Take the Glideline High Altitude Jump, for instance. The TransApp platform is sophisticated enough now that the military can upload mission data on the fly, even if the soldiers on that mission are jumping out of a plane. "We do high-altitude, high-opening jumping, so you can upload navigation maps when you exit the aircraft at 10,000 feet at nighttime. It can make it very difficult navigating in an unlit environment [like a] desert," Meyer told me. "This phone—this app—allows you to navigate from your exit point to your actual drop zone."

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That's right. These smartphones help troops steer themselves through the air, thousands of feet above the ground, in pitch black, and find their way to safety. Think: turn-by-turn directions for a paratrooper. That's incredible.

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Both Meyer and Gage were both quick to say how TransApp technology saves lives on the battlefield. "I think as we continue partnering with [DARPA] this type of tech advance only makes soldiers safer and builds us as a more lethal organization," Meyer told me.

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An Army Ranger using a Nett Warrior device.

Gage went on to explain that the military smartphone is not necessarily a tool for offensive maneuvers, though. "If we're getting attacked," he said, "I'm probably going to put that device down and I'm going to focus on controlling forces and moving around the enemy and trying to neutralize that." He added, "We did not use this device for targeting. We use this device for battlefield awareness."

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The basic navigation and information-sharing technology that most civilians take for granted on a daily basis could mean the difference between life and death for our young troops overseas. The only question now is, why don't more soldiers have smartphones?

Images: DARPA / U.S. Army