One of the most ubiquitous pieces of kit we've seen here so far -- of the personal kind, that is -- are cell phones. Everyone's got them at the bigger FOBs since there's pretty good cell coverage near the major cities. What a revolution in connectivity when you're deployed for a year...you can talk to loved ones every day if you want. It's a long way from the snail mail only comms of just 20 years ago.
Sure there are tons of basic cells clasped in the troops' hands. But there are also some iPhones here and there sprinkled in with the Motorolas and T-Mobiles -- including yours truly.
The key is to get a sim card linked to the local network so your calls are cheap (free if you receive a call) or to just buy a local cell phone altogether. But how to get around the notoriously draconian rules governing the use of iPhones and its sealed system?
I chatted with a young Sailor assigned to ISAF HQ in Kabul who was waiting in the pax terminal to deliver some radios to a unit in Bagram about this issue since he was sporting an iPhone. He said that he just used a jail break program to open up his iPhone to other networks and swapped out the AT&T card with a local Roshan network one. He assured me the card swap didn't mess up the phone and that a menacing mug of Steve Jobs didn't auto launch on his desktop when he tried to sync telling him he was a bad boy and nuking his phone to smithereens.
I know this may sound obvious, but some might be reasonably worried about tinkering with their beloved iPhones and swapping in a very foreign sim card to make cheaper calls. Well this guy says it's no sweat at all and that when you replace your old AT&T card, all it does is restore the phone to factory fresh (you gotta re-install the playlists, movies and apps).
So for all you deployers out there thinking of leaving home your iPhone and doing without your SISiPhone shot timer or Knights Armament Bullet Flight app in The Box, think again. You can bring the Apple wunderfon with you and still get a daily sitrep from CINC House while you're calculating how fast you can make those 700 meter shots.