U.S. Army Tests Smartphones, Has Same Problems as Everyone Else
The program has proven successful enough that soldiers may start shipping out with smartphones as soon as this year. However, it has not been without its problems.
The Army group had initial troubles while testing the iPhone in deserts of the training areas, due to a problem that many iPhone fans and critics are familiar with. "AT&T didn't provide service there," said Michael McCarthy, an Army director for the program.
The iPhone was not alone, though; McCarthy said that another popular Android device manufactured by Samsung also had problems due to network connection errors and bugs in the operating system. Sprint Nextel later exchanged the phones for a different Samsung model.
The devices have also proven resilient: they've weathered sandstorms and rugged conditions, despite the fact that many phones were bare and others protected by little more than $10 rubber cases, according to McCarthy. (One, sadly, was run over by a truck and did not survive, he said.)
"iPhone and Android have been very well received," said Ed Mazzanti, the Army director that shepherded the program. Mazzanti expects that the Army will pick two devices for its needs.
By choosing two devices already on the market, Mazzanti believes that they can minimize software and hardware development costs and risks from cyber-attacks while still offering variety.
"It's a computer; it's a display unit; it's a video-out unit," said Mazzanti. "Since it is a computer-based utility in a 7-ounce package, we just started realizing there was a vast amount of potential."
Unfortunately, it seems that Microsoft has lost out on this one; perhaps the soldiers did not find the Windows Phone 7 interface to their liking. Regardless, expect to be reading more about specially Army-tailored Android and iOS devices in the future.