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Review: Scanner 911

November 26, 2009



iPhone users are really nosy. That's the best reason I can come up with to explain why this app has been in and around the top ten paid apps for quite sometime. That, and it's really well done. Scanner 911 is a full fledged police scanner just as the name would suggest.


Scanner 911 at its core provides the ability to listen to live police, fire, and EMS radio frequencies from around the globe. There are hundreds of IMG_0165channels available from various municipalities and counties with more being added all the time. And it's not just big cities that you'll find here. There are plenty of available channels for obscure counties and small towns around where I live, and the same goes for the rest of the US and Canada. Outside of North America, there are only a few options. You can check out a full list at the Scanner 911 website. I'm not going to make any comparisons of number of available channels between apps, because the numbers are ever changing. The app has the now ubiquitous five tab interface across the bottom. The "Scanners" tab provides a list of available channels grouped by state or country. Each channel in the list also displays which services are available for listening (police, fire, and/or EMS) and its popularity on a 0-5 scale. The "Hot 100" tab shows a list of the most popular channels based on the listening habits of other users. Naturally, the LAPD and NYPD are generally near the top. The "Near Me" tab uses your location to show you a list of channels available in your area. The "Recordings" tab allows access to recorded broadcasts (more on recording below). And finally, the "More" tab provides access to miscellaneous settings and features such as favorites. Selecting a channel from any of the tabs mentioned above takes you to a screen that displays various bits of information as well as listening and recording controls. The stream immediately begins play after a few seconds of buffering, but it may be silent until there is actual chatter on the frequency. The name of the channel is prominently displayed with LED lights displaying the services available. There's a pause/play button, volume control, and a button to send the stream to Safari so that you can listen in the background. There are buttons to mark the channel as a favorite and to display a help screen which provides access to some useful information. At the bottom, a map can be set to display the approximate location of the selected channel.

The Breakdown

The Good: The app is extremely attractive and easy to navigate. The sheer selection of channels available is great, but naturally not everyoneIMG_0170 is going to find his or her choice. I did not have any issues with the streams dropping over a 3G connection or WiFi connection. The ability to record a channel is a neat feature. If you find yourself listening to some thrilling chatter, you can easily record it and play it back at any time. One feature that I found really useful was the full list of police codes and their meanings that can be found under the help screen. Now I know exactly what 10-49 means, and so can you! But on top of all these things I've mentioned, the app's best feature is arguably background listening. With the tap of a button, the app sends the stream to Safari where it can be played in the background as you are doing other things on your iPhone. Other police scanner apps do this too, but that doesn't make it less awesome. Not being confined to stay within the app makes me long even more for true multi-tasking on the iPhone. The Bad: The sound quality for the streams is adequate, but it's not the greatest. It's sometimes difficult to understand what's going on, but that could very well be the content itself. It seems that police officers aren't necessarily the best at enunciating. The only other annoyance I came up with is that it's annoying that the favorites screen is buried under the "More" tab. It would be nice to have a dedicated button to access this screen.

The Verdict

Scanner 911 is an all-around great app for a nominal price. If you are vetting all the different options, it's really going to boil down to whether or not this app (or any other) has the channel that you want.

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