You could soon answer your door to find an Apple iPhone 8 staring you in the face

You could soon answer your door to find an Apple iPhone 8 staring you in the face
Every ten years the U.S. government collects information from each household for the census. This year, the census takers' jobs will involve collecting data on approximately 300 million Americans currently living in 140 million households. And thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, not every household has given much thought about completing the census. Still, all it takes is a 10-minute visit to the my2020census.gov website, a phone call, or a returned mailer to complete the lawful obligation of the head of each household.

If you don't respond by May, you will be paid a visit by a census enumerator for a "a nonresponse followup." And this year, instead of a clipboard and a sheet of paper, the visitors from the census bureau will be armed with an Apple iPhone 8. According to CNET, the iPhone was chosen because many making the pilgrimage from house to house would probably be familiar with iOS. The idea to use an iPhone for the census came from a tech supplier for the government called CDW-G. Originally, the company suggested that the Census Bureau buy the iPhone 6 to do the job, but as it turns out the bureau was able to switch to the iPhone 8 at no additional cost.

The app designed for the census collects data and much more


The census takers will be using off-the-shelf iPhone units thanks to code signing and sandboxing. The former prevents an app from being recognized if its code has been changed before it was installed. The latter prevents an app from accessing, say, a malware filled app. As a result, if a clumsy census taker drops his iPhone 8, in theory, he/she could walk into a store, buy a replacement, and list the device with the mobile management software used by the Census Bureau. However, as it turns out, this is not the proper protocol if such an event were to take place.


The app used to collect the census data is easy to run, important considering that people from all different backgrounds will be using it to collect information. Besides collecting data, it gives the census taker information including his/her schedule, the scripted spiel they are supposed to say, and a box for the census taker to type in notes in case there needs to be a second follow up with a specific household. They can also log their hours/expenses and connect to a help center if there is a problem. The app is made by Pegasystems and the developer's vice president of corporate communications, Lisa Pintchman, says, "The app was designed based on the assumption that there would be no connectivity. This app is designed to be used and work exactly the same on the ground floor of a New York City high-rise or a remote town in North Dakota."

The Census Bureau is not buying the phones from CDW-G and is only leasing them. So when the government stops banging on doors beginning on August 14th, the phones are sent back to the supplier, wiped, and sent out to handle a new task. Apple is doing a bit of flag-waving as a spokesman notes, "We are proud that the U.S. Census Bureau will use the iPhone for the collection and management of 2020 census data. The census is an important constitutional cornerstone that aims to ensure every one of us has equal representation, education and access in America."

Back in 2006 when the Census Bureau was looking to replace paper and clipboards with a PDA, it signed a $600 million contract for 600,000 PDAs. These units were made by a name you should be familiar with-HTC. Called the HTC Census, the device came with GPS and physical keys; the unit was eventually offered to consumers via Sprint. By 2008, the PDA project was dropped and the bureau went back to paper. Now, with the use of the iPhone 8, the U.S. Census Bureau enters its own smartphone era.

Related phones

iPhone 8
  • Display 4.7 inches
    1334 x 750 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP (Single camera)
    7 MP front
  • Hardware Apple A11 Bionic, 2GB RAM
  • Storage 256GB, not expandable
  • Battery 1821 mAh
  • OS iOS 13.x

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