The iPhone (s aapl) may be taking steps toward breaking into big business, but its little brother is already well on its way to becoming a career soldier. Apparently the iPod touch is becoming quite the staple for U.S. soldiers working in Iraq, partly because it’s such a versatile device capable of replacing and/or augmenting many items in a soldier’s standard kit. The touch is also a relatively cheap piece of hardware considering its usefulness, at least when considered in the context of military hardware.
Cost is not the only advantage the iPod touch has on the battlefield. It’s lightweight, durable (though for military deployment, they usually get some kind of special sheath to add to their in-built resilience), familiar to soldiers, and customizable. According to one Army official in Baghdad (via Newsweek), they also apparently have yet to be hacked by opposing forces. I can picture the new “Get a Mac” ad now, with John Hodgman getting hacked by an insurgent.
The main reason the iPod touch is so handy is its versatility as a development platform. As the App Store ads claim, “There’s an app for that,” and that includes things like translation, tactical mapping, networking/communication, surveillance, image recognition and ballistics calculation. Gun mounts and touch control mean that soldiers can do all of these things while keeping a hand or hands free for other activities and devices, some of which might save their life.
With military action becoming more and more a technological affair, expect to see the combat role of the iPod touch grow even more. Future iterations could prove even more useful, and ordinary consumers might benefit, too. If Apple adds hardware features to make the device more appealing for military use, the rest of us could reap the rewards. I’m thinking a camera and additional types of wireless antennas would be top priority from a military standpoint, and I’m sure consumers wouldn’t complain either.