If you’re one of those edge-of-your-seat types that enjoys following police, fire and EMS transmissions there are half a dozen apps that make it easy to listen to those calls on your iPhone.
Most of the scanner apps are still rookies with less than a month in the App Store. Only two of them — Police Scanner by Juicy Development LLC and Emergency Radio by EdgeRift, Inc — are seasoned veterans with experience and multiple updates under their belt. Both apps do a very good job of providing live streaming transmissions to your iDevice, but there are subtle differences between them.
Police Scanner provides more than 1700 streams from 7 countries, so finding an agency to listen to is fairly easy. Police Scanner allows you to select a location from three different pages of listings or use the Near Me page to see a list of pre-selected agencies based on your current location. The Browse page is your guide to every available agency. Select a country, then drill down and narrow your search by region / state / county until you find an agency that sounds interesting. The Favorites page stores quick links to your chosen agencies making it faster to get to where you want to be for future sessions.
While listening to a stream on Police Scanner the screen displays the name of the agency, a play and pause button, volume control, and a favorite button that allows you to add that stream to your favorites page.
Emergency Radio provides around 1500 streams from 2 countries — the U.S. and Canada. Much like Police Scanner, Emergency Radio opens to a page that lets you choose how to select a station. The All page allows you to scroll through the streams or enter text to jump ahead to a specific city. The Nearby page is, again, a list of available streams close to your current location. You can adjust what distance Emergency Radio considers “Nearby” from as few as 5 miles to as many as 1000 miles. The Favorites page stores your list of preferred agencies. For those not familiar with police and fire codes, a glossary of terms is listed below the channel as it is streaming.
Overall both Police Scanner and Emergency Radio do a fine job and provide a good service. But in any head-to-head somebody has to win. So, here’s the break down:
Police Scanner has an edge on clarity with, what seemed to me, a crisper listening experience. By providing additional countries and more than 200 additional channels, they also have the edge on quantity. Finally, maybe looks aren’t everything, but Police Scanner has much better graphics.
Emergency Radio has the edge with their search function by allowing users to type in a city name. They also get points for including a glossary.
So many features in Police Scanner and Emergency Radio are similar but for now the nod of approval goes to Police Scanner. The clear audio and slick graphics are attractive, however its the ability to eavesdrop on crime-fighting play-by-plays in so many other countries that really won me over.
Just something to keep in mind, both apps can have long periods of silence. That’s the nature of a police scanner: Transmissions correlate to the call load and some areas naturally have more activity than others. If the action is too slow you can always find another channel or country to listen in on.