Keep your ear to the streets with the best police scanner apps

best police scanner apps
federicofoto / 123RF
A pop, then a crackle. “Eleven-06?” a woman asks through the static. A man replies, describing a man in a North Face jacket. Some garbled chatter and another woman joins in, relaying a witness’ account of a hooded man trying to break into a closed school. The dialogue unfolding seems like the chatter found in a cop show, but it is actually happening, traveling from a radio in Chicago to a pair of headphones on the West Coast. Police scanners have long been a tool for journalists and curious hobbyists to listen in to the daily work of police officers. In the past, they required a more complicated radio setup for a smartphone. Today, all one needs is the right app.

Although some police departments have moved away from radio broadcasts, plenty still use classic, eavesdrop-worthy communications. There are numerous apps on the market today that allow anyone with a smartphone to listen to police communications not only nearby, but anywhere. Below are our picks for the best police scanner apps, so you can tune in to all the happenings in law enforcement, whether in your hometown or elsewhere. Just don’t expect the utmost quality when it comes to design.

Did you land here looking for police radar detectors? Here are our picks for the best radar detectors you can buy.

Scanner Radio

Probably the best police scanner app available, Scanner Radio, allows users to browse a variety of channels worldwide, including Broadcastify’s archives. Streaming quality seems variable; channels in the New York area frequently dropped, while those from Chicago seemed stable. The app also happens to break down codes and jargon for various departments, and unlike many of the free scanners on the market, it sports a clean and stylish interface. The only knock against it is the presence of semifrequent ads.

Google iTunes

Broadcastify

Broadcastify offers a huge number of global channels for users to listen to, each sorted by country and metro area. The app’s UI is clean and easy to read, although the media player is ugly, with bulky buttons. Channels tend to be stable, including those that focus on fire and EMS services, and users can even search for channels near their location. The free version of Broadcastify includes ads, but they’re not too obtrusive. Nonetheless, the paid version ($2) removes the ads entirely.

Google iTunes

Police Scanner 5-0

Police Scanner 5-0 won’t win any beauty contests, but it is a functional app that offers a variety of channels, both local and otherwise. The app also includes a host of information regarding police codes, and the accompanying streams are quick to load and rarely cut out. The biggest drawback for Police Scanner 5-0, however, is its appearance. The buttons are overly large, and while the coloring and fonts are fine, the frequent ads and upgrade offers strewn throughout the free version of the app can be off-putting. If functionality is all you care about, though, this app will suffice.

Google iTunes

Scanner 911

Scanner 911 has a clean, professional look that makes it easy to navigate. Sound quality is generally good, and if problems arise, the app also features numerous options to adjust the audio settings. Although Scanner 911 has ads, it wisely keeps them small, preserving its minimalist design. Really, the only problem with Scanner 911 is that it only seems to lack the wide net of channels that Broadcastify casts.

Google

Why stop here? Take a look at our extensive list of the best apps for Android and the best apps for iPhone for 2018.

Update: We’ve made it easier to find related articles by adding a few useful links.

Mobile

Scientists wreck a smartphone in a blender, but not just for fun

It’s oddly mesmerizing to watch a smartphone get torn apart inside a blender. Researchers recently did just that in a bid to find out which materials make up a handset, and also to encourage people to think more about recycling.
Mobile

More than a screenshot: How to record the screen on an Android device

If you've ever want to record video of your Android screen, there are plenty of apps that can help. Here's an easy guide on how to record the screen on an Android device with the right settings and apps.
Computing

Worried about your online privacy? We tested the best VPN services

Browsing the web can be less secure than most users would hope. If that concerns you, a virtual private network — aka a VPN — is a decent solution. Check out a few of the best VPN services on the market.
Mobile

24 must-have apps for rooted Android phones and tablets

Rooting your Android device opens up a world of possibilities, along with a few apps. Here are 24 of our favorites, so you can make the most of your rooted device and unleash the true power of Android.
Deals

From Air to Pro, here are the best MacBook deals for March 2019

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.
Movies & TV

Apple’s next big event is minutes away: Here’s what you can expect

Apple's next big event takes place on March 25 in Cupertino, California. The company is expected to make several announcements related to its services, including Apple TV, so follow our guide to get ready for the big event.
Wearables

This $76,000 Grand Seiko watch has something in common with a plug-in hybrid car

How can a watch that costs $76,000 possibly have anything in a common with any car, let alone a plug-in hybrid? It's all about the complex, technically incredible Spring Drive movement inside this Grand Seiko watch.
Deals

The excellent Apple iPad gets even deeper price cuts on Amazon

The humble iPad from 2018 is still one of the best tablets around -- and a solid choice for most people. Amazon has seen some great price drops for these tablets recently, and now you can own an iPad for even less than before.
Apple

Apple March 2019 Event Coverage

Apple’s next event will take place March 25 at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California at 10 a.m. PT. We’ve got a handy guide on how to watch, but don’t expect to see any new iPads, iMacs, or AirPods at the show, all of…
Product Review

Want to see how powerful the Snapdragon 855 chip is? Just rev up the Xiaomi Mi 9

How fast do you want to go? If the answer to this is “as fast as possible,” then take a long look at the Xiaomi Mi 9. It’s one of the highest performance smartphones you can buy. It’s a real monster, and we’ve been using it.
Mobile

Apple Card is a credit card you can sign up for and start using with your iPhone

Apple is getting into the credit card business. Apple Card is a credit card you can sign up for directly on your iPhone, and it doesn't have fees. There's a lower interest rate and you can even get Daily Cash from all purchases.
Gaming

Apple Arcade might be the new game subscription service worth signing up for

Apple Arcade will launch this fall bringing a new game-subscription service with cross-platform support for iOS, Mac, and Apple TV. At launch, the service will feature more than 100 exclusive games, with more added to the service regularly.
Mobile

Check out 22 of the best iPhone 7 cases and covers for your shiny new phone

The iPhone 7 might be attractive, but it’s not rugged. To keep your device in pristine condition, you really need to think about proper protection. That's why we've rounded up some of the best iPhone 7 cases and covers available.
Mobile

Apple's iOS 12.2 brings support for Apple News Plus and new AirPlay 2 features

After months of betas, the final version of iOS 12 is here to download. The latest OS comes along with tons of new capabilities, from grouped notifications to Siri Shortcuts. Here are all the features you'll find in iOS 12.