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MINDEF Reply on Banning of Devices with Screen More than 4.3-inch in Army Camps

Updated on 23rd August 2013: MINDEF updated their reviews on phone cameras and in-vehicle cameras

Recently, MINDEF (Ministry of Defence) announced the much anticipated news that many NSMen or Active SAF personnel are waiting for. They have started a pilot security zoning programme at 14 camps. What it means is that with this programme, camera phones can finally be brought into these camps at selected areas.

(picture source from Facebook)

However, after the implementation, news trickled in mentioning that these camps do not allow devices that are more than 4.3-inch in screen size (see above picture).

I could not co-relate why screen size is included in the mobile phone criteria when the whole objective is to allow or disallow mobile phone with camera into the camp.

I tried to asked around but could not get a good answer. Finally, I decided to write to them and they have replied me with some answers. I will not copy everything here but some important/interesting information

The pilot implementation of the security zoning system only allows servicemen to bring camera-equipped mobile phones into the designated Green Zones of the 14 selected SAF camps. The 14 camps were chosen due to the high number of NSmen and NSFs who train in these camps. A post-implementation review will be conducted six to nine months after the pilot implementation.  The media will be informed accordingly on the outcome of the review and the way ahead.

The above is something we already know and it sounds logical. However, the point below is something that many might not know or agree.

Existing security policies and restrictions on other devices such as iPads and other tablets are still in-place and are subjected to further review. Mobile phones with screen size larger than 4.3 inches, with or without camera, are not allowed into SAF camps. This aims to prevent servicemen from bringing unauthorised mini-computers into SAF camps.

Based on the information above, the whole point is that they are worried about mini-computers into the SAF camps. It has been a while since I heard about the term “mini-computer”. I tried to Google mini-computer but they are old stuffs (Minicomputer, Superminicomputer).

Of course, I think they meant small size computers in general. However, to ban mobile phones based on size means that many new phones will be in the “banned” category. These “big” phones may have the same or lower processor than those phones with smaller screen size.

Therefore, I think banning a phone based on screen size is not a good or correct way. Instead, they can: -

  • Get a list of phones that are more than 4.3-inch in screen size and confirm them upon entry to the camps. These phones should be allowed as they are NOT mini computers.
  • Continue to ban those NOT in the list. This will make the job easier and less confusion. Of course, please update the list periodically.
  • Educate the guards on how to check/verify the phones using SOP.

Actually, I believe that they already have a list (based on the picture above). The fact that it is incorrect to think that any devices above 4.3-inch might be a computer. In fact, they should worry about computer like this Raspberry Pi that can be easily hidden and brought into camps. The definition of computer or mini-computers and the ban of mobile phones based on screen size should be reviewed. I think most of our smartphones are actually quite powerful (mini) computers.

BTW,  I blogged about this because bringing camera phones to camp has been a hot topic in my army days long time ago. It is good that MINDEF is finally addressing it. However, it is sad that they are limiting the devices based on the wrong criteria (in my opinion).

In order not to confuse those who do not know about the pilot security zoning programme, please follow the link below for more information.

Click Here to Official Announcement from MINDEF

or

Click Here to Understand How it Works

Hope to hear from your comments on this matter. BTW, I will let MINDEF know about this blog post. So, if you have anything to say or point out, please feel free to do so.

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  • http://twitter.com/eonquay Off Quay

    I think MINDEF got it wrong… iphone 4 has 3.5 inch screen and is very much a mini computer (based on their definition).

  • joeteh

    I believe thinking that smartphone is NOT a computer is already a mistake.

  • http://twitter.com/YKLee13 YK Lee

    Thanks Joe!

  • justice

    I strongly agreed with Joe, this should be review again , just like comparing Samsung S3 and Apple Iphone. both is just a smartphone. Critical part is the user of either phone whether they will abid to the new rules given.

  • joeteh

    Thks. I believe many will understand size matters BUT NOT in this issue. MINDEF shld relook into this policy if they are going to implement it permanently in future.

  • AppleMarketing

    The reason why MINDEF prohibits any smartphones more than 4.3″ to be brought into camp was the result of a confidential agreement between Apple Inc(AAPL) and Ministry of Defence, Singapore in 2011. Plans were already underway to allow camera phones into camps as early as middle 2011. By providing a special one-off discount for the purchase of the iPad 2 for Singapore Armed Force servicemen, MINDEF agreed to ban any mobile phones with screen size more than 4.3″ into camps when the total ban was lifted. The advantage for Apple was that the then-current Samsung GT-I9100(also known as “Galaxy SII”) would not be allowed to be brought into camps, rendering servicemen’ sets useless and indirectly improving the overall market share for Apple iPhones. Of course, since the new Samsung GT-I9300 had a screen more than 4.3″ it is also disallowed into camps. I hope this clarification has cleared any doubts you have on this matter.

  • z arc

    You are talking rubbish. At that time, the Galaxy SII was banned already because it is a camera phone. And it is less than 4.3 inches by the way.

  • skuppy

    Hi Joe,
    Thanks for blogging about this.
    Has there been any updates so far?
    Because my ICT is in Aug 2013, and my phone screen exceeds 4.3″.

  • joeteh

    I don’t hv the latest update. BTW, this is a pilot scheme which means if it is confirmed, all military camps in Singapore will have such scheme. However, there is no mention of end-date for the scheme. Therefore, I guess we need to wait for the official announcement.

  • Egg Prata

    Can i bring my ipod touch 5th gen into green zone camp/green zone office or only camera phones are allowed?

  • joeteh
  • joeteh

    I believe it falls into the same rule as a camera phone..

  • Egg Prata

    So which means i can bring it in? because i don’t want to get charged

  • joeteh

    If you are worried, I suggest you check with your admin office first. If not, don’t bring in the first day. Check with your officer before you bring in (that is, if you can book out).