Military likely to shun iPhone

Open architecture of something akin to the Android OS is more appealing

As the military continues its search for the best battlefield smart phone, it’s looking more unlikely that the iPhone will be a contender. The biggest hurdle: Apple’s proprietary technology and the massive price tag attached to implementing it across the Defense Department.

Comparatively, a mobile device driven by an open operating system – one that is malleable to DOD needs, perhaps the Android – could be a better fit for rapid design and deployment, according to DOD Buzz.

The Army, in particular, has been leading the charge for smart phones on the front line; besides fostering better connections up and down the chain of command, the presence of a smart phone effectively puts extra sensors on a solider. More sensors means more data, and in this case, more effective data-sharing. The ability to record audio, take pictures and video or exploit any number of custom applications would make for a critical asset in the combat theater.

It’s something military leaders are taking seriously. One example: the Army Apps challenge drew 141 teams that created 53 application proposals last month. Of those app proposals, 17 were for Android, 16 for iPhone, 10 for ASP.NET, seven for the LAMP open software stack, two for the BlackBerry and one for the Army Knowledge Online portal.


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“Soldiers and Army civilians are creating new mobile and web applications of value for their peers—tools that enhance warfighting effectiveness and business productivity today,” said Lt. Gen. Jeff Sorenson, Army chief information officer/G-6, in an earlier interview.

Testing is already under way, including within the Army’s Brigade Combat Team Modernization program, on both iPhones and Androids. But already there’s a hefty speed bump: According to DOD Buzz, a Boeing official pegged the cost of a single, proprietary iPhone app at $200. It’s a steep cost for any program, but military smart phones don’t even have a dedicated budget yet.

To Sorenson, attaining the necessary situational awareness is more important than any cost. Getting the right devices and apps into the theater “might in many cases save soldier’s lives, which is priceless,” he said in March.

 

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.

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