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iPhone vs. Android Battle Goes To Afghanistan 146

redlined writes "Cell phones are tired of waiting for the troops to come home and are going to war themselves. Tech startup Berico Tailored Systems, Lockheed Martin and apparently an army of Slashdot users are currently making tactical 3G cellular networks and smartphone applications for the military to use overseas. While DARPA has held a competition to develop iPhone and Android applications, tactically-deployable 3G networks from companies like those above should open up a slew of opportunities for Apple and Google to duke it out on an actual battlefield."
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iPhone vs. Android Battle Goes To Afghanistan

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  • What is the over seas data rate? and how high is unlocked / jailbreak use there?

    I just hope the tropes are not on at&T there.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It looks like Berico Tailored Systems and Lockheed have built their own 3G military networks. Berico Tailored Systems web site says the data rate for their PraefectaCELL 3G is 14.4 mbps.

    • by cgenman ( 325138 )

      At least being overseas won't effect the transfer rate of AT&T. Our soldiers will experience the same level of service that they enjoy at home in New York city.

        • so about $20,480 a GB.

          I suppose you think casting networks that can keep connections even though there there might be lots of bullets flying through them, or keeping signals propagating through hostile political environments is easy or cheap? Think again. These are hardened networks that can blow right through military hardened faraday cages. Let's just say if you stood between a laptop and a web page there, you wouldn't be having any more children.

  • Android (Score:5, Insightful)

    by XPeter ( 1429763 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @09:53PM (#33211406) Homepage

    For a few key reasons:

    1. Swappable battery without sending the phone back to Apple.
    2. Open development
    3. Custom ROMs

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's all about quality of build. Something to endure the conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan. I love my iphone but I think the ideal scenario would be the deployment of some custom hardware on the battlefield with Android. Sand gets in everything.

      • Put your iPhone in a latex condom. Sand stays out of crevices and reception stays up.
        • I use my old Treo 650 as a GPS in off-road rallies, and the sand hasn't caused a problem so far.

          I put it in a plastic hard case and then mount it to my windshield with a universal gadget holder (in a soft-top 4x4 with the back and side windows open) - with the lanyard strapping it on as a backup in case something manages to shake it loose, which has happened a only three times - twice on the same stretch of semi-paved road (the WORST kind) and once when we hit a giant hole/big rock combo at speed in a field

    • Winner: BlackBerry! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Despite the hype, BlackBerry still has a bigger market share than Android and iPhone.[1] Besides, the BlackBerry's keyboard has better tactile feedback than Android/iPhone touch screens, which is important for combat operations.


      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by HBoar ( 1642149 )
        Yep, there is simply no substitute for tactile feedback when it comes to a good UI. Touch-screens are great -- in ADDITION to buttons, not instead of.
      • The best idea is to have all your battlefield communications going through the BES server in Canada. Better hope it doesn't accidentally route through Saudi since that's closer!

      • ...And how many of the BlackBerry users really -like- BlackBerry OS and didn't just pick a BlackBerry because it was cheap, their company bought one or the like? BlackBerry OS is aging, and although its rather irrelevent for the military, just compare a simple cross-platform app like Facebook, the iPhone has the best quality app, next Android (especially since the last update) then WebOS, then WinMo and BlackBerry OS.

        The iPhone would be the worst out of all of them because it comes with only a single fo
        • by mdwh2 ( 535323 )

          And how many of the BlackBerry users really -like- BlackBerry OS and didn't just pick a BlackBerry because it was cheap, their company bought one or the like?

          What sort of argument is that anyway? "How many Iphone users really -like- the Iphone, and didn't just pick an Iphone because it [insert reason why they thought it was better here]?" If people pick a phone because it has something better (which includes being the best at a particular price), then presumably they like it better than everything else they

      • Despite the hype, BlackBerry still has a bigger market share than Android and iPhone.[1]

        Not for long, according to your own citation []. Just looking at the graph you referenced, it seems Android is poised to overtake RIM in the US by next quarter.

        • by mdwh2 ( 535323 )

          RIM are still increasing their sales faster than Apple though - so even if Android does overtake in the US, RIM will still be a healthy 2nd place, with the gap between them and Apple widening.

      • by mdwh2 ( 535323 )

        Hear hear. As soon as I saw the story, I thought "Oh, someone yet again developing only for the less popular platforms". We should be lucky they're at least releasing for Android (which, at least, are fastest growing), and not just the Iphones (which are 3rd place in the US, 4th worldwide, and also the gap is widening between them and Android, Sybmian and RIM).

        Also note that worldwide, Symbian are number one - and Q2 2010 results show that their sales are growing over twice as fast as Apple (their increase

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by samkass ( 174571 )

      1. Swappable battery without sending the phone back to Apple.
      2. Open development
      3. Custom ROMs

      1. Actually, a swappable battery means another latch/compartment to get dirty, broken, wet, or damaged. The ideal device would be hermetically sealed. Barring that, as few ports/hatches as possible.
      2. What restrictions do you think the Army has on apps they distribute?
      3. No, but yes. Custom hardware (not ROMs) is the key to Android's future in the Army. If you need to take out the radio or camera for security r

      • 1: The battery compartment can be attacked with thumb screws that tighten down a compressed rubberized seal when attaching it. That would give it similar properties to being hermetically sealed once the battery is in place. You could also make the entire battery compartment modular in so that it can be easily swapped out if something does get broken with normal filed tools a soldier would have at his disposal.

        Of course this would require making a special phone which is what the purpose of using existing pho

      • by Kenja ( 541830 )
        Custom hardware and ROMs have already been done for the Military. []
      • Re:Android (Score:5, Insightful)

        by spyder-implee ( 864295 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @11:07PM (#33211816)
        1. Actually a removable battery is very important and you have completely missed the operational reason. Soldiers carry a bunch of equipment which use batteries (NVG's, LRF's, NAD's, Radio's, Illuminated sights, not to mention simple things like torches etc...) and it's important they all (where possible) use the same type of batteries. Simply put, if the battery in my Night Vision Goggles die and I have run out of spares, I want to swap the battery from my phone into my NVG, since it's more critical piece of equipment for my current task. Soldiers are entirely capable of keeping their kit free of dust & grime (I'm capable of stripping down an m4 to the ejector claw without getting dust through it, why wouldn't I be able to manage a phone?)
        • by mgblst ( 80109 )

          Simple just get a holder for the iPhone which accepts this battery, and charges the device at the same time. I am sure they will come with holders anyway, whichever device they get, to ruggedize the devices. There are already plenty of cases outthere that include a built in battery.

          This is not an issue. Custom ROMs maybe, but not this.

          • You seriously can't think of a good reason why you might not want to make your phone more bulky (not to mention heavier since you're effectively carrying two batteries) to carry and operate in battelfield situations? What do you gain by your solution as a trade off to just having a phone that takes the battery directly and doesn't have to carry a useless secondary battery around inside the device?
      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by codepunk ( 167897 )

        Considering the dismal battery life on the droid phones I would say yes, having a swappable battery on them is a must.

      • by sponga ( 739683 )

        A 'Pelican Case'; they are sealed and even waterproof ones for all different kinds of phones with rubber padding inside.
        Oh yeah and as a side note 'Pelican Cases' are one of the last companies I have found that actually produce their stuff in America in Fullerton, CA I think. Great product if you work in a tough environment or ever go on a several day hike.

        I don't care about looks but I just bought a 2500mAh battery and it is huge now, but I can have brightness on max, gps/wifi/bluetooth/browse and talk all

      • Re:Android (Score:4, Insightful)

        by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @02:49AM (#33212678)

        2. What restrictions do you think the Army has on apps they distribute?

        Ok, I'll try to answer that one:

        1. Full device encryption, which some of the Android ROMs provide, but which the iPhone Enterprise-level ROMs do not (as of yet!). Not to mention custom hardware that you just mentioned, which will probably never be doable with the iPhone.

        2. A device that's second sourced. In other words, the Department of Defense doesn't want to be solely dependent on one company (one-point-failure) to supply its critical infrastructure. In the case of Intel for instance, Intel had to train to a certain level and license some of its core technology to its arch enemy AMD so that it could be able to win the very lucrative government contracts that the Department of Defense was doling out. This is one of the main reasons that the military is credited for having started the computer revolution. It was not just the funding that was important, it was ultimately the strings that were attached to those funds.

        3. The idea that the phone shouldn't be manufactured in Mainland China (for fear of a Chinese back-door). Thus far, only a few of the Android phones meet that criterion. The iPhone doesn't.

        4. Standard parts that can be found, swapped, hacked, replaced, and repaired locally (without going against the terms of the license if they were to buy non-approved OEM parts that were just as good as the original but way-way cheaper than non-Apple batteries). And by locally, I don't mean Paris or the UK. I know we can find iPhone headphones over there.

        5. Easy to develop on. Again, another clear win for Android. It's not just easier to code on, cut and paste examples, and just make them work with some tweaking (unlike the iPhone), Google is also Beta testing 'App Inventor', a visual IDE which lets you build Android applications visually while the code gets generated in the background.

        6. Not being tied to the various whims and moods of Steve Jobs such as: "You May NOT Use iTunes To Design, Manufacture or Produce Nuclear, Chemical or Biological Weapons". I doubt that such a clause would bother the Army, but at least with Android, Google didn't put their "Do no Evil" clause in their terms and conditions. In fact, it's a given that since Flash is allowed to run on Android, it means that "Doing Evil" is clearly allowed.

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      Which is why Android will win. Instead of getting a phone that will work from Apple, and having standard charging stations, and a sealed device, the military will send out a ten billion dollar contract to develop and purchase a million android phones. The military contractors can survive on legitimate business, so depend on these overly complex solutions to simple problems.

      Which is what Apple is. It provides a reasonable simple solution to a problem. Android is trying to make the problem more complex

      • Huh? What is complex about Android? Especially comparing it to IOS4? The random apps would presumably be disabled as I imagine the military would do the provisioning. There are companies that already make ruggedized phones and putting Android on them is a snap so you're talking about very little modification that needs to be done and then you gain full smart phone capabilities like remote controls, signals analysis in the field, or really anything you can imagine.

        I just don't see Apple being that agile, th

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      3. Custom ROMs

      Why do people keep reiterating this myth?

      It's a myth because while Android is open-source, it the ROMs aren't "open". Yes you can build an Android image from the source code, but it isn't the same as what your phone runs - with all the extra stuff like "With Google" (Android Marketplace, Goggles, Maps, Mail, etc.) and the UI cutomizations. The stuff you get with the open-source don't include that. It's why Google went after the modders to not distribute ROMs with their stuff on it.

      And if you r

    • I would imagine that device should have a TPM so that secrets could be actually secured with hardware.
    • A big plus for Android is that there is already a "hardened" Android system available, the Raytheon Android Tactical System (RATS) : []

    • by Maniacal ( 12626 )
      You forgot one:

      4. Low FQ (Faggy Quotient)

      Army doesn't want a bunch of soldiers running around with a prissy little iPhone in their hand. They need a manly device. Just the saying the name "Android" makes me spit a wad of tobacco spit, and I'm not even chewing tobacco. Now that's manly. iPhones are for teenage girls and smug hipsters in turtlenecks, not killing machines.
    • by AP31R0N ( 723649 )

      4. Doesn't result in "telling" under DATD.

  • Outsourcing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cosm ( 1072588 ) <> on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @09:53PM (#33211408)
    So we're outsourcing our flame wars now as well?
  • by DSS11Q13 ( 1853164 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @10:08PM (#33211500)
    Actually, you would be surprised at how much 3g coverage there some spots in in the Middle East, or at least Edge network. I did a lot of volunteering in the Palestinian the wilderness and desert. While I didn't have a 3g smartphone I had my Kindle with me, and I never once lost 3g coverage. Here is a map of the Kindle coverage which should give at least a general idea [] Frankly I'm surprised they haven't set up these networks already, especially for military ops.
    • There was an article a while back stating that because it was cheaper in these rural third world or out of the way areas to build out cell coverage instead of rolling out and maintaining copper, that most governments were working towards that instead of building traditional pots lines.

      This is why you probably had such good coverage. However, had you strayed from a village very far on a minor road, you probably would have seen quite a few outages.

      As for setting up these networks for military ops, while not g

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Actually, you would be surprised at how much 3g coverage there some spots in in the Middle East, or at least Edge network.

      You'll also note that new wired networks are becoming more rare. No point in seeding exchanges and laying 100's of KM of copper for DSL or even land line phones when you just set up 3G towers. In many places in the 3rd/developing world it's cheaper and easier to deploy a cellular network then it is to try to establish a landline network. Especially as quality isn't as much of a concern

  • Let me know when the devices are approved for type 1 encryption. THAT will really make them useful in the battlefield.

  • "We need air support at coordin *call dropped*

    I wonder if the service provider *cough at&t cough* would be liable for troops' lives.

  • From a soldier... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @10:39PM (#33211642)

    Short, easy answer: Android.
    Long, easy answer: Android phones because they have changeable batteries, textile keyboards (keep in mind that most of us wear gloves, rendering most touch-devices useless), can be loaded on any hardware we want, supports text-based passwords instead of PINs, uses a standard USB connection, are generally cheaper, and don't look as civilian-esque as some Android phones (see Droid, Droid X).

    • by mgblst ( 80109 )

      Ha ha ha ha, have you ever tried typing on one of those keyboards with gloves on? Do not be ridiculous. Would be easier to get a coating on your gloves to work on a touch screen, and have the app present nice big buttons, or support gestures.

      Changeable battery can be good or bad, and the iPhone supports changeable batteries with an external case.

      Not sure locking mechanism is that important but hey, maybe it is.

      Who cares how they look?

  • I don't drive a Hummer - so why would I give a shit what the military uses?
    • Well if the military did officially purchase one of the solutions it would mean a big cash injection and it might drive some interesting development which would filter through to consumer phones, so while it might not make a huge difference to your next phone purchase, it's likely it will still have some impact.
  • by robot256 ( 1635039 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @10:59PM (#33211772)

    Need to look up the best way to get a Humvee out of a mud pit? There's an app for that. []

    Need to find the nearest supply depot while avoiding roadside bombs and enemy fire? There's an app for that. []

    Need to see the location of every friend and foe within a 100m radius without any additional devices or infrastructure? There's an app for that. []

  • iphone sucks $20,480 a GB for att data and unlocking is apple NO NO maybe the army can get apple to unlock that part and maybe let them load there own I os as well.

  • So does this mean we will get video directly from the battlefield to wikileaks? :D
  • iOS has the apps (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @12:06AM (#33212062)

    The good/great ballistics apps are on iOS, so I reckon it has the general edge. [] [] []

    There are a couple for Android, but they aren't as good as iOS has.

    • Existing software probably contributes approximately nothing to the decision. It's the hardware they are interested in, once the platform is decided then they can figure out how to either port existing applications or write new ones. That decision comes after the hardware decision, not before it.

  • by LodCrappo ( 705968 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @12:11AM (#33212090) Homepage

    If the military wants a device that meets certain physical specifications (ruggedness, waterproofing, shielded from EMI, bulletproof, god knows what) then they have very different options with an iPhone vs an Android phone:

    With Apple's platform, they must ask Apple nicely and hope for the best. They would have to rely on a single source for the devices.


    With Android, they can publish their specs and let any manufacturer that cares to try build a device (or contract with one or a few to specifically build something). They can have multiple sources for the hardware and switch as desired.

    Similarly, if the military wants specific features in the operating system, they can:

    Ask Apple nicely and hope for the best


    Modify Android any way they'd like, or contract pretty much anyone to do this for them.

    Seems Android has some pretty clear advantages.

    • by mgblst ( 80109 )

      Or they can get a case, which is what they would do. It could have a built in battery.

      This is how the use devices currently over there, for sniper assistance and such.

      • I don't see how a case solves the obvious issues with using an iPhone here (or the "other problem" it's supposed to solve, for that matter).

        What if the military wants it to be smaller than an iphone? Or to fit in a particular pocket of a particular uniform? What if they want a physical keyboard? What if they want a faster processor, more memory, a different type of screen, Flash support (j/k), etc, etc? What if they don't want to buy anything that can't be second sourced?

        • What if the military wants it to be smaller than an iphone? Or to fit in a particular pocket of a particular uniform? What if they want a physical keyboard? What if they want a faster processor, more memory, a different type of screen, Flash support (j/k), etc, etc? What if they don't want to buy anything that can't be second sourced?

          Are you seriously arguing that Apple would ignore >$100M in government contracts so that they don't have to 'hassle' with making a military version of the iPhone?

          • I think its more likely that the government simply wouldn't offer such a deal to a single company for access to their closed platform when a capable and open platform supported by a wide range of manufacturers already exists.

            I don't think any amount of money is going to convince Apple to open their platform enough that it would provide the same options that Android already does.

            But... if the military did make such an offer to Apple, I still am not sure they would take it. They don't really need the money,

  • I was thinking of finally buying a cell phone. Any recommendations?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I served in Afghanistan. All these discussions on bullet proofing are irrelevant. Many of us carry cameras that are no where near water proof or bullet proof. We just put them in small little water tight cases on us. It wouldn't be bad for usage on a COB or FOB but out in sector it could be a security issue. (Light and noise discipline and personal sectors of fire not being watched) I pulled guard with someone who was using his phone to text and call back home in sector on our COB. His roaming charges were

  • Considering the trucksized security holes in IOS i bet US enemies hold their thumbs and hope for Iphone. Imagine commandering your enemy troops through a web interface? :D

  • I am not a soldier. Not now, not never.

    With that said, if I were a soldier, and could have one multi-tool digital device, it would include:

    • All the standard stuff you find on "phones" now. GPS, compass, maps, web (or some military grade version of the web)
    • Whoop ass battery. Make it easy to change and put a carabiner on it along with a built-in solar panel so I can clip it to my pack and charge a spare during the day.
    • Rugged, of course.
    • Avalanche beacon type functionality. Not necessarily for an avalanche
    • I have been a soldier, and have had more than my share of fun in Iraq. A cell phone like this would really have been invaluable while I was there, providing a good way for squad leaders to relay encrypted messages to their troops, if nothing else. The other functions you describe are well within the realm of possibility with current technology. I hope they field some system like this soon, as it's sorely needed.
  • Hey, Not only battle fields. I even would like to see the development of such devices to reach every inch of the glob. I like to go for an expedition like Survivor man. But the concern was about the communication, since; I can't be like the survivor man. If this development comes, then anyone can try their luck to enjoy their expedition. However, what we read was a step forward for sure. Thanks for sharing.
  • What do they use tactical 3G networks for? Tactical tweeting?

  • You seriously want to put a phone that has a history of remote vulnerabilities on a battlefield?
  • And victory will go to the uber-cheap nokia dumbphone being used as a trigger for that IED...

Friction is a drag.