U.S. Army To Embrace Android For Its First Smartphone

You don’t often hear Android U.S. Army“U.S. Army” and “Android” in the same sentence. But when they do, it means something big, and cool.

The Army has been wanting to keep soldiers connected to an information network. First, in 2010 it looked in at Apple headquarters. Fast foward a year, and it’s decided that Android — not iOS — will power the its first smartphone.

The first device of its kind, named Joint Battle Command-Platform or JBC-P Handheld, is being tested with the goal of empowering dismounted soldiers with apps to meet their mission.

“If we see an enemy up front, we could put it in the GPS system,” said (Spc. Hao) Bui, a member of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division. “Even though they (fellow Soldiers) can’t see it, you can mark it for them.”

The device won’t be powered by the regular Android OS intended for civilians. Instead, the Army has developed a custom Android-based smartphone framework to ensure that applications will be secure and interoperable with existing mission command systems.

The Army is running pilot programs now to see how smartphone technology can be used in the force to enhance both training and operational needs. Photo Credit: C. Todd Lopez
Photo Credit: C. Todd Lopez

Similarly, the device will be anything but as sleek as the Xperia Arc, or as light as the Dell Aero. Just picture an ultra-rugged device that weighs a whooping 2 pounds. (Device shown in the above photo is not JBC-P Handheld)

Third-party developers will be allowed to extend the device’s capabilities with their custom apps using the Mobile/Handheld CE development kit, which will be released in July.

Like a consumer smartphones, the Army’s will come with some pre-installed apps. But instead of a calculator and a music player, they’ll be tactical apps for things like mapping, blue force tracking, Tactical Ground Reporting, or tactical graphics and critical messaging.

Want one of these bad boys even though you don’t serve? For now, the closest you can get is probably Casio’s G’zOne Commando. No tactical apps, but at least it meets military specifications for water, shock, and dust resistance.