If you're looking to listen to any other agency or a specific tac channels there really isn't much out there.
Still, you wanna try it out, see what you're able to pick up, see what you could listen to if you were to spring for a physical scanner.
These apps and streams make for good stepping stones into the scanner hobby and some of them don't cost you a dime! (Sounds too good to be true, right?)
Well, it probably is.
All of the Tech Talk surrounding scanning can be a bit overwhelming, though, especially if you’re new.
That's why we created this guide to give you all the information you need to scanner.
This guide covers the following:
There are innumerable free scanner apps available for both iOS iPhone and Android/Google phones. Choosing one to test out might be a small task, but we're here to make it that much easier.
Now, free is free, but as you would expect, you're not going to have a lot of scanning options.
You'll be able to pick up a few dispatch, car-to-car, and the occasional tac channels if you're in a large metro area. Not much else, sadly.
BUT, you're just playing around in the App Store and a quick and FREE app meets your immediate needs.
Here are a few free scanner apps that we've found, uh, work pretty OK:
- Police Scanner Radio & Fire - iOS
- 5-0 Radio Police Scanner - iOS
- Police Scanner 5-0 (FREE) - Google Play
- Police Scanner FREE - Google Play
In this next chapter we'll show you the paid versions of these apps. These paid apps offer more channels, and in some cases, archives of past transmissions.
So you've tried out some free scanner apps and you want MORE.
Well, we've compiled a list of quality paid scanner apps for you to peruse.
Most paid police scanner apps are "Pro" versions of otherwise free apps, like the ones we listed in the previous chapter.
Below are the top 5 (in no particular order) paid police scanner apps for both iOS and Android.
iOS apps from Apple—available for iPhones:
Android apps from Google Play—available for Android/Google phones:
**Full access to up to 180 days of archives for Broadcastify Premium Subscribers (Broadcastify Premium subscription required ($15 / 6 months))
There are several places online where you can find free feeds of police, fire, and EMS communication, but the best one is Broadcastify.
While online feeds and apps have opened up scanning to a whole new generation, there are several limitations to them including:
- Online feeds are just streams from other people’s scanners, so you are reliant on them to keep their feed up.
- In an emergency, these feeds can and have been taken down (this happened during the Boston Marathon bombing).
- Many agencies outside of police, fire, and EMS cannot be scanned; there are little to no feeds for them
- Finding smaller channels outside of dispatch, car-to-car, and the rare open tactical channels is difficult. If you aren't in a top 5 metro area, there probably isn't a channel for the agency you're looking to monitor.
Short answer: apps and streams won't get you nearly as far as a scanner.
Depending on your area, there may not be anything related to your local emergency response agencies available to monitor on an app or stream.
With streams and apps, you are listening to a feed of a scanner, just someone else's. So, in turn, you're relying on someone else to keep their feed up and running smoothly.
Apps and streams are obviously more cost-effective, yes, but you're missing out on worlds of information without a physical scanner.
Apps and streams may seem more convenient, but the feeds are delayed and often unreliable in tactical situations.
What is the Best Police Scanner App?
5-0 Radio Police Scanner is still the number one app in the Utilities category on the iOS 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"
We can’t verify their claim, but it does have a slick interface, and feeds from countries across the globe.
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.
What is the Best Police Scanner...Scanner?
All around digital and analog - We recommend the Uniden SDS100.
Analog only - We recommend the Uniden SR30C.
Is Citizen a Scanner App?
Technically no, it's more of an incident tracker than it is a scanner app.
Citizen will let you know what has already happened in your area rather than what *is* happening in your area.
Disclaimer: it can be unsettling to know how close the incident happened to where you are currently standing.
Police Scanner Apps & Streams Wrap-Up
Scanning, even in app/stream form, can be stupid straight forward or crazy convoluted.
The answers you need can fall anywhere in between those two extremes.
You've torn apart this guide and still can't find an answer to your question(s)?
Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org