Amid protests, US police scanner apps and others saw record downloads

Downloads of police scanner apps, tools for private communication and mobile safety apps hit record numbers this past weekend in the U.S., amid continued nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd, as well as the systemic problems of racial prejudice that plague the American justice system. According to new data from app store intelligence firm Apptopia, top U.S. police scanner apps were downloaded a combined 213,000 times this weekend, including Friday — a 125% increase from the weekend prior and a record number for this group of apps.

The group of top apps included those with similar, if somewhat generic, titles such as Scanner Radio – Fire and Police Scanner, Police Scanner, 5-0 Radio Police Scanner, Police Scanner Radio & Fire and Police Scanner +.

The Police Scanner app saw the most downloads of the group, with 19,000+ on Friday, nearly 24,000 on Saturday and 35,700+ on Sunday. However, the daily active user count for the Scanner Radio – Fire and Police Scanner app was higher throughout the weekend, with some 43,000+ to nearly 45,000 users launching the app on a daily basis during this time. That was followed by Police Scanner, whose daily user count ranged from 38,000 to more than 40,000, per Apptopia’s report.

Overall, however, the downloads were fairly spread out among the group of apps. That indicates people were likely coming across the apps through app store searches, rather than through increased word-of-mouth recommendations for one specific app or an ad of some kind.

In addition to the record downloads for police scanners, two other apps also saw significant increases due to the protests: encrypted messaging app Signal and Citizen, the latter a community safety app for real-time alerts and live video.

Signal was downloaded nearly 37,000 times over the weekend and Citizen was installed over 48,000 times, the firm found. On Sunday, both apps broke new records for single-day downloads in the U.S., as well, with nearly 24,000 downloads for Citizen and 15,000 for Signal.

Police scanner and other communication apps were only some of the tools being used to keep track of protests over the weekend. Users have also communicated through social media posts across Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, including by posting and sharing videos, photos and other live-streamed events. Some people believe these platforms give a better window into what’s happening on the ground in real time compared with news reports, which editorialize the content or present it with bias and miss some of the key stories that would otherwise not gain attention.