The U.S. Army is seriously considering the idea of issuing every soldier with a smartphone and picking up the bills. The move looks set to further enhance the Apple-Android battle in the military world.
The director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center told Army Times that making smartphones a standard part of the military kit bag is under consideration. Lt Gen Michael Vane said one possibility would be to give each soldier a monthly budget that they could spend on calls and apps in their own chosen ratio.
As part of work to explore the issue, a brigade at Fort Bliss, Texas is to be “modernized” through a range of electronic devices that will include not just smartphones but tablet devices, e-reader and mini-projectors. Another project will see special card readers given to soldiers to allow secure access to data on smartphones.
The big question for the smartphone industry is which phones would be used if there was a force-wide rollout. Those involved say there’s no certainty it would be a single model, but say its highly unlikely that the Army will either develop its own model or contract a manufacturer to make radical changes to an existing handset. Instead any changes would be limited to some software tweaks and physical reinforcements so that the handsets can stand up better to rough conditions.
Those sections of the military that already use smartphones as part of operations have mainly used either iPhones or Android handset. The company that developed the Patriot missile system has created several dedicated military apps for both systems, including one that allows soldiers to track colleague’s locations on the battlefield.
Raytheon has previously argued that the iPhone, while generally seen as a consumer device, can be particularly useful for the military, mainly because most soldiers need little or no training in how to use it. However, there have been questions about the fact that the standard Apple battery is non-replaceable: plugging the phone in to recharge isn’t always a viable option in the middle of combat.