iPhone Won’t Likely Have a Place on the Battlefield

| News

The U.S. military is researching which smartphones will be most useful on the battlefield, and while Apple’s iPhone may be popular, it likely won’t make the cut thanks in part to its overall cost. The military is also concerned about the proprietary technology the iPhone relies on, including the iOS operating system, according to Defense Systems.

Instead, the military will more likely choose a platform that it can more easily adapt to its needs, such as Google’s Android. Officials are also concerned over the cost to build proprietary iPhone apps, which the estimate at US$200 each.

Military interest in smartphone technology extends beyond the iPhone and Android. The Army Apps challenge, for example, received proposals for 17 Android apps, 16 iPhone apps, 10 for ASP.NET, seven for the LAMP open software stack, two BlackBerry apps, and one for the Army Knowledge Online portal. The proposals were submitted by 141 teams, showing theres interest in creating military-specific applications for smartphone devices.

Currently, the Army’s Brigade Combat Team Modernization program is testing iPhones and Android-based devices, but hasn’t yet reached any official conclusions.

Sign Up for the Newsletter

Join the TMO Express Daily Newsletter to get the latest Mac headlines in your e-mail every weekday.

19 Comments Leave Your Own

sflocal

It “likely” won’t make the cut?  This sounds like a cleverly-worded substitution for “Guess”.

I’ve read articles in the past about the military using the iPhone for various (successful) projects.  When it comes to cost, I think the military does not focus on that based on the way they run it.

Funny how the media portrays it’s clueless guesses as passing for facts.

FlipFriddle

Strange. It’s already being used by sniper teams and seems well tested: http://www.knightarmco.com/bulletflight/ (I can’t find coroboration that its actually used in combat, but a lot of the sniper stuff is probably classified). It was interesting that one of the users noted that you have to use special conductive gloves when using these kind of touch screen devices.

I don’t get why an Android app would cost less to develop? Seems like development costs would be close to equal regardless of platform.

geoduck

Well, if they go with Android at least the soldiers will still be able to play World of Warcraft while in combat.  LOL

Liam

All I can say about this is that this article is totally wrong. The author is speculating and calling it journalism. If they actually did their homework they would understand the pervasiveness of the iPhone and its design model within the military.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

$200 each? Do they know that Apple banned the business-card template apps? I sense imminent cost overrun.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@FripFriddle… One reason developing for Android would cost less is that you can use Adobe Flash/AIR. Less expensive to develop the same stuff with that than native. That’s why there is controversy about Steve banning such apps from the App Store.

FlipFriddle

Flash cheaper? Seems like speculation since we don’t know what apps are being developed and whether they would include or need Flash.

I could also see training costs for Android being much higher than iPhone or something more locked down if the military can’t standardize on a single version of the OS or UI. I could totally see different versions cropping up for each branch of the service or even areas of the same branch.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@FlipFriddle… Yes, much cheaper. Artists can write compelling Flash apps with ActionScript. You need a real programmer to write Objective C.

Also, iPhone v. Android. Android apps (non-native anyway, which is most of them) run in a Java VM. With Java, programmers do not have to worry about allocating and releasing memory, so a whole class of bugs that are often expensive to track down and require a high level of expertise to avoid are just off the table.

In the year 2010, if you’re writing apps in C in their entirety, you’re basically either on crack or forced into it. Even if you have the chops to do it (and I certainly do), you’ll be far more productive and produce better code using a higher level tool like REAL Studio or Flash or Silverlight. And you’ll likely get a cross-platform boost so that your investment in time and money has more reach. Software Business 101.

At bosco

Bosco, you are a know nothing tool.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Bosco, you are a know nothing tool.

So debate my points, fanbot. The reason I come in here and add my knowledge to these discussions is that I still love the Mac and I appreciate the kinds of people who are my Mac customers. TMO readers and commenters are quite typical of that kind of person. Most (excepting “At bosco”) are not stupid. But most get their “facts” and base their opinions highly on what emanates from Cupertino.

I know that Apple fans are at a particularly dangerous spot right now. You’re being lied to. Steve Jobs may be able to distort reality, but he cannot change it. And reality will catch up with him one way or another. The war on Flash (and the collateral damage against third party tools) is an affront to the realities of software engineering and business in general. It’s also an affront to the relationships that developers have with their users and customers, relationships which are independent of platform vendors.

Intruder

Trust me. The Android and iPhone apps being written for the military are not being done using Flash. At least not by us. Our company is one that is making apps for both platforms for the military.

Mikuro

$200 each? Do they know that Apple banned the business-card template apps? I sense imminent cost overrun.

It looks like the TMO article has a misinterpretation. From the linked article:

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.

The $200 is not the cost to BUILD an arbitrary iPhone app, but the cost of one particular app from Boeing. (I still wonder exactly what that means; $200 per unit seems a bit extreme, but then I don’t know what this app is supposed to do or how widely it would be deployed.)

The linked article does not state any contrast between iPhone and Android on this point, either.

FlipFriddle

Ahh. Intruder is actually in the trenches doing the work. Do you know if anything has been deployed yet?

gunney

If I were equipping troops I’d have at least these questions:

1. Can it survive severe impacts on a regular basis?

2. Are the batteries swappable AND standard to other devices?

3. Is it usable while wearing combat gloves?  How about a chemical suit?

4. Can the screen handle continuous use around sand?

5. It it waterproof?  Can it handle exposure to military gasses and chemicals?

6.  Can it be digitally silenced (no traceable signals)?

7. Is it EMP hardened?

The apps are easy.  It’s specializing the hardware to handle a very unique and brutal environment that’d be the tricky part.

Intruder

To meet those requirements, the device would have to be purpose-built. In that event, they would cost far more than $200. There are no Android phones that meet those requirements yet, as far as I know. Passing MIL-STD and IP67 for what would be a relatively small run of handsets will drive the cost up too.

That being said, it is more likely to happen with Android than with IOS.

@FlipFriddle: There are some being field-tested, yes. Small numbers.

win39

Seems to me that people continue to confuse hardware and software. Android is an OS for other companies’ phones. It is not a phone. iPhone is hardware. The military is likely to specify their own battle hardened phone, have it manufactured and license Android for it. Apple does not license their OS, nor have they ever expressed any interest in licensing their software, nor are they likely to build a custom iPhone for them.The military does not worry much about cost. Look at the humvee.

Jeroen

2bosco

Yes, much cheaper. Artists can write compelling Flash apps with ActionScript. You need a real programmer to write Objective C.

We are talking about serious apps here. Sure, an artist with a basic grasp of programming concepts can write a basic game in Actionscript. There’s no way such a person can write a moderately complex iPhone application with the same quality as a native app written by a real developer.

Disclaimer: I am a designer turned web/iPhone application programmer with extensive experience with making Flash games, so I have a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about.

BTW, A good designer isn’t that much cheaper than a good developer, so your point is moot anyway.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@Jeroen… Example: “Friut Smash Organic”. It may or may not still be in the App Store, as it was subject to the Flash/AIR purge. And another example would have been just about any magazine or periodical that wanted to ship an iPad app. No way they were gonna make “native” apps if Apple didn’t require it. Far more costly short and long term than a write-once deploy-many solution like Flash/AIR.

And you’re right. A good designer isn’t much cheaper than a good developer. But the good designer could write about 5 Flash games for every 1 native game the good developer could write. Plus, the good designer gets clarity of vision passed from brain to code, whereas most developer who aren’t good designers become intermediaries.

I’m glad you think you’re getting the benefit now of Apple’s protectionist policies. Because when they end (and they will end), you’re toast from a slew of developers who will write better code with better tools for less money and with faster turn-around.

grin

jeroen

Example: ?Friut Smash Organic?. It may or may not still be in the App Store, as it was subject to the Flash/AIR purge.

Which is a… game. The article you are replying to is about military applications, not games.

You said:

One reason developing for Android would cost less is that you can use Adobe Flash/AIR. Less expensive to develop the same stuff with that than native.

and later:

Yes, much cheaper. Artists can write compelling Flash apps with ActionScript. You need a real programmer to write Objective C.

It seems you’re implying a military application written in Flash by a designer would cost less and be just as good as a native application written by real developer.

Far more costly short and long term than a write-once deploy-many solution like Flash/AIR.

If you think “Write once, run anywhere” applications are as good as native apps I’ve got some Java applications you might be interested in.

from a slew of developers who will write better code with better tools for less money

Right, Flash is a better tool which produces better code than Xcode. Could you tell me a little bit more about your experience using these tools and how you came to this conclusion?

You can scream ‘fanboi’ all you want but it’s pretty clear to me you just came here to rant about how much Apple sucks.

Log-in to comment