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Army Plots Its Smartphone Strategy

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the angry-army-birds dept.

Android 125

gManZboy writes "What kind of smartphone should a soldier have? Ahead of the impending expiration of two communications contracts, the Army's 5th Signal Command is prepping for the possibility of buying thousands of mobile devices. An RFI asks for BlackBerrys, 'emerging smartphones included but not limited to 4G devices such as Androids [and] iPhones,' tablet computers, and wireless broadband access devices. Also in the Army mobile vision: an apps marketplace."

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Newfangled gadgets (0)

Panspechi (948400) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043344)

How about encoded smoke signals?

Re:Newfangled gadgets (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38043378)

How about encoded smoke signals?

That is about as smart as having an app marketplace. Gee, wonder if it will be targeted by malware? I guess we should act real surprised when it happens, huh?!

Big defen$e contract$ highlight government stupidity more than anything else. The only thing more stupid are liberal/progressive types who (in their immature emotional fashion) see how wasteful and incompetent and threatening to freedom government has always been and say "hey, wow, give me some more of that! let's expand it and get its fingers in EVERYTHING woohoo!" Useful idiots.

What you pseudointellectuals don't know is that prior to WWII fascism was in vogue and Hitler was quite the darling and widely admired throughout Europe and much of the USA. You'll never guess what fascism was called back then. It was called progressivism. You see naked fascism doesn't sell so well. People tend to reject it. So you hype it up in terms of fairness and all of that and the useful idiots eat that shit right up.

The principle here is that no politician ever became a dictator by running for office on the platform of "yes, I will be a ruthless dictator and oppress the people and crush your pitiful freedoms to promote my brand of statism". No, it's always for your own good or to accomplish some high principle like "fariness". Of course every decent nation that ever became a totalitarian hell-hole had people who saw it coming. They were dismissed just as you will dismiss me, no doubt because my tone offends you or some other petty and frivolous reason. If you want my tone to be explained, maybe it's because I don't want to slide down the hell-hole along with the idiots who invited it and deserve it.

Re:Newfangled gadgets (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043470)

Not if they lock it to approved apps and court martial anybody that's caught sideloading. I'm guessing the bigger problem is going to be the apps that are approved themselves.

Re:Newfangled gadgets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38043564)

Freedom permits disparity, so freedom is evil.

Re:Newfangled gadgets (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38043578)

That is about as smart as having an app marketplace. Gee, wonder if it will be targeted by malware?

Can't tell if trolling...

Big defen$e contract$

Hmm...

What you pseudointellectuals don't know is that prior to WWII fascism was in vogue and Hitler was quite the darling

Wait, let's see that again in slow motion:

Hitler

Well, then. That settles that.

You'll never guess what fascism was called back then. It was called progressivism.

No, Mussolini called it Fascismo. There was this whole "Partito Nazionale Fascista" thing going on back then.

Even though you're trolling, it might be decent to point out that software "marketplaces" run by large corporations for their employees to use on an internal basis are nothing more than software repositories with an integrated update function and an emergency killswitch should problems with installed software arise. This lets employees exercise a degree of control over what they want on their machine while using a codebase that has been vetted and approved by the IT staff and thus believed not to break intranet or db/fileserver expected behaviors, develop or contribute to network problems, or cause the phones to catch on fire. No purchases are involved for the end-user employees, nor is the "marketplace" open to the public, so it's really not a "market," just a repository. The military version will probably involve a bit more on the vetting side, and there will probably be an effort to prevent end-users from circumventing the "marketplace" to install XXXm4t4h4r1XXXluvjajaja.app from some Chinese porn site they heard about from the grunts in the next tent. A marketplace for military phones is an excellent idea; this is not the security problem you think it is, nor is it going to ever be publicly visible.

Re:Newfangled gadgets (0)

LVSlushdat (854194) | more than 2 years ago | (#38044088)

Damn.. AC.. I usually don't reply to AC, but in your case, you are SOOOOOOOOOOOOO right on the money, it scares me..Of course you and the rest of us who see history and see it being repeated verbatim right in front of our eyes will NEVER be able to teach most of the useful idiots. Sure, *some* may wake up and see what we've been trying to tell them, but most are going to keep drinking the koolaide.. I echo this AC's "maybe its because I dont want to slide down the hell-hole along with the idiots who invited it AND deserve it".... Again, too bad you posted AC.. you are a man after my own heart...

Re:Newfangled gadgets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38044618)

you are a man after my own heart

Oh, that's so cute. Why don't you two go find a motel room? Afterwards, go buy a history book.

Re:Newfangled gadgets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38046714)

Great news for you.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/20/us-military-lifts-ban-gay-troops [guardian.co.uk]
Don't Ask, Don't Tell – the US military's 18-year ban on openly gay and lesbian service personnel – has officially been repealed, ushering in a new era for the country's armed forces.

So both you, and your beloved Apple products will be welcome in today's Army!

Begging the question (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38043346)

Should soldiers carry homing beacons?
http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2011-05-27/ [dilbert.com]

iPhones win by default (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38043356)

Blackberry - designed by untrustworthy Canadians
Android - based on Linux which was written by communists
iPhone - designed by Apple in California

Re:iPhones win by default (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38043382)

That's why it's on apple.slashdot.org, right?

Re:iPhones win by default (5, Funny)

Jimme Blue (1683902) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043402)

Blackberry - designed by untrustworthy Canadians
Android - based on Linux which was written by communists
iPhone - designed by Apple in California

I think by this logic it's going to have to go to Microsoft (unfortunately):
  - Blackberry => Canadians => socialists => communists
  - Android => Linux => communists
  - iPhone => Apple => California => communists

  - LatestMicrosoftPhoneSoftware => Microsoft => Washington => Confused With Washington, DC => Pentagon => DoD => Command Driven Economy => Shit.......Never mind.

iPhones win by default!

Re:iPhones win by default (0)

meerling (1487879) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043506)

Whatever it ends up being, it won't be an iphone. The government, and especially the military don't want someone else telling them how to do things, and the approval process for istuff apps isn't going to fly with them either.

If they were all jailbroken and approved government security and encryption software was preloaded, then maybe...

Re:iPhones win by default (4, Informative)

a.phoenicis (1026040) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043528)

Clearly, you don't know much about the iOS Dev environment. Under Apple's current development terms, organizations can already set up and deploy to their own privately managed App Distribution systems for their own privately signed devices. This would be no different.

Re:iPhones win by default (5, Funny)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043796)

Clearly he doesn't know much about the DoD or Apple either. This kind of conversation usually goes something like this:

DoD: Hello, we have a basically unlimited pile of money.
Apple: Hmm. Money, you say? We collect that stuff, can we have some?
DoD: We'd like a hundred thousand iPhones, a signing key that allows us to deploy any software onto them, and the source code for review.
Apple: Yes, yes, whatever. How much money were we talking about?
DoD: A really big pile.
Apple: Will a signature in blood be okay? We have some new interns...

Re:iPhones win by default (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38044376)

Being that DoD guy, you don't understand how much money it costs to see the code, and how screwed up our programs are. Unlikely that we'll be able to do that. I suspect that blackberry will win by default; it already has the corporate control crap baked in.

Re:iPhones win by default (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38046688)

Microsoft allows the DoD to see their code for Windows and Office and has since the mid '90s. I doubt that Apple would charge more than them...

Re:iPhones win by default (2)

Sparx139 (1460489) | more than 2 years ago | (#38044516)

Replying to undo bad moderation, please ignore

Re:iPhones win by default (3, Informative)

ProfM (91314) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043424)

The US military has already embraced Linux.

Army National Guard Using Linux [linuxjournal.com]

My guess is that they'll go Android, simply for the fact they CAN change and update the OS to be more secure than it currently is.

Re:iPhones win by default (4, Insightful)

GauteL (29207) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043544)

Also Apple is very unlikely to agree to make custom military units with whatever requirements the military has. It's just not their thing.

They'll be better served customising Android and should have no trouble finding a hardware vendor.

As a side note, knowing the military the requirements will be decided by committee, resulting in something in that weighs 5 pounds to satisfy all the criteria.

Re:iPhones win by default (5, Interesting)

Macrat (638047) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043712)

Also Apple is very unlikely to agree to make custom military units with whatever requirements the military has. It's just not their thing.

Apple already makes custom builds of laptops without cameras per 3 letter agency security requirements.

Re:iPhones win by default (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043808)

Did they stick NSA-approved iDucktape over the lenses?

Re:iPhones win by default (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38044002)

Then built by the lowest bidder in China, with compromised chips.

Re:iPhones win by default (1)

hot soldering iron (800102) | more than 2 years ago | (#38045136)

I don't know, that Commando phone running Android looks tough enough to beat the crap out of any pansy iPhone or Black-N-Blue berry.

Re:iPhones win by default (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38043984)

The USAF currently uses Black Berry phones, so don't count that one out. The USAF and Army do have a tight(er) relationship than other branches.

Re:iPhones win by default (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38044072)

The USAF is powered by Windows 3.1.

Android sources for DoD? (1)

unixisc (2429386) | more than 2 years ago | (#38045680)

Well, so far, Android hasn't opened up its source code, so the DoD would have to explicitly ask them to provide it. I doubt iPhone, since the DoD might prefer their own walled garden, rather than Apple's. M$ is out of the question, since they may not want standard PC apps from anywhere infecting their phones. Blackberry - doubtful, since they may not want to experience an outage if RIM's servers go down.

Re:iPhones win by default (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38043738)

Blackberry - designed by untrustworthy Canadians

Actually, Blackberries have been tested & certified by the US govt, NATO, et al for many, many years:

http://us.blackberry.com/ataglance/security/certifications.jsp [blackberry.com]

Android & iphone have been certified by... nobody.

Beyond blackberry there is the sectera edge: http://www.gdc4s.com/content/detail.cfm?item=32640fd9-0213-4330-a742-55106fbaff32 [gdc4s.com]

Re:iPhones win by default (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043788)

Beyond blackberry there is the sectera edge

Great. General Dynamics builds a $3000.00 Blackberry for the US Military that uses SIPRnet, which ends up being the source of a lot of the Wikileaks.

We get to hear how there has to be cuts in Medicare, but god forbid we do anything to negatively impact General Dynamics' bottom line.

Oh, and DOD? "SIPRnet"? Really? When you put the word "secret" into the name it kind of defeats the whole purpose.

Re:iPhones win by default (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043872)

A customised version of Android on the Dell Streak [tabtimes.com] has been certified by the DoD.

Re:iPhones win by default (0)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38044080)

A customised version of Android on the Dell Streak [tabtimes.com] has been certified by the DoD.

Ah, makes sense. Certify the discontinued [androidcentral.com] product.

USA! USA! All the Way!

Re:iPhones win by default (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38047276)

Just because it's discontinued for the general public doesn't mean it's not available on special order, dumbass.

Re:iPhones win by default (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38044146)

A customised version of Android on the Dell Streak has been certified by the DoD.

That's a tablet, not a phone. Although porting to a phone form factor wouldn't be difficult.

Re:iPhones win by default (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38046444)

Well, I have one, and it's my phone. So whatever. It could be made smaller by getting rid of the hard-buttons, Android 3.x style. I like having a large screen - it makes typing on a touch-screen bearable, and is good for browsing. Since there likely won't be anything similar when I get my next phone, I think I'll go for a 4 inch device rather than the iPhone-style 3.5 inchers.

iPhone - designed by Apple in California (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38044390)

Made in China

not quite (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38044708)

iPhone - designed by Apple in California

built by communists in China. And while I'm sure the military is just fine with walled gardens, I'm pretty sure they want it to be their walls.

Re:iPhones win by default (2)

simoncpu was here (1601629) | more than 2 years ago | (#38045856)

iPhone - designed by Apple in California

Yes, but it's made in China...

Vastly increased battery life required (5, Insightful)

DarkFencer (260473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043366)

Whatever they get, they need to have vastly increased battery life over the consumer versions.

Possibly a physical switch to turn off all transmissions as well (so it can be QUICKLY turned off).

Re:Vastly increased battery life required (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38043388)

Whatever they get, they need to have vastly increased battery life over the consumer versions.

Possibly a physical switch to turn off all transmissions as well (so it can be QUICKLY turned off).

You mean like aeroplane mode?

Re:Vastly increased battery life required (2)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043584)

You mean the function that requires browsing through menus in order to trigger? Oh, and you have no real way to know if it is working or not? If your phone's OS crashes then you end up having to pull the battery to reset it, and if you want to use it then you're stuck waiting it to boot up in non-airplane mode before you can turn off the radio.

I think the parent was thinking about a physical switch that could be flipped cutting off power to the relevant modules so that you KNOW they are off.

I'm not sure what the purpose of having smartphones is in general - I suspect that this wouldn't be for front-line use. EMCOM is pretty important if these things are going on the battlefield. However, it isn't like one minute you're transmittng and the next you're not without warning - if you are going zero-emissions then chances are you will be in that state before you ever leave the base. Now, I can see the need to have strong controls to ensure a device is in zero-emission mode when it says it is.

Re:Vastly increased battery life required (2)

Aryden (1872756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043690)

Batter life can be extended by disabling services. I do it every night. Airplane mode (on my device) is on the home screen as well as toggles for wifi, 4g, BT, GPS, Sync, vibrate only, and torch. So it's not a bunch of click away.

You can always make an adroid build that remembers last radio state so that it boots in whatever mode you last had it in.

Having been a soldier in the field, I can tell you that alot of things would have made life a hell of alot easier if we had smart phones. Instead of carrying around various commo equipment, in addition to GPS units, as well as photographic equipment for reconnaissance, which, my HD2 can do, a smart phone can make getting to your destination easier, more accurate, gather intel, send that intel immediately to HQ as well as stay in communications with them.

With that being said, there would need to been a HELL of alot of tweaking and tuning to ensure the safety of those personnel carrying them.

Re:Vastly increased battery life required (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38046664)

Would the cameras in your standard smartphone be good enough, though? They're still worse than dedicated equipment, but I don't know what's used on the field.

Re:Vastly increased battery life required (1)

lawnboy5-O (772026) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043398)

Whatever they have ;-) Its already been done, and I doubt consumers sloths such as ourselves will ever have any insight to the full depth of military technology.

Re:Vastly increased battery life required (3, Informative)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#38044530)

On the contrary, the technology that the ordinary troops use is dated, heavy and expensive. Everything is custom-built and procured by a single buyer in a pretty non-competitive tendering market. Example: handheld GPS receiver [wikipedia.org] , $2000 per unit, low resolution grayscale LCD, heavy on batteries etc. If it was released on the consumer market nobody would buy it. The only advantage it might have is being rugged, but its MTBF is listed at 5000 hours which isn't that great, plus consumer units like the Garmin Vista series are quite rugged and waterproof and have many other advantages.

Re:Vastly increased battery life required (5, Informative)

mjwx (966435) | more than 2 years ago | (#38045006)

On the contrary, the technology that the ordinary troops use is dated, heavy and expensive.

And meets the very specific requirements of the military.

The army wont be taking this stuff around suburbia in big aircon'd SUV's. They'll be taking it to the worst places on earth, 45 C heat, minus 20 C cold, mud, torrential rain, sandstorms and that's on a good day. The equipment will need to survive being dropped, thrown, sat on, fell on and manhandled by an organisation who doesn't have the word subtlety in it's vocabulary.

Above this, it needs to work, first time, every time after being dropped in the mud, blasted by sand, trod on and thrown. This is why a simple GPS unit weights 3 KG. Also it needs to be deadly accurate, the Garmin units just aren't that accurate, They rely on a lot of guesswork to plot your position and their sample rate is crap compared to a professional Trimble GPS unit. An expensive Magellan unit off the shelf costs $500 and has an inaccuracy of 3-5 metres, a Trimble GeoXH or GeoXT has an inaccuracy of 10-50 CM but they start at $3000 each (start at, they go past $7500). Trimble's are what we use for professional field work, where we need to record it down to the nearest metre or more.

Consumer units are neither rugged enough, nor accurate enough for military, hell, most wont survive a day with a geologist, let alone a marine.

Re:Vastly increased battery life required (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38045804)

This mentality is fucked and represents a large portion of why American Military spending is so outlandishly expensive.

For every "hell and back again" application, there are 100 guys working support roles in an air conditioned office. The F-35 mentality of "economies of scale" by turning every acquisition in to a feature bloated swiss army knife is the remaining reason.

The Military doesn't need custom cell phones. It needs a supply chain for disposable cell phones that they can replace easily if they break.

The Military doesn't need custom networking hardware. They need software that encrypts the communications before it gets to the untrusted COTS hardware.

The Military doesn't need custom database solutions. They need software that seamlessly encrypts data before it reaches untrusted COTS Cloud Services.

Its batshit insane for the military to continue to re-invent the wheel paying obscene prices for ruggedized versions of civilian hardware. All this buys is a guarantee that they will be stuck with antiquated hardware for a decade after it was obsolete on delivery.

Address durability in the supply chain where it is cost effective to do so. Not by making the commodity indestructible so you never have to replace it.

Re:Vastly increased battery life required (1)

mjwx (966435) | more than 2 years ago | (#38046106)

The Military doesn't need custom cell phones. It needs a supply chain for disposable cell phones that they can replace easily if they break.

This is a terrible idea as it promotes more waste, a problem the US military already has. Cheap disposable phones are a nightmare for any organisation, I once worked for a company who had this philosophy, the disposable phones cost more then getting proper phones because people would just keep losing/breaking them.

Now even in peace time there are a shit load of places you dont want to be with a broken device you depend on, the US military does a lot of international peacekeeping (one of the few decent missions they have left). Hell, US marines have just announced they will maintain a permanent presence in Darwin. I know you're an American who has no idea where Darwin is, Darwin is a city in the North of Australia. it's 2000 KM's from the next nearest city through one of the harshest climates on earth. This is no exaggeration. 45 Degree C days, Deserts, poisonous snakes and spiders. Beyond this, if you get near a water source, it's likely to be croc infested. Crocs dont think twice about taking out a man who's disturbed them and they are frighteningly good at it. 3-4 metres are not unusual and that's just the fresh water versions, salt water crocs are bigger and meaner. I can assure you, 2 days walk from Darwin is not somewhere you want tot be with a "disposable" comms or navigation device, US Marine or not.

That's in Australia, a peaceful US ally.

And field replaceable batteries. (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043438)

And field replaceable batteries. So that you can bring extras and swap them YOURSELF.

Without the need for specialized tools.

Re:Vastly increased battery life required (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38043520)

Whatever they get, they need to have vastly increased battery life over the consumer versions.

The first time I have seen a mobile phone (comparable to 1990s GSM, but with mobile GSM towers on trucks), was in 1975. It came in 2 models: one had a battery which could be mounted on a jeep, the smaller version had a battery in a large backpack.

Re:Vastly increased battery life required (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38043558)

Conflicts with the remote wiping capability mentioned in the article.

Re:Vastly increased battery life required (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38043646)

Their not used in combat, their used by officers in a Garrison environment (I know this from experience managing US Army IT) - this is why they are only looking at thousands.

Re:Vastly increased battery life required (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38043816)

Couldn't have spelled it better myself. Oh wait, yes I could have. Twice.

Re:Vastly increased battery life required (1)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043936)

I don't think they're taking them into combat. They already have advanced communications equipment, the last thing they'd do is rely upon foreign commercial networks or set up their own network with towers that can be sniped from a considerable distance away. I assume they're for non-combat communications, for example recalling off-duty soldiers from leave. If all US soldiers carried the same model of phone around, their enemies would presumably develop means of detecting their signal output, with at least a proximity detector or more likely a directional indicator, displayed on a screen with an arrow saying "shoot here".

Army reality check (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38044436)

As a former soldier I can tell you this: there is no coherent strategy. This is almost certainly 80-90% fail.
For non-deployed soldier, there is no need for a government issued smartphone because, just like everyone else, soldiers own personal smartphones already.
Unless of course, the phone is used only for official business and the government doesn't trust your personally owned phone with it.

While you're deployed it's different, mainly in that your own phone probably won't work, since there are no cell towers around and/or the towers are incompatible.
So, for any of this to work at all, either the Army has make its signal units run their own movable cell basestations, or they need to buy phone service from the host country.

Also, the phones will be so stuffed with Army bloatware and locked down with security and overbuilt big and heavy for ruggedness that they will be essentially useless.
And then after purchasing them, the Army will try to keep using the same crap phones for a 5-10 year lifecycle while the rest of the phone world marches on with Moore's law.

And since the purchasing contract system makes things really expensive they will probably try to save money by only buying enough for the high-ranking officers and NCOs, and for the elite units, but none for the normal soldiers. And on the off chance that your unit does get enough to go around, your commander will keep them locked in a container to prevent loss, damage and theft, because they're too expensive to risk actually using them.

Re:Vastly increased battery life required (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#38044416)

TFA: "DISA Tuesday issued a request for information to do market research ahead of the impending expiration of two communications contracts now in place. It plans to consolidate the existing contracts into a new contract that will provide wireless services and hardware to soldiers across Europe."

This is mobile phones and a data plan for U.S. soldiers based in Europe. It is not for war zones or hostile territory. Reliance on enemy-controlled phone networks during war time is seen as something of a liability. Having said that, the British soldiers in Kosovo apparently had to resort to using the Serb-controlled civilian mobile phone network when they invaded, so you never know...

A mil spec N950 (3, Interesting)

Teun (17872) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043404)

A final chance for the best phone ever, the mil spec N950ms.

And I always thought MS stood for unreliable...

Re:A mil spec N950 (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38043560)

Definitely. Nokia definitely cares about construction and build quality. They subject their phones to rigorous abuse. There's a youtube video somewhere of their quality testing. squished on a press repeatedly, dropped repeatedly.

I searched for the official Nokia Labs one from a year ago but couldn't find it.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HicdXV_47V8 [youtube.com]

  Giz (sorry!) also has a story about it. http://gizmodo.com/5094602/a-look-at-the-nokia-damage-test-labs [gizmodo.com]

An n950 is already the pocket equivalent of a Panasonic ToughBook. They may not be running quadcores and have the most beautiful screens ( or whatever the spec nerd are going crazy for this week) but a Nokia is guaranteed to be built like a tank.

Contrast that to a flimsy samsung/motorola android or an iphone that is absolutely destroyed when it gets dropped onto some rocks. It should be no question if you're looking only at durability in a mass produced consumer smartphone.

None of that matters though. The decision on what the military uses will always be decided on what state the money will go to, or what lobby payed the most for someone's campaign. So, it will probably be something from AT&T. probably an iphone with a frickin' bumper.

Re:A mil spec N950 (2)

Bill Dog (726542) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043706)

An n950 is already the pocket equivalent of a Panasonic ToughBook.

Or maybe the pocket equivalent of a ToughPad [extremetech.com] .

Re:A mil spec N950 (1)

jezwel (2451108) | more than 2 years ago | (#38044194)

From personal (accidental) testing I can affirm that the Nokia N8 has a excellent chance of being undamaged even when repeatedly falling from the top of a fridge onto kitchen tiles; or dropped onto concrete, then kicked; or squished in a back pocket between my @ss and hard bleachers.

All events that have signficantly damaged or destroyed other phones... :|

From recent experience it also seems that where there is a gathered population of 7+ iPhones, there will be one with a broken screen. I mean broken, not was broken at one time - that statistic would appear to be greater.

Re:A mil spec N950 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38045100)

And I can say that my wife's iPhone 3GS with a standard pink case has withstood two years of abuse at the hands of three kids under five. It doesn't get any rougher.

Re:A mil spec N950 (1)

BeaverCleaver (673164) | more than 2 years ago | (#38045598)

I'll add another anecdote here. Nokia 6110 Navigator, dropped onto concrete from 1.5m. Survived just fine. In an unrelated incident a few months later, I left it in my shorts when I put them through the washing machine. The phone was switched on at the time, went through a full warm-wash cycle, then got hung on the clothesline to dry. When I eventually found it, I pulled the back off the phone and laid it out to dry for a few days. Not only did it still work, the GPS worked, both cameras worked. If anything, it was better than before, because all the lint that phones tend to accumulate had ben washed off.

I eventually replaced this phone with an N97 Mini. I found out how rugged this is when I got so pissed off with the combination of Symbian and Vodafone Australia that I threw it at a brick wall. The phone still works brilliantly. Again, both cameras, the GPS, the touch screen, still 100% perfect. Unfortunately Symbian is still completely unsuitable for a smartphone and unreliable to the point of being useless, which is a shame because I love the hardware keyboard on this phone. Vodafone .au still blows too, which is also a shame because they're generally pretty good in Europe.

Need to kill somebody? (2)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043480)

There's an app for that!

Re:Need to kill somebody? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38043510)

drunk and angry birds?

Re:Need to kill somebody? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38047378)

Noblesse Oblige. Please continue being a messiah.

None (4, Interesting)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043482)

They can be tracked complete with GPS and can be used to record sensitive information.

I have been reading Al Jazeera with the news of Libya last summer and cell phones were a problem. Basically loyalist spies would txt the GPS specs to Loyalists in Walid and Sirte, and whenever they went in the enemy was already there ambusing the rebels.

Even not I wonder how easy it is to hack them. China has a keen interest and have the best hacking elite group in the world that have inflitrated Los Almos and even satelites.

With Army equipment you know who made it and the ins and outs compared to a cell phone with knows what abilities it has obscured away.

Re:None (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043736)

I seriously doubt these are for use in combat or combat zones - but they *would* be useful as hell stateside and in garrison.

Re:None (1)

definate (876684) | more than 2 years ago | (#38044398)

Giving phones with GPS to one group or not, does not stop an entirely different group from still having a phone with GPS.

Your logic is terrible. Back to remedial maths with you.

Android is out of the running, at least for now. (3, Interesting)

wkcole (644783) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043490)

Due to a design flaw, the Android root CA trust database cannot be changed without reflashing the phone in currently available versions of Android. Given the way the military handles their PKI, this makes existing Android devices infeasible. Android 4 is supposed to address this.

Re:Android is out of the running, at least for now (3, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043638)

There isn't a single phone on the market that runs "Android" - there are dozens of different models that each run some OS that is 99% android and 1% something else (if nothing else device drivers - the open source version of Android can't actually run on any production phone).

Apple is a bit different since they sell a phone, and not an operating system.

When the Army puts this out for bid it won't be to an OS vendor - it will be to a phone vendor (yes, I know Google owns Motorola). Whether or not Android 4 addresses this issue out of the box you can bet that vendors responding to the bid will factor in the need to address this feature if it is in the RFP.

When the Military standardizes it won't be on iOS or Android - it will be on Vendor A model B. I suspect that even if they picked Apple they wouldn't be buying the consumer product per se.

Re:Android is out of the running, at least for now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38044256)

Please learn what "per se" means.

kthxbai.

Re:Android is out of the running, at least for now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38045524)

When the Military standardizes it won't be on iOS or Android - it will be on Vendor A model B. I suspect that even if they picked Apple they wouldn't be buying the consumer product per se.

Otherwise how else could they charge $10,000 a unit or something similar.

Re:Android is out of the running, at least for now (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043652)

Not really unfeasible ... reflashing an Android phone really just requires selecting an image from an application and rebooting. It shouldn't be required, but it's a pretty trivial problem to resolve.

Re:Android is out of the running, at least for now (1)

dremspider (562073) | more than 2 years ago | (#38047318)

Not really unfeasible ... reflashing an Android phone really just requires selecting an image from an application and rebooting. It shouldn't be required, but it's a pretty trivial problem to resolve.

Military uses user based certs. This means that every time a user throughout the entire DoD organization is fired/quits/change jobs/changes names/etc. They have their certificate revoked. This means they are probably revoking hundreds of certificates per day. Generally, you need to update your CRLs about once a week at a minimum, though they prefer that applications use OCSP, where a query is sent in real time to the CA to see if the cert has been revoked for this reason. So, flashing isn't a very reasonable thing to do once a week or more, especially when the product takes an hour to flash.

Re:Android is out of the running, at least for now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38043766)

Any Android device selected would come with a customized image, preloaded with only the CAs the Army would want on there. At the quantity the Army would be purchasing these things in, this wouldn't require "rooting," as the vendor would likely include this service as part of the bid. This is a potential advantage for Android, since Apple refuses to customize iOS for any customer of any size.

Something from panasonic... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38043540)

They already make the worlds toughest Laptops and tablets that make anything sold by Samsung, Apple, and Motorola look like a complete joke.

I want to see a smartphone that stop bullets and has a 240 hour battery life.

Re:Something from panasonic... (2)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043714)

If it just makes calls, sends and receives text messages/emails, and has basic mapping and location function, and you don't mind it being substantially larger and uglier ("ruggedized") compared to current smart phones, then 240 hours is probably doable given current technology. Take something the size of an iphone or a bit larger and make it twice as thick, the extra space being entirely devoted to a battery. Hell, coat the back in a PV panel and you can charge it by just laying it out in the sun--no lack of that in the places we usually do our fighting. Cover the whole thing in some sort of rubber waterproof case.

Then charge the government $5k/unit and you're done :)

Iphone 4G? (1)

atari2600a (1892574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043556)

I don't think that 4 means what the United States Army apparently thinks it means...

what about roaming and data rates? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38043622)

They will need to a plan with out the roaming fees that can be as high as $20 meg.

Re:what about roaming and data rates? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38044090)

They will need to a plan with out the roaming fees that can be as high as $20 meg.

No problem. Just take over the damned country. Give the cell phone service to AT&T. Presto! Not roaming anymore.

Re:what about roaming and data rates? (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 2 years ago | (#38046986)

I'd honestly pay to see resulting conversations between pissed off soldiers and AT&T reps who have disconnected/throttled/generally sabotaged their connections for a variety of dubious reasons.

oh please do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38043672)

because they are not really smart "phones" but smart logging and user tracking devices with phone functionality built in

the app stores of android/iphone are plagued with secret phone home "apps" who transmit all sorts of juicy info back to their various networks, admob (nice name) mydas,2o7,mobclix and its ilk, stats and "analytics" aka spyware are rife all going on without "informed" consent from the customer, because if they really knew what their phone was doing they wouldnt be so complacent
just packet sniff an iphone/android phone install some "apps" and watch the requests fly.

and you want your military to be spied on by commercial companies for profit ? GPS location, wifi AP locations, gps tower locations, IMI numbers, GUIDs
all sent back to mothership, sounds like a juicy target to me

Re:oh please do (1)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043740)

I seriously doubt that's going on in The App Store. In fact, apps can't access location functionality without your explicit consent. And you're notified in the location bar whenever that functionality is active. Apple is very proactive in enforcing their rules. If they let apps have their run of the hardware functions it would seriously effect battery life (something that's already been a problem).

And then there's sandboxing. An app can't access your contacts, for example. So as long as you're only getting your software from the App Store and not a jailbroke Cydia repo, you're going to be relatively safe. Now the question is, do you trust Apple?

Re:oh please do (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043818)

You do realize they're not going to walk into an Apple store or a Verizon store and order up 10,000 phones. These phones are going to be diverted right after manufacture (if not manufactured separately for additional hardening of components) and loaded up with the Army's own software package. And it'll still end up being cheaper than if they had put out a bid request for independently designed and built phones.

It will be better than a 17 pound GPS (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38043718)

http://www.military.com/news/article/army-looks-to-smart-phone-for-nett-warrior.html

this seems like a terrible idea (0)

nimbius (983462) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043838)

or at best, DoD related bloat. The army already has numerous proprietary and secure communications technologies
that rely on field-tested technology already integrated well with existing systems. Considering the average warhawk's propensity to
wax prophetic on a war with china, its obligatory to also consider what would happen to these HTC, Samsung, and other devices regardless
of operating system once operated in a country with vastly more knowledge of the aformentioned cellular devices than our military.

but if the military is seen as no more than the strongarm by which capitalism is enforced across the globe, then so be it. The product must be consumed
and what better consumer than a well funded division of the government that is, by historical example alone, guaranteed to increase its spending each year
and arguably never fight a war in the sincere interest of protecting its citizens.

Symbian has already been used for military purpose (1)

CockMonster (886033) | more than 2 years ago | (#38043874)

I don't know the exact details but it has. Very few people know for exactly what.

Can't wait to see how they screw this up! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38043938)

Every single attempt the Army has made to give its soldiers the same capabilities as a 13 year-old girl with an iPhone in 2007 has produced hilarious results. There was Future Force Warrior, Future Soldier, a dozen versions of Land Warrior, which were rolled into half a dozen versions of Nett Warrior. Nett Warrior -- the most recent attempt to waste gobs of taxpayer money -- is notable for producing this marvel of design elegance.

I give you, the Nett Warrior End User Device [wired.com] :

Believe it or not, that's the smallest, lightest, and most elegant system the Army has come up with yet. It's the first device to break with their tradition of attaching as many awkwardly shaped objects as possible to the soldier's head.

I can't wait to see how our brilliant and effective military contracting system interprets the smartphone.

Touchscreen? (4, Interesting)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 2 years ago | (#38044070)

It might just be me, but a touchscreen-only phone seems like it might be less than ideal for a soldier. I would think that actual buttons would be a better idea for people who might be wearing various types of hand gear in varied conditions.

Re:Touchscreen? (2)

Phurge (1112105) | more than 2 years ago | (#38044228)

Bingo!

Can I get a "phone that just makes calls" post?

Re:Touchscreen? (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 2 years ago | (#38044326)

Can I get a "phone that just makes calls" post?

Well, the article is about the Army's smartphone strategy. So I think that suggestion might fall short of the criteria.

Re:Touchscreen? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38044714)

Most phone buttons wouldn't be acceptable in the military as they could jam up with dirt, mud, or blood; but a touch screen does make for an easy to clean fairly well sealed interface. Not the best for use with gloves though.

Re:Touchscreen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38045008)

You just have to make the buttons big and add enough debounce.
We've done a touchscreen that can be used with gloves. They use
touchscreens all over the place, but with big square buttons rather
than the little fiddly bits on small phone screens.

razar spyder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38044320)

New droid razar is fast with omap4, got amoled screen, water proof, made kevlar strong, good encryption, and the webtop app would soilders trying to cut down on extra electronics.

Unlimited budget (0)

DogDude (805747) | more than 2 years ago | (#38044362)

It's good to know that while the rest of the world is literally starving, our military get a blank check to waste money on even more silly gadgets. Brilliant. Can we get these soldiers some more sports cars, too, while we're at it?

Re:Unlimited budget (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38044644)

The rest of the world is literally starving? What world do you live on?

Re:Unlimited budget (2)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38044704)

You do realize that purchasing commercial phones would be a lot cheaper than the military making their own system from scratch, right? Military tech is moving this direction anyway. Purchasing phones like this can allow squad leader to communicate in real time with multi-media such as maps and visual intel (photos, videos, etc) with platoon/company/battalion etc leadership. Not only would it make combat missions easier, but it will also greatly improve SAR and humanitarian operations capabilities, which is also a large part of what military units do (particularly units like National Guard-for domestic disasters- and MEUs-foreign disasters)

For the discerning soldier.. (2)

dubyrunning (1359729) | more than 2 years ago | (#38044712)

... there is only one choice: the Pip-Boy 3000! This is now a real thing, being developed by LG Display, Universal Display and L-3 Display Systems UDC, and tested in the field: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2010-10/15/wrist-mounted-computers [wired.co.uk] How cool is that?

Angry Birds Port? (1)

kd5zex (1030436) | more than 2 years ago | (#38044924)

Awesome. Fire Direction simplified through a DOD port of Angry Birds.

You could have the different ordinance represented by the Founding Fathers and just swap the pigs out with a pic of the terrorist du jour.

MLB jerseys (1)

jersey123456 (2485408) | more than 2 years ago | (#38045200)

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Not a good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38045310)

I'm just waiting for the first tank crash caused by a driver text-messaging.

"Where is that air strike?"
"Sorry, I was playing Angry Birds"

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