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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.
I’m guessing, like millions of us, you like to peek in. No, not like that (although…), I’m talking about peeking into parts of the country, even the world. Maybe you want to see what’s going on in your old hometown. Maybe you’d like to see what’s happening around a place you vacationed. For that matter, you might want to have a little something extra to look into a vacation spot! EarthCam, the folks behind earthcam.com, have a fantastic app for those particular needs.
This app starts you off in the EarthCam Network, listing a lengthy series of countries to choose your cameras from. United States, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Bulgaria…I’m sure something’s going on somewhere in Bulgaria….north to south, east to west, around the globe. It’s a pretty stunning list, even though numerous countries do have one or two cams to them. (the Ukraine had two cams, Turks and Caicos Islands had one cam aimed at the 18th hole of the Provo Golf Club). The major countries have the most cams available, or at least the ones EarthCam makes available at that moment.Once you select a country, the list turns to the cams you can view. The United States list is broken down into states, from there you select the cam to view. A peek at the New York City cam showed a long list of cams from Times Square to Lower Manhattan. There are a few cams aimed directly at Ground Zero, many aimed along Broadway, as well as various other parts of Manhattan. North Carolina had several, although most of them were, at least as of this writing, inoperable cams alone Interstate 77. Some were working, including a nifty view of the Charlotte skyline.
There are numerous DOT cams available, although I know there are better ones (there are much better traffic apps if you intend to use a cam app to gauge your morning and evening commutes). Better in terms of reliability, as well as the fluid motion of the image itself.
The streaming image on these cams range from poor to outstanding. Some cams have a lengthy refresh rate, a few have about a frame per second. Some cams have a time lapse option. I have no idea what the period of time is that’s used, but it’s a cool little feature. There’s a list of featured cams and a list of live video. The featured cams are a great place to start, the live feeds are where it’s at. I was able to watch a great stream from Niagra Falls, as well as outside of the TGIFridays in Manhattan. There’s a cam here for Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam (just figured I’d throw that out there in case it was a make or break cam for anyone). My favorite is aimed directly at the huge Coca Cola/Samsung sign in Times Square. There’s ambient audio as well, so if you want the sounds of the country or the city to go along with your peeping tom-ish ways, those cams are all set.
Like many apps, you have the ability to save a particular camera to your favorites, as well as rate them on a five star basis. You can search for a particular cam, or allow your iPhone’s GPS to find the nearest cam for you.
The app isn’t perfect. You are held to the ability of the cam itself to at least function, and many of them don’t. The refresh rates on some cameras are poor, a problem possibly stemming from the feed and not EarthCam’s doing. And in my instance, using the iPhone’s GPS, it couldn’t find a camera closest to me, even though the nearest is five minutes as the crow flies.
Limitations aside, it’s still an app worth the .99 cents that’s being charged in the iTunes store. The pay app has gotten slammed a bit, and the free version is a good trial to see if you’d like to ante up. I think the negatives are a bit unfair, as you get quite a bit crammed into a 99 cent mobile application. II think it’s well worth the dollar, a fantastic little window to the world, kept inside something that fits in your pocket.