U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan are getting a new tool for field use: the iPod Touch.
Newsweek reports that the little touchscreen devices — basically, iPhones without the phone — are cheaper and more useful than custom-made gadgets built by defense contractors.
Instead of having dedicated devices to translate, display maps, show videos or even calculate ballistics, the magazine reports, GIs find it easier just to write applications, or install existing ones, to do the same things on the iPod Touch.
Pentagon researchers are creating iPod Touch applications to download video from aerial drones, control bomb-disposal robots and communicate with local leaders.
Soldiers use iPod Touches, all of which have Wi-Fi connectivity, to spread information about operations or individuals being sought. Hotspots may be hard to find in the Afghan desert, but a group of iPod Touches can easily create an "ad hoc" network to work together.
Protective cases harden the iPods against harsh desert conditions, and one official in Baghdad told the magazine they'd never been hacked.