Smartphone thefts plummet after kill switch inclusion – as usual Apple leads way

12 Feb 2015

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It seems kill switches have helped stem the tide of smartphone thefts, with iPhones in particular safer than ever.

Robberies of iPhones, specifically, have dropped 40pc in San Francisco and 25pc in New York in the year since the kill switch was launched, with overall smartphone thefts down 27pc and 16pc respectively.

In London the drop was greater still, with thefts of all phones reduced by half, but its Apple’s early adoption of the politically pressured kill switch that has been most successful.

Apple’s Activation Lock was introduced back in September 2013, before any other manufacturer heeded the call from Secure Our Smartphones (SOS), an intitative that looked at the growing number of robberies around the world.

In doing so ahead of the others, Apple’s iPhones have the best results, with Microsoft still yet to implement something similar.

Working together

Indeed SOS attributes the stark drop in thefts entirely down to the kill switch implementations across a range of manufacturers.

Utilising a kill switch, users basically deactivate their phone and, even if the thief completely wipes it and reinstalls the operating system, it still won’t work. This removes the economic merits of stealing smartphones, as they essentially can’t be sold on with any great ease.

Activation Lock was originally released as part of the iOS 7 software update, and was made standard in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Samsung released a kill switch-type solution on the Galaxy S5 and last summer Google and Microsoft announced plans to follow suit.

Google released a version of Android with a kill switch in October and Windows is expected to release something similar this year.

“The huge drops in smartphone theft that have occurred since then are evidence that our strategy is working,” says US Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “Fewer families are suffering, and people are safer in our cities and across the world.”

“In London,” added the UK city’s mayor Boris Johnson, “we convened the major phone manufacturers and urged them to do more to protect their own customers, and the advent of a kill switch in late 2013, in conjunction with the enforcement efforts of the Metropolitan Police, has been key to this turnaround.”

Smartphone theft image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt is senior communications and context executive at NDRC. He previously worked as a journalist with Silicon Republic.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com