US Army's first smartphone will be powered by Google Android, not Apple

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
In what could be a major design win for Google, the U.S. Army is currently undergoing testing of a prototype Android-based smartphone platform for connected soldiers, according to a new report.



Wired reports that a wartime smartphone called the Joint Battle Command-Platform is currently being tested by the Army. The device, which was developed by nonprofit MITRE, runs Google's Android mobile operating system.



According to the Army, the platform's development kit, known as the Mobile/Handheld Computing Environment, will be released to developers in July. The Army is exploring a rank of tasks for the device, including mapping, a "Force Tracker" that keeps track of friendly units and "critical messaging" for exchanging medical requests and on the ground reporting.



As is to be expected, security remains one of the top issues that needs to be resolved. The difficulty of deploying the devices in low connectivity combat environments has also presented challenges for the project.



The Army's vice chief of staff, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, claims that the tested devices can handed the extra wear-and-tear from war zones, the report noted. The Joint Battle Command-Platform weighs roughly two pounds when connected to a radio and is significantly lighter than current solutions, such as the Nett Warrior.



While the current prototype is a long way from the final stages of the project, Android appears to be the early platform of choice, especially since the Mobile/Handheld Computing Environment is meant to run on "any manner of devices."



Last December, ArmyTimes reported that the Army was considering issuing smartphones as standard equipment for soldiers. Apple's iPhone, as well as phones running Google Android, were in the running.



Army officials visited the Apple campus last year to discuss the company's future technology as related to battlefield applications. Apple's "it just works" philosophy had drawn the attention of the Army.



"Apple technologies offer unique and proven solutions with intuitive designs that allow users to learn quickly without a training manual," Ron Szymanski, lead computer scientist with the Army's Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, reportedly said. "The Army would like to leverage Apple's experience when designing military operations."



Several iPhone apps have been developed by the Army's Communications-Electronics Research and Development Center in recent years: COIN Collector, a counter-insurgency information collection tool, and MilSpace, a planning and social networking environment.



Photo courtesy U.S. Army, credit C. Todd Lopez



In 2008, it was revealed that the Army had begun using custom iPods as an affordable and lightweight solution for field translation work in Iraq. iPods and iPod nanos were attached to armbands and speakers and modified to run a translation app.



An iPod nano with Vcommunicator Mobile, armband and speaker for use in the field. | Image credits: U.S. Army.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 182
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,689member
    Once again the Army shows its predilection for cutting edge technology. When "open" Android becomes the Windows of mobile OS's, virus ridden and hacked to death, the enemy will be selling "find your friend, the soldier" apps on the Android Store.



    The Navy wised up a few years ago and switched from Windows PCs to Macs for their more sensitive work.
  • Reply 2 of 182
    crimguycrimguy Posts: 124member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post


    Once again the Army shows its predilection for cutting edge technology. When "open" Android becomes the Windows of mobile OS's, virus ridden and hacked to death, the enemy will be selling "find your friend, the soldier" apps on the Android Store.



    The Navy wised up a few years ago and switched from Windows PCs to Macs for their more sensitive work.



    I think it's quite a stretch to suggest linux will become Windows when it comes to security.
  • Reply 3 of 182
    nkalunkalu Posts: 315member
    They got it wrong again. It is the Army's loss. Sorry!
  • Reply 4 of 182
    pennywsepennywse Posts: 155member
    Just pathetic ... I can't believe the Army went with the Android mess. Come on!
  • Reply 5 of 182
    Curated versus not.



    Good luck, guys (and gals) in the US army.
  • Reply 6 of 182
    No surprise, they got all excited by the commercials of robots and spaceships.
  • Reply 7 of 182
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post


    the enemy will be selling "find your friend, the soldier" apps on the Android Store.



    How is that any different from the tracking bug on the iPhone?



    I suppose they went with Android because it would be easier to customize for their needs. I wonder how this will turn out.
  • Reply 8 of 182
    tofinotofino Posts: 697member
    Totally makes sense. You didn't think that apple was going to let the military fork iOS, did you? And frankly - google may need the admob clicks...
  • Reply 9 of 182
    The former CEO, now Chairman of the Board of Google, has been a close sci-tech adviser of the administration since the beginning. And, if I am not mistaken, Google spends more for lobby funds than Apple.



    It pays big dividends to have close relationships among the decision makers.



    To be fair though, if Google allowed Android as "open source", the government has more leeway to fork the OS that will suit their purpose not possible with proprietary software. Whether this played a role in the decision is another matter.



    Choosing between competing technologies reminds me of the "light water Nuclear Power technology developed by the US vs the "heavy water Nuclear Power technology developed (called CANDU) by the Canada. Westinghouse, once a major US company, the major manufacturer of the US-supported nuclear technology



    CANDU is more safe than the US "light water" nuclear technology. More than likely, one of the reasons why Japan chose the US "light water" nuclear technology was part of higher level decisions involving trade pacts between the US and Japan.



    The estimate cost for the reconstruction as a result of the recent earthquake-tsunami was US$300billion -- the costliest reconstruction in the world. Whether the reconstruction cost estimate include the cost of economic displacement and increased health issues, e.g., greater cancer risks, was not indicated.



    A significant part of this is the nuclear meltdown triggered by the disaster. The immeasurable costs are the losses as a result of displacement in lives, community and properties of Japanese living around the nuclear disaster area. A place that may not be suitable for human habitation, agriculture and manufacturing for decades to come.



    In regard security, the PC (non-Apple) dominated computer systems of the US government is causing billions of dollars to protect from imminent hacks.



    Apple Ecosystems
  • Reply 10 of 182
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,160member
    The device is being developed by a third party military contractor so Android would be the only available choice. I can't see Apple opening a military division to produce military hardened phones for use in battle. Can you?
  • Reply 11 of 182
    Apple has never really tried to go for the enterprise market, why do you think they'll go after the dept of defense's business. Do you know how tough it is to do business with the feds? Good call, apple.
  • Reply 12 of 182
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    The Army is exploring a rank of tasks for the device, including mapping, a "Force Tracker" that keeps track of friendly units and "critical messaging" for exchanging medieval requests and on the ground reporting.



    Well no wonder they are using Android. No Apple device is even capable of exchanging medieval requests since, well, medieval times several hundred years ago.



    And seriously, a "rank" of tasks? Maybe some for corporals, a bunch of others for sergeants, a few for the First Shirt, and even a special one for the Sgt. Majors. We PFCs would be happy just to email the girls back home with it.



    Wondering who wrote and proofread this crap.
  • Reply 13 of 182
    Makes sense.



    Google is an American company.



    Apple is a Chinese company.



  • Reply 14 of 182
    jd_in_sbjd_in_sb Posts: 1,600member
    This wasn't a "win" because Apple was never an option. The military wanted customizable OS and hardware. That is what Android does best and what Apple wants nothing to do with.
  • Reply 15 of 182
    frankiefrankie Posts: 380member
    Does this really surprise anyone?



    I mean the army is full of idiots, why would they want to do something smart?



    Anyone remember the story where insurgents in Afghanistan were tracking our million dollar drones with scraps made from Radio shack parts that costs about $3.50?



    More waste of taxpayer dollars...



    (getting political...)

    We'd be a lot better off (and a hell of a lot smarter with a hell of a lot less social problems) switching the military and education budgets. What we're doing now and have been for 50 years sure in the world ain't working that's for sure...
  • Reply 16 of 182
    Well, I hope the US never goes to war against China!
  • Reply 17 of 182
    The enemy will be using iPhones and they'll have an advantage. Go figure. The U.S. Army decided to go with second best. I thought the military had some sort of unlimited budget and yet they cheaped out.
  • Reply 18 of 182
    wurm5150wurm5150 Posts: 763member
    The iPhone 4 won't last a minute in combat. It's too delicate..



    Or the Army is afraid that terrorists might their hands on a soldier's iPhone, get access to consolidated.db and track an Army unit's every movement..
  • Reply 19 of 182
    I, for one, think they can have it. iOS on the battlefield? They are too good for that. Getting toss around, dusty environment etc. Let Androids (correction, trash robot) have it. Suit them better with customisation, cheap reusable components and perhaps most importantly, can be easily hacked with poop screensavers and background picture (Hooray for those anti-American movements, if they so incline). Plus, those soldiers need free Google apps to fund their expensive busy-body wars.
  • Reply 20 of 182
    bedouinbedouin Posts: 331member
    Good. It's not like being associated with the US military is a flattering thing.
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