Death to Smartphone Theft: The New “Kill Switch” FeatureSmartphone theft is on the rise and is becoming ever more violent, especially in major cities, TechHive reports. To fight this epidemic, lawmakers and law enforcers have finally persuaded smartphone giants to fully adopt the “kill switch”- software that completely disables a device after it is stolen.
Since anyone can be a victim of phone theft, at first glance, this seems like great news; but what about the lost revenue in cell phone replacement? What about the people who will now shy away from purchasing used phones online, fearing that the phone for sale is already “dead”? Leaders in the smartphone industry such as Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, Apple, and Samsung have all agreed to deploy the kill switch on every new device as early as January 2015. Why It May Work Back in 2013, Apple included the kill switch among many other features in their iOS 7 Update, which caused iPhone thefts to decline by 19% in New York, 38% in San Francisco, and 24% in London. The hope is that these results will extrapolate to a larger scale with the collective efforts of both smartphone service providers and manufacturers. Why It May Not Work Even “dead” smartphones have intrinsic value. A non-functional, completely cracked iPhone 5S sells for $82 online. At the very least, disabled smartphones can still be sold for parts. In some states, the kill switch will not be enabled by default and users will have to opt-in by downloading the software, which some users simply won’t do. Even with the kill switch enabled by default in brand new devices, users still have the option to disable it. And since 30% of smartphone users don’t use pass-codes, disabling the kill switch on an unlocked stolen smartphone would be a breeze. In addition, smarter thieves may simply begin to target the heavily circulated older models of smartphones that don’t have the kill feature automatically enabled.