Apple-Benefits-Kill-SwitchWith your money stashed in your bank account, your wallet filled with only a small amount of cash, your expensive watch, jewelry and other valuable safely stored inside your closet or a safe, you would think that you’ve rid yourself of the threat of thieves and robbers. Unfortunately, nothing can be more far off from the truth. You may not realize it yet, but your smartphone is to thieves and robbers what honey is to bees. As long as you’re carrying the expensive piece of hardware on you, you continue to walk on thin ice.

Anti-Theft Measures Need of the Hour

Over the past few years, cell phone thefts have remained one of the most common crimes in the US. With the cellular devices growing more prevalent and expensive, such crimes are expected to rise even further. To curb this trend, the San Francisco and New York prosecutors George Gascón and Eric Schneiderman made a desperate appeal for introduction of kill switches in smartphones to the major phone manufacturers and carriers last year as part of the Secure Our Smartphones (S.O.S.) initiative. Tech giants agreed with the necessity of such a measure but hesitated from making any commitments, mainly due to the Carriers and Trade Association’s (CITA) opposition of the idea. The latter contended that kill switches would empower hackers by giving them the ability to completely kill off the device.

Kill Switch Paying Off For Apple Users

Apple turned out to be the first company to cave to S.O.S.’s appeal and introduced its anti-theft feature by the name of Activation Lock to iOS 7 in late 2013. According to The New York Times report, iPhone thefts have dropped drastically since then. According to the report:

  • There has been 19 percent decrease in robberies and 29 percent decrease in grand larcenies involving Apple products in the first five months of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013
  • Robberies and grand larcenies involving a Samsung smartphone, which lacked anti-theft features, increased by over 40 percent in the same period
  • iPhone robberies dropped by 38 percent in San Francisco, while robberies of Samsung devices rose by 12 percent

The statistical data published in The Times report leaves absolutely no doubt over the positive impact of kill switches in smartphones.

Microsoft and Google All Set To Follow Suit

Schneiderman recently confirmed that Microsoft and Google have also agreed to include kill switches in their phones. As a matter of fact, Window’s anti-theft feature is already in the works and would release as an update for the Find My Phone. After the update arrives, Find My Phone would include features such as:

  • erasing data from the Windows device remotely
  • making the phone inoperable for unauthorized user, except to call 911
  • requiring authorized user’s permission for reactivation or setup of phone
  • reversing the inoperability after the phone is recovered and restoring data from cloud storage if it was removed

Microsoft’s anti-theft feature would become available for all Windows Phones running Windows 8 or newer version of the operating system.

Kill switches indeed seem like a perfect way to strip thieves and robbers off their motivation to go after smartphones, as they’d have a much harder time selling a brick in the black market. Apple’s experience with the anti-theft feature has served to clear any doubts that surrounded its viability, which basically means that it’s only a matter of time before we see its chief rival launching Android phones with a similar security feature into the market.