When I was a kid, my cousin had a Citizen’s Band (CB) Radio, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever! He’d listen to truckers and police radios to see what was going on in town and did I mention how cool it was? Anyway, CB Radios went out of style a while ago but thanks to smartphones, their spirit lives on through the apps!
While there are many alternatives out there, today we’re going to look at Police Scanner 5-0 which gets feeds of police scanners from all around the world, to see how it measures up.
This type of app wouldn’t be very valuable if the selection of police scanners to listen to wasn’t very good. Luckily, Police Scanner 5-0 offers over 3,300 stations from all over the USA alone. There are also a few hundred from around the world — including Canada, Australia, Chile, and the UK.
To listen to a station, select your country, local region or state, and pick a station from the list. One thing I wish the app had is search as scrolling through the different lists is pretty cumbersome at times.
While listening to a station, you can favorite it as well as “share” it, which amounts only to emailing a link to someone. This button is a little deceiving because the universal Share icon is used, but it doesn’t fire Android’s built-in Share intent, it just launches GMail. Further, if you hit the back button, you’re taken to the home screen, not back to the app. But to be fair, this may be due to a quirk in Android, and not the app itself.
Police Scanner 5-0 offers a couple of cool ways to discover stations: Hot and Near Me. As the names suggest, Hot will give you a list of the stations with the most listeners whereas Near Me will grab stations from organizations closest to you. From what I can see, this feature is surprisingly accurate — nice work by the developers there!
However, it would be cool to see this implemented when you first load the app. Right now, the default station is a Chicago-based one. I’d like to see the default station be the one closest to the user, with Chicago being used as a fallback if the app can’t get an accurate location.
Police Scanner 5-0 has a couple of other interesting features besides those related to listening to emergency radio transmissions. The app has educational sections under CB Lingo. Some examples are ’10 Codes’ and ‘People and Equipment’ .
Anyone in the USA at least knows 10-4 means ‘message received’. We’ve heard that one used countless times from friends and in pop culture; but did you know that there is a 10-5 code, a 10-9, and many others? This app has a list of all of them for your convenience, and you can reference them while you’re listening.
The same goes for other CB lingo. I always knew people on CB had their own codes and language but never really looked beyond that. This app has a list of terms that you might hear. For example, and as you can see in the screenshot, the term for ‘police officer’ is ‘Bear’ and the analogy sticks for other police-related things. As someone born and raised in New York, I find it a bit funny that New Jersey is referred to as ‘Armpit’ — sorry, Jersey friends.
I know both the codes and lingo work for the United States, but I’m not sure if they apply Internationally.
Ups and Downs
Aside from what I think is a reasonable user interface, especially because it fits the metaphor of a CB radio, the developers added a few niceties. For example, they are pulling feeds from a separate source so you don’t need to update the app every time there is a new feed. I know this seems trivial, but it’s a nice convenience, especially if they update often — and considering there are about 1,000 more stations than what’s noted on the app’s page, I’d say they do. You can also listen to stations in the background without having to keep the app open. You’d think this is a no-brainer, but unfortunately I’ve seen a lot of developers who forget to implement this.
Nonetheless, I do have one big complaint. On the free version, the audio stops every ~30 seconds to remind you that you are using the free version. You need to press a button in the app to resume listening. This makes Police Scanner 5-0 nearly unusable if you plan on just idly listening for a while. I understand the app needs to make money, but this can get pretty annoying after a while. If the developers wanted to recoup some money from the free version, I’d strongly recommend ads as they would be considerably less intrusive.
I have a lot of good things to say about Police Scanner 5-0, and then at least one pretty bad comment. This is still the best scanner app I’ve used. Others I’ve tried in the past didn’t maintain connections for long and the feeds came in fuzzy. By comparison, Police Scanner 5-0 offers a good interface with nice features.
While I didn’t use the paid version, my assumption is that you won’t get bothered to upgrade, and I based my rating on that fact and the break offs that ensue. However, if you’re looking for some uninterrupted entertainment or a constant heads-up on what’s going on near you, I believe the paid version is actually worth the $1.99.