Police officers are "screaming" with frustration at the "primitive" technology they have to use.
Tom Winsor, the first chief inspector who does not have a police background, said supplying officers with "antiquated" equipment "haemorrhages efficiency".
The ex-rail regulator was delivering his first public speech at the Royal United Services Institute since taking up his current role seven months ago. He is the mastermind behind a series of radical reforms to policing, including changes to pay and conditions and the introduction of direct entry at higher ranks.
Hitting out at the state of "slow and patchy" technology among police forces, he said: "In too many respects, the technology which officers have to work with is quite far behind where it could be."
One officer who was interviewed was using a PDA (personal digital assistant) device, which Mr Winsor said he had not seen "in 10 years". "It was next to useless," he added.
In comments after the speech, he said: "It is remarkable that the technology available to the police, particularly in their interaction with other parts of the criminal justice system, is as rudimentary and as primitive as it is. It haemorrhages efficiency.
"The frustrations, the screaming frustrations, of front-line police officers, who struggle with outdated and antiquated systems, is a considerable matter of importance."
Mr Winsor said officers lock up their smartphones at the beginning of the day only to clip a "primitive airwaves system" provided by the force to their shoulders.
He said: "Many officers; clearly it's not as secure as a police provided system; will use their smartphones to do things like voice recording and photography and getting information.”
The chief inspector said it was "highly desirable" that the officer of the future is equipped with a smartphone-like device so he or she holds "force intelligence in his hand".
Mr Winsor said with more than 2,000 different IT systems, a "single national champion" was needed to deal with police technology.