In little more than a year, applications for Apple's popular iPhone have become a sensation - with more than 100,000 downloadable programs that do everything from stargazing to virtual farting.But now one of America's biggest military contractors is taking the concept to extremes, by building a series of apps for use on the battlefield.
At a conference in Arizona on Wednesday, US defence company Raytheon announced its plans to launch a new range of military-oriented programs that can turn the popular touchscreen mobile phone into a tool for use in war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
The first application in its plans, called One Force Tracker, uses satellite positioning and mobile networks to give soldiers constantly updating field maps that track the position of friendly troops and enemy fighters in real time.
The program - dubbed a "situational awareness application" by Raytheon executives - would combine data from many sources to try and give an accurate picture of hotspots such as sniper hideouts and vantage points. Troops could also use their iPhones for secure communication, said the company.
"We are committed to providing innovative technology solutions for warfighters and all of our customers," said Jay Smart, chief technology officer of Raytheon's intelligence and information systems business.
The application can run on ordinary iPhone handsets - a decision that came, Smart said, because building software for the gadget was cheaper and simpler than some of the expensive options specifically designed for military use.