The most industry-leading and innovative division of Samsung—the marketing department—has conjured a new version of the Galaxy S20 out of thin air. Samsung has produced a press release and website breathlessly touting the “Samsung Galaxy S20 Tactical Edition (TE),” a “mission-ready smartphone solution tailored to the unique needs of operators in the federal government and Department of Defense (DoD).” It seems to be a regular Galaxy S20, but in a case.
Samsung’s marketers are really going for it here. Let’s go over some of these bullet points. The Galaxy S20 Tactical Edition “easily connects to tactical radios and mission systems, out of the box, ensuring seamless operations.” How does the S20 TE accomplish such a feat? Well, with “Multi-ethernet capabilities” like “private SIM, 5G, Wi-Fi 6 and CBRS.” My god, it has Wi-Fi and cellular access! What an incredible warfighting machine.
The enemy will never see you coming, thanks to “Stealth mode,” which will “disable LTE and mute all RF broadcasting for complete off-grid communications.” A mere civilian would need airplane mode to turn off their phone radios, but this is stealthier, presumably due to the lack of jet-engine noises? There’s also a “night-vision mode,” which “allows the operator to turn the display on or off when wearing night-vision eyewear.” Samsung appears to be describing a power button, which hopefully works even when you aren’t wearing night-vision goggles.
We are really searching for something new here. The Tactical Edition is “certified and secure for Special Operations,” and Samsung claims it “introduces DualDAR architecture,” which “delivers two layers of data encryption based on the NSA standards.” Samsung’s docs say this takes Android’s normal File-Based Encryption (FBE) and lets you encrypt it a second time with any third-party cryptographic solution. OK, fine, but the docs say “DualDAR is supported on Galaxy S10, N10, S20, and future flagship models,” so what exactly is the S20 Tactical Edition “introducing?”
In terms of things that are actually different and not just hyped-up normal smartphone features, the tactical edition has a new boot screen—which, of course, says “Tactical Edition”—and the lock screen can rotate now, which is great for landscape use.
The case is actually neat
The S20 Tactical Edition comes with what looks like a Juggernaut case, a $290 accessory designed for military and police use. In addition to a very, very big camo-colored bumper around the perimeter, it has a glass (glass? Really?) screen protector, stainless steel buttons, and is sealed to an IP67 rating. The Galaxy S20 is already sealed to IP68 dust and water resistance, but this case would be your new first line of defense.
The Juggernaut case also supports some wild military configurations. A “Quick disconnect USB-C” cable can screw into the bottom of the juggernaut case, giving you a rock-solid secure connection for charging and tethering. This USB cable, which is another $290, terminates in a Glenair 804-series connector, a military-spec breakaway plug that can connect to all your other military gear without worrying about the delicacy of USB-C. There are also a ton of awesome mounts the case slots into, like a forearm mount, a mount for parachute harnesses, body-armor chest mounts, and vehicle mounts.
The “Tactical Edition” branding might be over the top, but Samsung is addressing a real market here. The military has all sorts of Android apps with jargony acronym names, like ATAK, the “Android Tactical Assault Kit,” APASS, the “Android Precision Assault Strike Suite,” and KILSWITCH, the (deep breath) “Kinetic Integrated Low-Cost Software Integrated Tactical Combat Handheld.” The goal of all of these is what you would expect: communication, mapping, and targeting, and the S20, in a big rubber case, is probably a great platform to run them on.
The Galaxy S20 Tactical Edition launches in Q3 2020 and is only available to “select IT channel partners.” It sounds like, if you want that super-cool boot screen, you’ll have to jump through some hoops. There’s no word on how much more expensive the Tactical Edition will be or how much slower software updates will arrive. It sounds like the S20 Juggernaut case will be sold to civvies sometime in June, though, so you can basically build your own “Tactical Edition” if you want and be really immersed in your next Call of Duty match.
Listing image by Samsung