Radio scanners serve several different niche audiences. Maybe a few people have told you about some crazy or interesting things they heard on their scanner and it might seem like it would be fun to have one in your car, but for the same price you could upgrade your head unit or even install a pair of premium speakers.

If the purchase price police scanner is a big stumbling block, then you may already have a much more accessible door to the world of radio scanners right in your pocket. This is your phone. Yes, between sending texts and checking Facebook, you can use your phone to listen to a huge number of radio scanner streams.

But telephones are not radios!

Phones are not radios. Even smartphones are not radio receivers. Some smartphones include secret built-in FM radios but if you’re interested in listening to police and emergency broadcasts, that just won’t work.

Some other components of your phone might also be called radios, at least technically, like cellular or Bluetooth radios, but that’s not what you want. These components are only able to send and receive information in certain bandwidths allocated for cellular communication or used by Bluetooth devices .

You can no longer receive a police dispatch broadcast on your phone than on FM radio, even if you have a phone with a built-in FM receiver.

So, how can you turn your phone into a radio scanner?

To turn your phone into a radio scanner, you need an app and either a mobile data plan or access to a Wi-Fi signal.

Because your phone cannot actually receive over the air (OTA) transmissions from sources such as police radio stations, you need to rely on ham radio to receive and then broadcast the transmissions.

For every main mobile operating system (OS) multiple apps available and they all work in the same way. Instead of setting up your own scanner for the local broadcast you’re interested in, you simply choose from multiple streams.

Depending on where you live, you can connect to local streams or choose to listen to streams from far away locations.

How do scanner applications work?

Police scanner app

Cell phone scanner apps allow you to broadcast live police scanners down the street or around the world.

Radio scanner apps, also called police scan apps and phone frequency scanners, rely on ham radio networks to provide thousands upon thousands of audio streams.

These enthusiasts have real physical radio scanners that they use to get a huge amount of local unencrypted radio transmissions. They also have the necessary equipment to stream audio sources over the Internet and create streams online radio scanner . They basically do all the hard work that allows you to tap the touchscreen on your phone a few times and turn on just about any kind of local radio show you want.

Although these programs are sometimes referred to as police scanning applications, they are usually not so limited in operation.

One of the main uses for these apps is to eavesdrop on local, unencrypted police — and other emergency services — communications for any reason, which is why the programs are often referred to as police scanner apps and the actual devices that ham radios use are sometimes referred to as police scanners. In fact, these apps provide access to emergency services, police dispatches, railroad transmissions, other transit communications, and a whole world of other short-range radio transmissions.

Are radio scanner apps legal?

This is a sticky question because police scanners are legal in some places and illegal in others . It’s important to check the current laws in your jurisdiction before installing one of these apps, as you could actually be charged with a separate crime if you’re ever arrested for something completely unrelated and the police find a radio scanner app on your phone. ,

If you are actually brazen enough to use one of these apps to commit a crime, then the consequences can be even more dire. For example, in Florida, the interception of police communications in order to assist in the commission of a crime or escape automatically increases the severity of the crime .

As in many other cases, the use of radio scanner applications is a matter of personal responsibility. If they’re illegal where you live, you can use one of them anyway, and since there’s really no way to track your usage, you’ll be fine until you get caught. But if you get caught and they are illegal, you will find very quickly that ignorance of the law is not an acceptable defense.

On the other hand, if scanner apps are legal where you live, you may just have found yourself a new hobby.

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