Countrywide police scanner and Top Gun: iPhone apps of the week

This week's apps include an emergency radio scanner and a game that's sure to bring out the Maverick in you.


When I was a wee lad my family used to drive an hour north of the San Francisco Bay Area to visit my grandparents in Santa Rosa, Calif. My sister and I were at the age where we needed something to keep us busy at all times, so my grandparents often had to come up with things for us to do once the toys we brought along no longer held our interest. In one room of my grandparent's place, my grandfather had set up a recliner chair right next to a table with an emergency scanner on it. He showed me how to switch through the various channels and I would sit wide-eyed as I listened to local police and fireman go about their business on the radio.

It seems I'm not the only one with great memories of police scanners, because some savvy developers came up with a great emergency scanner for the iPhone.

This week's apps include an emergency radio scanner and a game that's sure to bring out the Maverick in you.

Emergency Radio
Scroll through the list of call signs to find out what they're talking about on the scanner. (Credit: CNET)

Emergency Radio (99 cents) lets you browse and listen to hundreds of emergency radio channels from across the United States. You can listen to anything from police chatter from the LAPD to calls from the New York Fire Department. While you listen, Emergency Radio shows you a huge list of call numbers and what they mean so you can figure out what the police or firemen are talking about. If you find the police or fire frequency for your hometown, you can add it to your favorites so it's easy to find the next time you want to listen.

Though not all cities and locations are available (I'm waiting for my hometown to be added), the developers of Emergency Radio promise that more channels are coming soon. The list of all currently available frequencies can be found here. If you want to try Emergency Radio before you buy, try the Lite version (only five frequencies) here (link opens iTunes Store).

Top Gun ($1.99), licensed by Paramount Pictures, puts you in the cockpit of a fighter to engage enemies high in the sky while following a nostalgic storyline. The game comes complete with cartoon cut scenes where you'll be given missions by Maverick and Iceman and hear music from the original '80s movie as you blow away enemies. The gameplay involves tilting your iPhone to maneuver your fighter and using the touch screen to fire machine guns or heat-seeking missiles to blow away enemy targets across several missions. When incoming missiles from enemies get too close, a "Danger Zone" square pops up on screen so you know where to move to evade the threat.

Top Gun
Lock-on to bogies and fire your missiles, but watch out when the "Danger Zone" comes on screen. (Credit: CNET)

For nostalgia purposes, I can't help but like this game with all the original '80s hit music and familiar characters. But if you're looking for a flight simulator, Top Gun is not the app to get. The game is an "on rails" type of experience in which you can maneuver within a certain space while your actual flight path is predetermined. But if you like the idea of reliving the classic '80s action movie, Top Gun delivers a fun experience with plenty of missions and in-game banter between Maverick and Iceman to seal the deal.

What's your favorite iPhone app? Have you listened to any exciting emergency calls on Emergency Radio? Does the Top Gun game take your breath away? Let me know in the comments!

About Jason Parker

Jason Parker has been at CNET for more than 13 years. He is the Senior Editor in charge iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.