Weekly iPhone App Recommendation: 5-0 Radio Pro Scanner
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Ever like to listen in on a police pullover right near your house? The cops are parked in your neighbor’s driveway and your curiosity really starts setting in. Or you see an ambulance in the distance and you say to yourself, “I wonder what’s going on over there?” Admit it, you’ve done it as much as I have. If you’re like me, you don’t have one of those fancy, expensive scanners that picks up the world, but you’d sure like to have one. There are numerous fire/police/EMS scanner apps available through the iTunes stores, but 5-0 Radio Pro Scanner really fits the bill.
The opening screen nicely lays your options out for you. You can browse the scanner feeds, scroll through the top 100 feeds, along with several other options for regular radio feeds. The feeds you have access to are global, from the US to Canada, Australia to the UK, some 35,000 in all. Select your country, then select a state or region/province. Let’s say you’re living in Kentucky (just go with it) and you hear of something huge happening in New York. Or you hear about a car chase in California (Home of the High Speed Persuit). It’s a couple of easy screen taps to get to the police or fire department where all the action’s at. The screen itself for each feed mimics a scanner, with the name of the feed, amount of time you’ve been listening, the size of the stream, and the amount of listeners. There’s also a code guide that fills you in on what the various codes mean, that way you’ll know more beyond the standard “10-4.” You can even chat about what’s going on during a particular stream via twitter. The gold in the app is the ability to play the scanner stream in the background while you’re using other apps.
One thing to keep in mind is that many areas simply aren’t that active as others, leaving a ton of dead air. It won’t make too much sense to sneak a listen on a scanner where the most activity is the fire department getting a cat from a tree. On the flip side, there are some scanners that are extremely active. Depending on the day and time, some seem to go non stop, and that’s where the thing pays for itself. Listen in on the Essex County, New Jersey (Newark) police scanner on a Saturday evening, and it’s a constant stream of activity (one Saturday evening wound up being less than thirty seconds from one call to the next, with police dispatched to various residences). If you’re wondering where some of the better feeds are, tap the main screen for the top 100 feeds. They’re all active and at times, kind of like watching a good episode of COPS, highly entertaining. As eye rolling as it can be, it’s also enough to make you want to stay indoors for the rest of your life.
You also have a set of radio station and internet music streams. It’s the slight oddball part that deviates from the entire purpose of the app, however it’s still a welcome feature. That section is broken down by genre and there’s a lot here from decades to gdradio.net. There are genres of music I’ve never even heard before (Romantica and Romantico?). There are various ethnic-based radio stations, AM radio stations, a Beatles radio section (which is really cool). Even Howard Stern’s “Howard 101” Sirius station streams here too, how–I have no idea. If you’re a Stern fan without Sirius XM, so long as that part of the app exists, it is pure gold to you. Like the scanner feeds, the audio here is very reliable with hardly any breaks where it needs to reconnect. It won’t substitute for your satellite radio, or real radio for that matter, but if you’re out and about, it does the job perfectly.
Between the police, fire, EMS, air traffic control, railroad feeds, as well as the streaming radio apps, there’s plenty to listen to. New feeds are always being added, although I’d love to see NASCAR driver feeds incorporated into the app (no…I’m not holding my breath). I can’t come up with a single con to this app and the $1.99 asking price makes it out to be a pretty decent steal.
A quick note that the good folks at smartestapple.com would like to remind us of is the ability to record scanner feeds and email them to friends. You can look at the “Browse Web for More Feeds” section for instructions on how to do so. Another notch in an already very cool app.