It’s amazing how quickly the device we hold in the palm of our hand and affectionately call a cell phone has become so much more than just a phone.
Not too long ago, it seems, the first mobile phone I had was permanently mounted in my vehicle and only made and received phone calls. It required not only a base fixed to the ground, but an external antenna which advertised the fact that there was a phone available to steal from the vehicle.
Luckily, I never had an issue with it being stolen, but it certainly wasn’t portable enough to make calls from anywhere other than the car, and it was limited to calls only.
Many cell phone “phone” users today probably use their device as much for playing games as for making calls. But there are also those, myself included, who aren’t really as fond of games as we are of other apps that help pass the time while giving us valuable information. I’m talking about the kind of app you can have running in the background while you’re doing other more productive things.
Two of my favorite types in this sense would probably be considered “utility” type applications. I find myself listening to transmissions from the emergency services, like you would on a scanner, as well as broadcasts from air traffic control. I know, call me a geek.
In many emergencies, people closely monitor police activities and public safety situations as they unfold. One of the best ways to follow is to use scanners and listen to radio conversations, but you don’t even have to own a scanner to do that. Here are some police scanner apps that you can download on your device right now.
X-ray scanner is one of the most popular free scanners you can download right now – and for good reason. It uses the famous Broadcastify application, which includes police, fire, EMS and other audio streams.
You can use Scanner Radio to listen to conversations from your local police or, if you wish, listen to conversations in another neighborhood. You have access to channels from all over the world. You can also subscribe to news alerts for even more context. The app is free to download, but be prepared to receive advertisements while you listen.
Scan 911 is a popular android application which contains more than 5000 police, fire, rescue and other radio streams that you can listen to for free. There is also an upgrade option to remove ads. Premium users can also listen to the app in the background, which means you’re free to do other things on your device while you’re connected.
Radio Police Scanner 5-0 is an app that includes detailed information about the police codes you might hear during your sessions, which can add even more context to any situation you encounter.
To keep track of all planes in the sky at once, FlightRadar24 is a favorite among aviation enthusiasts.
In FlightRadar24 you can view flights arriving and departing from almost any airport in near real time. Once you have an overview of the airport, each plane displays the airline it belongs to, along with its registration number, altitude, speed, heading and coordinates. FlightRadar24 can even send you notifications letting you know when an aircraft is in an emergency, known in aviation as Squawk 7700.
ATC live is a cool app that lets you listen to the communication channels between Air Traffic Control (ATC) and planes, which can be especially exciting and useful when you’re at an airport spotting a plane, or if you are remote and you hear an emergency situation arises.
You can just tune into this airport and listen, but note that sometimes the communication between planes and ATC can get quite colorful. The amount of communication going on is mind-boggling, especially considering that major airports have multiple channels – JFK has its own 24 channels! The app also lets you see a diagram of the airport runway layout and check the weather for the area, but unfortunately it’s no longer free. It’s relatively inexpensive at $3.99.
The amount of applications available for today’s cell phone is staggering. Apps can do so many things and cover so many topics. Just search for your respective store, whether on Apple or Android, and you’re sure to find something you just can’t live without!