Friday, 20 June 2014

Latest smartphone feature: kill switch

Smartphone theft is a global problem, as the BBC reports, and growing worse year by year.

However, since Apple added a kill switch to its iPhone and iPad operating systems in September, 2013, fewer of its mobile devices have been stolen. Why? Because once owners activate the kill switch, the device becomes useless (except for its parts). Thieves can't get at personal data or use any apps or features, which protects the customer's privacy and makes thieves less apt to steal mobiles they can't easily convert to cash.

The Mercury News in Silicon Valley reports:
In the first five months of [2014], thefts of Apple devices fell by 17 percent in New York City while thefts of Samsung devices -- without a switch -- increased 51 percent from the same period a year earlier.
The pattern has been similar in other areas: Theft of Apple devices in London dropped by 24 percent after the kill switch was added, even as theft of Samsung mobiles increased.

Samsung added a kill switch earlier in 2014. Now, feeling competitive and legislative pressure, Microsoft and Google will add a kill switch to their Windows and Android mobile operating systems. As a result, more than 90 percent of new smartphones will be protected--if customers activate the kill switch mechanisms.

In other words, even with all the fancy apps and features available on sophisticated smartphones, the one that may be the most practical is the kill switch, if it can save customers from the aggravation and inconvenience of losing their devices to thieves.