The No. 1 paid iPhone app right now isn’t a productivity tool, a selfie editor, or a social network. It is “5-0 Radio Police Scanner,” an app that lets people tune into the communications of law enforcement around the world.
As crackdowns on protests over racism have rocked America, people are tuning into police radio scanner apps, like “5-0,” to keep tabs on the tumult. Rival apps—like Citizen, Broadcastify, and Police Scanner Radio & Fire—have similarly shot to the top of the download charts, as I wrote about on Monday.
I recently exchanged emails with Allen Wong, the 5-0 app’s creator, for whom all this turmoil has been especially lucrative. On Monday evening, he told me his app had “netted a few tens of thousands of dollars in profit in the past 24 hours.”
A self-described self-made millionaire, Wong says most of 5-0’s revenue comes from a free, advertising-supported version of the app. Through it, anyone can listen to broadcasts uploaded by hobbyists who own special, emergency responder radio equipment. The free version is the third most popular free iPhone app today, and it makes five times as much money as the paid version, Wong says.
Now Wong wishes to share the wealth. He plans to donate recent proceeds from the 5-0 app “to various groups, such as the Equal Justice Initiative,” a non-profit group that fights mass incarceration and provides legal representation to people who may have been wrongfully convicted of crimes, he says. Wong made similar charitable donations, he says, when the app gained popularity in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013.
“It has always been my purpose in life to create technology that helps people change the world for the better,” Wong told me in a note he since posted to his Lamborghini-filled Instagram profile. “I stand together with those who are feeling pain and fear every day of their lives due to racism in America.”
Add Wong’s pledge to the growing number of corporations backing anti-racist equal rights initiatives since protests over the death of George Floyd broke out. Every commitment counts.