San Francisco and New York, most notably, urged Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) to include a function that rendered a phone useless in the event of theft for years before the company finally complied with the release of “Activation Lock” on phones running iOS 7.
Following Apple’s lead
That decision from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has already reduced iPhone thefts since the beginning of 2014 by 17% in New York City. With the announcement by Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) today, that means that the three leading mobile OS platforms will effectively “brick” stolen phones. Now, we just need thieves, or at least the fences they use, to read tech blogs.
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According to U.S. law enforcement agencies, 3.1 million smartphones were stolen in 2013 nearly doubling the amount of devices stolen the year prior. Internationally, one in three Europeans had their devices stolen in 2013, while Colombian criminals stole over one million devices in the same year.
With this understanding, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) finally stepped up to do their best to help the initiative that many are calling “Secure our Smartphones.”
“An activated kill switch converts an easy-to-sell, high-value multimedia device into a jumble of plastic and glass, drastically reducing its street value,” the report by New York Attorney General said.
Kill switch work
Legislatures favor the “hard” kill switch option which turns phones into expensive paperweights where a “soft” kill switch is easier to work around.
Manoj Menon, managing director of consulting firm Frost & Sullivan said the move was a step in the right direction, yet long overdue.
“This is a fantastic move and will go a long way in helping authorities come one step closer to realizing a vision of zero theft of mobile phone,” he told the BBC.
While that’s madness and there is “not a foolproof system” as thieves “will find a way to monetise the accessories and parts of a phone” it’s still a big step forward if thieves are made privy to today’s announcement.
At the end of the day, Menon points out that a kill switch “does substantially reduce the financial incentive of stealing a device” and that’s a strong point from whence to move forward.