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U.S. Army testing Windows Phone, Android and iOS--will choose only two

The U.S. Army is wrapping up a six week testing of three major smartphone OSs: Windows Phone, Android and the iPhone, with hundreds of devices and even some tablets.  Evidently no BlackBerry or WebOS love. The point is for the Army to "anoint" two OSs approval for usage by soldiers who are deployed or just currently in service. They won't support more in order to keep development costs down as the Army is set to have their own app store for soldiers. In addition, the Army hopes that the variety will help ward off cyber-attacks as well as giving soldiers ample choice for personal preference.

The military is going with commercially available hardware/software in order to keep costs down, plus as they point out, today's commercially available smartphones are pretty powerful:

"It's a computer; it's a display unit; it's a video-out unit," he said. "Since it is a computer-based utility in a 7-ounce package, we just started realizing there was a vast amount of potential."

Of course, deployment into the battlefield may take some time as no platform currently has encrypted transmissions, but that is something the military hopes to overcome later in the year.

Of note, the iPhone has problems in desert grounds i.e. reception issues between AT&T's coverage and the iPhone's less than stellar performance. Also at least one Android device had to be replaced:

"One popular phone from Samsung Electronics failed to connect to cellular networks and had bugs in its Android operating system, McCarthy said. So Sprint Nextel exchanged it for a different Samsung model, he said"

However, Android and iOS were "well received" so it remains to see how Windows Phone stacks up and if it makes the cut. If Windows Phone does make it into Army hands, it will be a solid boost for the fledgling OS and a vote of confidence by a pretty well known organization. We'd like to think the iPhone and WP7 make the cut while Android, due to its fragmentation, Market security vulnerabilities, poor battery life and app crashing will keep it out of the final choice. We'll keep you posted.

Source: CNN; via GeekWire

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

28 Comments
  • I agree, I think Windows Phone and iOS are the ones that are going to make the cut but I guess we never know. That would be great for Windows Phone though.
  • We already know is gonna be IOS and Android the ones choosen. Though I will personally choose IOS and WP7 because of their reliability.
  • I thought that too until Daniel mentioned Android fragmentation and market security."In addition, the Army hopes that the variety will help ward off cyber-attacks as well as giving soldiers ample choice for personal preference."This is the key phrase that tells us it will most likely be iOS and WP7. If they are true to giving soldiers some choice it would be a big hassle to make sure everything works identically across all the devices. With WP7 the solider could choose any Windows Phone they want and the army won't have to worry about something not working unless something in the device itself is defective. Plus, Microsoft knows more about security than Apple and Google who have still yet to have Major security issues to learn from.
  • Somehow I doubt they will pick Android, given its current security model. I wouldn't even trust iOS. Microsoft has proven they're pretty responsible with security, even when their platform is mainstream and the most targeted. Microsoft should win hands down on this one!
  • Im confident it would be wp7,and iphone. this a no brainer choice, android with all the issues they are having with androids I dont think so... And not to mentioned upgrade process??? Wp7 and IOS has no phone left behind policy, android is the opposite... Wp7 is a perfect phone foe army, the live tiles,glance and go is prefect specially for older soldiers...I just hope they sent out a MANGO device with front camera....good luck
  • The army is unlikely to care about upgrade processes. In fact, even if they chose WP7 and iOS, they would most likely avoid updating. Consumers love latest and greatest. Things like the military like Old Reliable.
  • Even the army will need to have updates for nothing is 100% secure. There will be hole that need to be patched and things that need fixing.
  • I'm betting android and iOS. Android is open source, and the army can do with it as they will. They can add in all the security they want, instead of relying on others to do it for them. As the article said, no platform currently is up to their security snuff, and the Army could theoretically fix that problem on android themselves. Also, despite the hate on this site, android is a reliable platform.I think they will do iOS for two reasons. Most known platform, and background multitasking. Yes, WP7 has it in mango, but I don't think the army is testing dev builds. If the testing had come a few months later, that would be a different story.As an owner and heavy user of all three platforms, I think WP7 mango and android are the platforms they should go with. I just don't think they will, sadly.
  • "I'm betting android and iOS. Android is open source, and the army can do with it as they will. They can add in all the security they want, instead of relying on others to do it for them."Problem: These are off the shelf, commercial Android devices. Try running custom, deep level software across the board on all the Android devices out there, including OS versions. That's a disaster. WP7 doesn't have that problem neither does the iPhone.
  • I am sure they won't be using phones from Cricket. I would expect high end phones and especially the Nexus series for their Android selection.
  • The reason they don't have that problem is because you can't even try.That's akin to someone complaining about gas prices, and you responding "I can't drive, so there is no problem." With android, if they can standardize, say on the Nexus devices, they have a lot more freedom to do with them as they will.I listen to the podcast, I know you just love to hate on android. As an owner of both platforms, I can say you are usually wrong about your android comments. I think you are here as well.
  • Obviously the choice will be iphone and android, following on from their popularity with consumers and undoubtedly army personnel doing the testing have already had experience of those platforms. Realistically I dont see the army going for a platform that is so immature tbh and the lack of on-device encryption is sure to factor into their decision as well.
  • "We'd like to think the iPhone and WP7 make the cut while Android, due to its fragmentation, Market security vulnerabilities, poor battery life and app crashing will keep it out of the final choice."I agree. While they could contract a device specifically for them with their requirements and have it restricted and managed by them, it would be far easier and lest costly to have an "off the shelf" system with their own custom apps pushed to it. Using System Center and its ability to be tied to a "private" infrastructure for app deployment and manageability could be a huge plus. I know that there are third party apps for IOS and Android that allow for some of this, but it would just add to the cost and support to the solution, whereas most of the Government uses System Center and Windows to power their organization.
  • I think it will be Android and either WP7 or iOS. They have used Android before and because of their open source. They can run things more efficiently than WP7 and iOS (in a sense of something other than their OS). I know it is cool to hate Android on these blogs but I like it. I honestly don't think Apple would win because of how much they like to control things!
  • too little too late sorry WP7 as much as I love this OS too little too late.. if we had mango then maybe without mango no deal.
  • It doesn't appear the deployment would be immediate. The article says maybe by the end of the year sending some devices out. That gives WP7 enough time to have Mango out. I would hope the Army is wise enough to weigh in what Mango brings to the table.
  • The question I have is, is the military testing Nodo-WP7 or Mango-WP7?Nodo is great but it's lacking a ton of features in comparison to Mango. One of the biggest hurdles for Nodo is that it's lacking in comparison to Google Maps. Bing is great but if the military is going to depend on a particular service, they're going to depend on the one that's well known for working around the world. However, if it's Mango-WP7 then it's a mute point as Nokia's Navteq services more than make up for any short comings in Bing. One of Android's biggest strengths is also its biggest weakness. With the recent increase in malware, Android has proven that it's great for hacking and great for getting hacked. I'd be worried about issuing out phones knowing there's a fairly large community of hackers waiting to strike. However, the closed nature of iOS may make it an even worse choice than Android. The platform may be so tightly controlled by Apple that it could suffocate any thing the military wants to do with it. Never mind the fact that they are also high theft items. But with that said, if I had to choose I would still pick iOS/WP7. Granted I'm a fan of WP7, but I also think Apple and Microsoft has taken a more active role in securing their platforms. Google sacrificed security, stability, and a good chunk of legal issues to make Android what it is today. And their hands off, laissez-faire approach has only made it worse. When soldiers' lives are on the line I would pick the two companies that take a more active role in securing personal data, and that ain't Google.
  • seriously i dont think the aplications or the features are what they are looking for.they are looking for reliable, stable , durable , secured and easy to use ( im supprised they dint go with RIM )android offeres NONE of that. i just dont see ANY touch screen phone in the army for that matter , i hope they get deals on screen replacements!! lmao!
  • Windows Phone 7 and iOS are by now the most stable operating systems I know. Android keeps crashing and lagging even on high end phones because of modifications over the stock platform. That's why WP7 and iOS have the potential for acception, the speed and slickness. Android has one more problem: vulnerability for WiFi access points. Do you know, that all passwords from the Android devices can be hijacked if connected to a public WiFi? But that's ONLY for devices that run lower versions of Android than 2.3. So they would have to use high end Gingerbread devices, not the little cheap Eclair or Froyo. I say that the WP7 and iOS will go on because of their stability, speed and security options.
  • I would guess that it would be iOS and WP7. iOS since it is the most popular, but WP7 over Android since Microsoft has extensive experience developing military grade hardware. Microsoft knows the ins and outs of Government procurement contracts better than almost anyone and has beaten out Google numerous times. Also think about the potential issues that could arise from the military purchasing products that contain unlicensed Intellectual Property. The fact that each Android OEM has to separately secure IP licenses does not match up to the fully licensed ready to go WP7 in a procurement proposal. Maybe Fujitsu is developing that waterproof WP7 for a very specific audience.
  • All this speculation is for not because the Military has needs that go far beyond how popular, fragmented, open-sourced, closed or pretty the OS is. Its my guess that when the winners are announced; only the people that need to know will know what specifications each OS needed to pass.
  • Unfortunately if they want a video-out unit they will probably stick with iOs and Android, since very few Windows Phone handsets come with DNLA. Unless that changes with Mango, hopefully Microsoft is listening.
  • Good point. It's one of those missing features that drives me to still use my Zune as my primary music playback device. Not to mention that the 32g of storage on my phone just can't hold my 7k collection. I'm still kinda miffed about that and if they think cloud storage is the answer then they'll first need to figure out how to make cell towner signals penetrate walls inside of walls, inside if more walls.
  • it's called "windows" for a reason :-p
  • The military is known for nothing if not for following the status quo. For example, despite the known advantages of using first focal plane rifle scopes with matching reticles and turrets, e.g. mil/mil or MOA/MOA, they continue to specify scopes with mismatched turrets. Because that's the way it's always been done. I'm doubtful they'll give MS the nod.
  • WP7 + iOS would be my choice for them ;)
  • I sure it will be Windows 7 as one of the choices, because of Information Right Management which the Mango update will support.The iOS and Craproid will require Good Messaging (http://good.com/) which adds to the overall cost of management of smart devices. Whereas the Windows 7 Phone with IRM becomes a more compelling lower cost solution. I'm in the Army and I sure hope it will be Windows 7 not Craproid. Beside if you can cut Good messaging out why not.
  • wait...any news on what they chose?