There are many decent police scanner apps on the Android Play Store as well as the Apple App Store. Some even come as standalone executables from third-party websites on the internet but aren’t 100% safe, so we’ll skip that front.

Using a police scanner fulfills many purposes:

Getting the lowdown on crime in your area;
Listening in on frequencies ranging from fire department broadcasts to municipality public works department information; and
listening to channels on aircraft radio traffic, weather update broadcasts, and so on, becoming an absolute real-life Wikipedia on your immediate surroundings and happenings – or just another hobbyist that uses a police scanner or a radio frequency scanner for fun.

Do police scanner apps really work? How?

A police scanner app works. It works thanks to the radio feeds (could be police, rescue, weather, fire, etc.) that are captured through a receiver somewhere else and transmitted to your phone over regular internet. These feeds are pre-programmed into the app.

Many advanced features have also been added on top of the regular functionality of a police scanner app over the past few years. These include the feature to get your location by GPS and assorting the relevant feeds based on distance, having the power to tune-in to international feeds, and so on.

Are police scanner apps illegal?

The app doesn’t turn your phone into a scanner. The feeds are received elsewhere, the receiving tech might not even be in the same area as you. They are broadcast over the internet. Old laws can’t really compensate for these technological advancements.

Nevertheless, unlawful use of a police radio is a misdemeanor. But it’s sort of a gray area. You see, if you’re breaking the law like this getaway driver in Muncie, Indiana who fled the stickup scene as soon as he listened to the police feed on his Android app, then you can be charged heavily. If not, it might be okay.

Further, there are separate laws in separate states. Let’s have an overview:

Having a police scanner with you is legal. Planning on leaving your home with your police scanner? Things turn out to be a pickle here.
Indiana, Kentucky, Florida, Minnesota, and New York require you to get a ham radio license (a license from the FCC) or written permission from the local police with a reason to use a police scanner outside.
Oklahoma, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, California, Michigan, and New Jersey are quite ambiguous with the details but make sure it’s illegal to use a scanner in the case of a related crime.
Mounted police scanners are banned in certain states, no matter the nature of your work, but surely you’re not thinking of mounting your phone.
Even with all that, it’s a gray area. You can be charged in certain situations and not charged in others – it depends on the specific usage. In a nutshell, don’t do anything fishy with your police scanner app up for display. 

What are some of the best police scanner apps?

Make your choice between these:

1. 5-0 Radio Police Scanner
2. Broadcastify
3. Scanner Radio
4. Police Scanner
5. iScanner
6. Police Scanner X
7. PoliceStream
8. Scanner 911

Major drawbacks with police scanner apps

Slow or no internet can impact your experience.

You might have guessed that the police scanner apps category is not the hottest category on the app stores. As a natural result, these apps receive fewer updates and the category receives even fewer new releases. In fact, in certain cases, you might have to wait for a year to receive an app update, which simply sucks.

Furthermore, just like any other app on a smartphone, a police scanner app is also limited by your phone’s memory, battery, and RAM. Long story short – an app is fairly less reliable than a dedicate police scanner device.

Smartphone ergonomics and user interactions aren’t designed keeping quick usage during driving in mind. So, if you’re like me, you’ll need to pop out your phone many times during a drive to check the app, which can be a huge hassle, not to mention the kind of gigantic risk it builds up to be. A suction cup mount can be helpful here – but that’s an additional purchase that many of you might not be willing to make.