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Army Special Operations Command Ditching Android For iPhone, Says Report (gizmodo.com) 254

The United States Army's Special Operations Command is ditching its Android phones for the "faster" iPhone, according to a report. The source cited in the story says that Android phones were freezing unexpectedly, which was one of the reasons they decided to give the iPhone 6s a spin. Gizmodo adds: The smartphones allow members of the Special Operations Command to access rich information about the battlefield. There's also quickly accessible information, like a weapons and ammunitions guide. Other apps can help with high altitude jumps; another can detect radiation. While DARPA helped develop the program on Android due to the operating system's open platform, Apple's hardware is apparently superior enough to warrant the switch.
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Army Special Operations Command Ditching Android For iPhone, Says Report

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  • My first first? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Compumyst ( 635636 )

    But seriously? iPhone superior to Android? Were they buying budget phones?

    • Re:My first first? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Fire_Wraith ( 1460385 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2016 @01:10PM (#52542263)
      It does seem like we're missing part of the story here. The hardware isn't the core difference between Apple and the various Android phones, most of them are as capable as any other if you picked up a reasonably recent model. If anything, there are Android phones sporting more memory or faster processors.

      The real difference is in the software. It's in the operating system, as well as how it handles applications, and which applications are available for the device. It's also potentially in the enterprise management of such devices, but I don't see that mentioned here either. All of those are software differences primarily.
      • Re:My first first? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 19, 2016 @01:23PM (#52542427)

        In my experience decisions like this are typically made because somebody high up likes their iPhone and doesn't want to have to learn how to use an Android phone.

        Sounds overly simplistic, but I've seen it happen too many times.

        • In my experience decisions like this are typically made because somebody high up likes their iPhone and doesn't want to have to learn how to use an Android phone. Sounds overly simplistic, but I've seen it happen too many times.

          Bad guess. Note "United States Army's Special Operations Command", they get a lot of say in what equipment they use. A friend's brother made some unique camera equipment. SOC guys thought it interesting. The only people this small company every saw during evaluation were "operators". The "suits" did not get involved until the "operators" said "we want this". What you say may be true for normal military procurement, but its very different for SOC.

          • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

            Still a dumb decisions when they could have simply http://www.ubuntu.com/phone [ubuntu.com]. If a phone can run Android it can run Linux, for what should be obvious reasons and hence a custom rolled solution makes more sense (a tweaked protocol offset system, so only apps allowed to run can run or be installed succesfully). Basically when supply numbers are high enough customer demands can be pushed quite economically, to produce a range of products that provide optimum solutions. So physically durable phones running t

      • Re:My first first? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Mycroft-X ( 11435 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2016 @01:28PM (#52542467)

        The real difference is in the software.

        Nope, the real difference is in the ability and willingness to navigate the military procurement process.

        • Re:My first first? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Tuesday July 19, 2016 @01:38PM (#52542531) Homepage Journal

          The real difference is in the software.

          Nope, the real difference is in the ability and willingness to navigate the military procurement process.

          I thought about that, thinking maybe the only Android OEMs who were willing to do that were obscure ones making crappy devices, but then I remembered that Samsung has actually gone to the effort of getting at least one of their devices certified for classified data. If they're doing that, they can certainly navigate the procurement process. And the Samsung flagships are very good devices, clearly competitive with the iPhone.

          • My guess would be something along those lines. That is, the missing information being something like "of the DISA-approved mobile devices, using Apple iPhones provides us with a much more powerful solution."
          • And the Samsung flagships are very good devices, clearly competitive with the iPhone.

            But then they still run Android; and therein lies the rub.

      • by c ( 8461 )

        The real difference is in the software. It's in the operating system, as well as how it handles applications, and which applications are available for the device.

        Don't forget the difference in application developers. It's entirely possible that the custom stuff was done by a mobile developer with less than adequate Android experience (possibly none, the way government procurement tends to work). At least, the description of the problems sounds as much like "app" as "operating system" to me.

        • We develop the same apps on both iOS and Android. Entirely separate development, no shared code, but based on the same designs. The Android versions take 50% longer to develop and are of lower quality. (The Android team are always complaining about video bugs. And they never seem able to deliver smooth animation. And they are just generally more sluggish.) I don't believe they are worse programmers than the iOS team. I just believe the development environment and the platform are worse. Though I have been t

      • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

        I prefer Android myself, but... yeah... I've never seen garbage collection work well on any language, platform or device; it always seems to pause the machine when you need to interact with it.

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        I wonder if Apple has ever ported iOS to any of the top of the line Android hardware platforms to make comparisons.

        It's probably a bunch of work just to get drivers working and even more for necessary optimizations, with a net result of "just about the same" but it would be interesting to see what would happen.

        • They may have. It isn't unheard of. In case of hardware shortage or a deal going south, they can quickly revamp and rebrand to another provider.
          That is why they went from the PowerPC to Intel. IBM just couldn't make their chips competitive so Apple dropped them when they realized that it wasn't worth it.

          • by swb ( 14022 )

            I would think (naively, I'm sure) that it would be simpler and more easy to get an apples-apples comparison with a PC-type platform than a smartphone platform.

            Generally speaking, getting your PPC OS running on an x86 reference box would be an easier port, since the hardware documentation and drivers are more easily available.

            Using a competitor's smartphone platform, though, would be much more difficult since the hardware is more likely to be highly customized and sort of proprietary, making creating drivers

          • by dbIII ( 701233 )
            IMHO it was IBM being IBM and deciding to charge what they thought the market would bear with what they thought was a captive customer with no other options. Apple got out when the cost was worse than the benefits.
            I tried to get some Cell stuff at one point via a ridiculously long process before I even got a price. IBM effectively priced themselves out of the market with that unless you just had to have a Cell CPU instead of about six of something else for the same price.
        • I wonder if Apple has ever ported iOS to any of the top of the line Android hardware platforms to make comparisons.

          It's probably a bunch of work just to get drivers working and even more for necessary optimizations, with a net result of "just about the same" but it would be interesting to see what would happen.

          My feeling is that it would be "about the same" as long as we stay in the same ballpark, hardware-wise. But that isn't what is important, because the military can't (and wouldn't) approve a clusterfuck like that, anyway.

      • Re:My first first? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 19, 2016 @02:44PM (#52542987)

        It does seem like we're missing part of the story here. The hardware isn't the core difference between Apple and the various Android phones, most of them are as capable as any other if you picked up a reasonably recent model. If anything, there are Android phones sporting more memory or faster processors.

        Except that that's not completely true, and even in the true half, there are mitigating factors.

        The iPhone's CPU is typically much faster than Android processors where it matters, but slower where it doesn't. That is, the iPhone's CPU is extremely fast at single threaded or dual threaded operation, but Android devices win multithreaded benchmarks. As most mobile workloads are not very parallel, the iPhone's CPU typically is a much better bet.

        In terms of memory, while you're correct that most Android devices ship with more, they also need significantly more. 90% of processes on Android use garbage collection. It's been demonstrated over and over that garbage collection only works well when there's an excess of memory hanging about. A garbage collector is a fine thing when it has a spare gig or two to fill with things it might collect in the future; but it's a terrible idea on a memory constrained example. This is why when you look at application launch tests between top end Android and iOS devices, typically the iOS device will have more processes still in memory on the second loop through the apps, despite having half the amount of RAM.

        • the iPhone's CPU is extremely fast at single threaded or dual threaded operation, but Android devices win multithreaded benchmarks.

          I wonder if that is because iOS is slower at thread management than Android? Long ago, I used to see postings about how much faster Linux was at thread creation/destruction than OS X. But that was a long time ago, and I wonder if it is still the case.

      • If anything, there are Android phones sporting more memory or faster processors.

        More memory than a 128 GB iPhone? And have you seen any benchmarks on the iPhone vs. pretty much any Android phone?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by clonehappy ( 655530 )

      But seriously? iPhone superior to Android? Were they buying budget phones?

      Never used an iPhone, eh?

    • They are comparing their current Samsung Note II to an Iphone 6S, yes the 6S will be faster than an old Android phone.
    • Re:My first first? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2016 @03:36PM (#52543361)

      The iPhone could be in fact superior to the task that the Army needed the device to do.

      Don't go all Android Fanboi! Android does many things better than iOS... However iOS does some things better.
      When designing a software there are tradeoffs that are needed. Sometimes those tradeoffs may enhance more people than they hinder, however the minority may find that missing ability to greatly improve that function they prefer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by macs4all ( 973270 )

      But seriously? iPhone superior to Android?

      Yes, seriously. Do you want the list in Alphabetical Order, or in Order of Importance?

      Remember, we're talking about the Military here. They could give a rats ass about your precious "Sideloading", and "Cyanogenmod" crapola. They are interested in just a couple of things: Reliability and Responsiveness of hardware and software, and Security of the OS.

      Overall, iPhone "wins" on both counts, sorry.

      Oh, and not having Google datamining every single thing is probably a consideration in a Military application

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      A common sales trick is to compare a competitors budget model with the specs of your own model set for release next year - or a similar goalpost shift.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2016 @01:04PM (#52542199)

    Other apps can help with high altitude jumps;

    So are they supposed to just whip out an iPhone in the middle of a HALO jump to figure out when they need to open their chute?

    • So are they supposed to just whip out an iPhone in the middle of a HALO jump to figure out when they need to open their chute?

      <sarcasm>That's what I always do, don't you?</sarcasm>

      Maybe it communicates with a headset via Bluetooth to tell them when to deploy their chute. At least that's how I'd set it up.

    • Yeah, you just have to make sure the request sends before you hit the gr

      -session terminated

    • HALO jumps are not done that often anymore. In fact, I suspect almost never. They do HAHO now. Modern parachute design allows you to glide into the target area from up to 40 miles away rather than the aircraft flying over a target country. It takes a while to travel that distance so plenty of time to whip out a iPhone and get anything from GPS, current LZ/target data, keep in contact with your team, etc.
      • plenty of time to whip out a iPhone and get anything from GPS, current LZ/target data, keep in contact with your team, etc.

        Instagram and Twitter?

        check it out! me and my crew sailing over the dmz at 20k! w00t!

    • Hence the importance of responsive applications.

  • Still made in China (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    *doh

  • That's nonsense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If they're switching, it's because somebody's getting a kickback.

    • Re:That's nonsense (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Notorious G ( 4223193 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2016 @01:38PM (#52542535)
      I doubt it. I had android phones most of my career and only switched to iPhone about 18 months ago. The android phones tend to suck, it's that simple. They freeze, they lose performance (frequent reboots often fix that) and occasional exhibit unexpected and inconsistent behaviors (icon/button clicks don't work until app/phone restart, a button that did one thing sometimes does something else, etc). Android battery life sucks so bad there are apps you need to use to help manage it - not because the battery is a problem but it seems something is always running that drains it. With my iPhone, it just works. In 18 months I can count the number of reboots on one hand. I can go the entire weekend without recharging. Occasionally there is an app crash but nothing like I saw on android. When you're out on the sharp tip of the spear and your life may depend on information being reliably available, android is not the best bet. I'm not saying iPhone is something I'd want to bet my life on either but if I was in their position and wanted the best available, it's the iPhone.
      • by Rexdude ( 747457 )

        Any comment on 'an Android phone' is invalid unless you specify which, because there's no such thing as a generic Android phone when you get them in a million configurations and price points. What is the phone model? That reveals the age of the handset as well as the manufacturer.

  • by TsuruchiBrian ( 2731979 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2016 @01:10PM (#52542265)
    Now the army spec ops guys just need to get their apps approved through the app store.
    • Just tell them that rare Pokemon have been spotted near an ISIS encampment.

    • Re:OK (Score:5, Informative)

      by jittles ( 1613415 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2016 @01:46PM (#52542593)

      Now the army spec ops guys just need to get their apps approved through the app store.

      The DoD already pays for an enterprise cert for iOS. They have been running their own server w/ app install capabilities for the last ~6 years or so, even when they were just tinkering with iOS deployments.

  • Can the Army install custom apps for themselves or they need to be approved first for Apple?
    • what about an custom rom and being fully unlocked with no locking the Apple SIM card

    • by Ixokai ( 443555 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2016 @01:21PM (#52542413)

      Apple has had an enterprise mechanism for installing custom apps for years now, completely bypassing the store. This has been the case almost as long as there's been an a store.

      With the right management software, the apps can even be loaded and updated automatically. All without Apple ever seeing them.

    • Can the Army install custom apps for themselves or they need to be approved first for Apple?

      ANYone can install custom iOS apps for themselves. You don't even have to be a Registered Developer.

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2016 @01:12PM (#52542293) Homepage Journal

    A natural consequence of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

  • Isn't on the battlefield a little late to be reading weapons and ammunition guides?

    • Isn't on the battlefield a little late to be reading weapons and ammunition guides?

      These types are usually trained on foreign service weapons in their area of operation. They may be using scavenged weapons and may need to look up a more complicated task that they have not performed on a regular enough basis to have memorized. Same with ammo.

  • Seriously, they don't have specialized equipment for high altitude jumps or to detect radiation?!
    I can only hope that for a special forces tactical assault kit they are getting some custom designed ones and not off-the-shelf phones.

    The article links to another article at dodbuzz [dodbuzz.com] that gives some better info.

    • by b0bby ( 201198 )

      I assume the phones can do many things, and they are only the end user device. Why not get off the shelf stuff which is reasonably cheap and well understood?

    • this couldn't possibly be to call them when they're not on base?

  • by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2016 @01:17PM (#52542367)
    If they didn't want it to freeze I would hope they bought a Google Nexus, the only arguably vanilla Android phone. Otherwise, yeah, if it's worth the extra cost to you an iPhone probably will be more stable.
  • by PyroSlacker ( 1219150 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2016 @01:46PM (#52542589)
    I deal with the DoD phones every day and it's not that the Android hardware or OS is slower or inferior, it's that the DoD's implementation is. I personally don't like iOS and find my Samsung phones far superior for personal use, but once the security software is installed the Galaxy phones are virtually useless (and this includes all the way up through the S6, not just completely outdated models). They completely missed the point on how Knox is supposed to work and try to secure both the regular partition and the Knox partition which just screws up both of them. They constantly lose connection to the server and have to be reset or just freeze entirely. Despite my vehement dislike of iOS I advise people to only get iPhones now for the office. It's just not worth fighting with what they've done to Android. So when SOCOM says their Android phones are slow and freezing and the iPhone is much faster it's completely true in the context of government secured versions (in the context of personal phones that don't have everything useful disabled in the name of security, I'll stick with my S7 Edge).
    • by psergiu ( 67614 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2016 @02:43PM (#52542985)

      Yep - another S6A Knox user here.
      If i lose data connection for a bit, i feel-it as the phone heats up like mad while sucking the battery dry.
        If i lose the data connection for too long, it will self-format (and destroy all the data/photos/application settings on the phone)
      And when the data connection is working fine, the fscking antivirus randomly kicks in and slows everything down. I had battery life varying from 3 full days to 3 hours.
      There's no way to get consistent functionality from a secured Samsung phone. While on iPhone everything works as it should.

      Linux kernel on Android vs MACH Darwin microkernel on iOS.

  • I know that it's crazy\

    I know that it's nowhere\

    But there is no denying that

  • Wiki has the Nett Warrior system using a samsung galaxy note II the replacement is 2015 thats a huge difference in tech what 2 whole android OS revisions etc. They also have them using a NSA approved firmware who who knows what issues.

  • How many of these had sideloaded software (malware?) because Johnny wants to watch some, er, interesting videos or play games for money? Does NSA/DARPA/GAO really believe iPhone will do any better?

    It reminds me of a potential advertisement a past employer of mine considered - never mind the visuals, the tagline was "They offered me an iPhone. I offered them a head-start!"

    • Does NSA/DARPA/GAO really believe iPhone will do any better?

      Why yes, yes it does.

      Kinda the whole point, isn't it?

  • Someone please tell me out Military isnt buying the same phones the consumers buy? Same for Windows 10 even if its the "enterprise" edition can you imagine Microsoft having the ability to data mine our Military.lol omg.

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