Android and Windows Phone will follow iOS’ lead in adding a remote kill-switch to help make stolen phones less valuable to thieves, after technology included in Apple’s iPhone was credited with “stunning effectiveness”. Cases of stolen Apple products in New York fell 19-percent in the first five months of this year, according to the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative pushing for the kill-switch tech, with even greater improvements in San Francisco and London.
On the west coast, for instance, robberies where Apple’s iOS devices were involved dropped 38-percent in the same January through May period, versus the same five months in 2013. In the UK, London thefts dropped by 24-percent.
Regulators behind the scheme are crediting the curtailed resale value of stolen iPhones as a result of the kill-switch implementation. The system means that when a used iPhone is re-activated, and registered as having been lost and erased, the user must sign in with the original Apple ID used to first activate the device.
Without that, the iPhone can’t be used. Early versions of the technology, as well as a version from Samsung, were tested last year on the Galaxy S 4 and iPhone 5s.
“The statistics released today illustrate the stunning effectiveness of kill switches and the commitments of Google and Microsoft are giant steps toward consumer safety,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said of the scheme today. According to Schneiderman, other platforms are set to follow suit as a result of the successes they’ve seen.
Still, that doesn’t come as too great a surprise, given that many companies – Google and Microsoft among them – have already signed up to the Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment, and agreed to implement a kill-switch on all new phones made after July 2015.
That will include the functionality to remotely wipe any personal data that is saved on a stolen device, as well as locking it with a passcode or PIN. Reactivations will be blocked, too, even if the handset is put through a factory reset, though the whole activation block will be reversible if the owner recovers their phone, with the original data available to restore from a cloud backup.