Google, Microsoft look to catch up to Apple by incorporating ‘kill switches’ in next mobile OS versions

“Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. will incorporate a ‘kill switch’ into the next versions of their smartphone operating systems as evidence mounts that such security measures may be deterring theft, the New York attorney general’s office said,” Christie Smythe reports for Bloomberg. “More than 30 percent of robberies in major cities involve mobile phones, with some instances of theft also including violence, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Following Apple Inc.’s release of a kill switch in September, thefts of iPhones in some cities ‘plummeted,’ said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who helped start a law enforcement coalition aimed at addressing the thefts.”

“The Secure Our Smartphones Initiative group said in a report today that robberies involving Apple products in New York dropped 19 percent in the first five months of 2014 compared with the same period last year. In San Francisco and London, robberies involving Apple products dropped 38 percent and 24 percent, respectively, according to Schneiderman’s office,” Smythe reports. “According to the analytics firm ComScore Inc., Android has a 52.5 percent market share in the U.S., while Apple has 41.4 percent and Microsoft has 3.3 percent.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: So, not having addressed the root cause, to what items have criminals moved on to? Watches, jewelry, purses, sneakers, wallets? All of the above? After all, the criminals still need something to steal; if you take one thing away, they’ll simply look for something else to take. It’s like covering skin cancer with a band-aid; just because you can’t see it in that place, the cancer is still there, waiting to pop up somewhere else. If smartphone thefts actually are declining, you won’t find a list of the items that are increasingly stolen in any press releases from self-servicing, band-aid-applying attorneys general. Schneiderman hasn’t diminished crime, he simply moved it, shell game-style.

Bottom line: Good news for smartphone users, bad news for everyone else, as the criminals who would steal your smartphone lurk untouched.

As we wrote back in May:
This is a sorry admission that the state cannot adequately protect its law-abiding citizens from the criminals who prey upon them.

Minimizing the attractiveness of objects to thieves is not the same as minimizing thievery… The thieves still exist; they’ll simply turn back to stealing wallets, jewelry, purses, and even the sneakers off your feet.

Imagine if the lawmakers instead actually adequately dealt with the thieves and the causes (drugs, mainly) that make them steal property from others? Law-abiding citizens would then actually be able to freely walk about with their property, enjoying life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (hey, that sounds vaguely familiar) instead of hiding their smartphones (as authorities in some major cities actually advise in another blatant admission of their failure), cowering in fear, ready to flip the “kill switch” at any moment the expected crime occurs (for which they are often basically blamed: “Why’d you use your iPhone out in public?”).

The problem is not the iPhone. The problm is not the iPhone owner. The problem is the criminal. iPhones don’t steal iPhones. Criminals steal iPhones (and purses, wallets, watches, sneakers, and whatever else they can fence for drug money).

You can have seventeen “kill switches” per smartphone and the root problem will remain untouched. What [will politicians demand next], exploding shoe laces on Air Jordans? Empty pocketbooks? Non-removable watches?

Politicians who apply band-aids in order to make the local news (“Look, I hid the cancer for a day or so! Mindlessly reelect me!”) should be replaced by those who can perform the surgery that is so desperately required to cure the suffering patient.

Big ideas, not little. Steve Jobs, not Michael Dell.

MacDailyNews Note: With iOS 7 or later, Find My iPhone includes a new feature called Activation Lock, which is turned on automatically when you set up Find My iPhone. Activation Lock makes it harder for anyone to use or sell your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch if it’s ever lost or stolen.

With Activation Lock, your Apple ID and password are required before anyone can:

• Turn off Find My iPhone on your device
• Sign out of iCloud on your device
• Erase and reactivate your device

Important: Make sure to remember your Apple ID and password, and that your password is unique and secure—someone else shouldn’t be able to guess it. For more information, see the Apple Support article Security and your Apple ID.

Before giving away or selling your device, be sure to erase your content and settings (go to Settings > General > Reset). When you erase your content, Find My iPhone and Activation Lock are also turned off. If you no longer have the device, follow the instructions to remove a device you no longer have. For more information, see the Apple Support article What to do before selling or giving away your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

For more information about Activation Lock, see the Apple Support article Find My iPhone Activation Lock in iOS 7.

Related articles:
California Senate passes mandatory smartphone ‘kill switch’ bill – May 9, 2014
Will Apple’s ‘kill switch’ tamp down iPhone thefts? – May 4, 2014
San Francisco District Attorney to Apple: Enable Activation Lock on every iPhone by default – December 18, 2013
Attorneys General for New York and San Francisco strongly urge iPhone and iPad users to download iOS 7 – September 19, 2013
S.F. district attorney optimistic over Apple, Samsung progress on anti-theft tech for smartphones – July 23, 2013
U.S. State and federal governments test Apple’s iOS 7 activation lock feature – July 18, 2013
U.S. officials call on Apple, other mobile device makers to help stop smartphone theft – June 6, 2013
The New York Times tries to blame Apple for smartphone thefts – May 2, 2013


      1. “This is a sorry admission that the state cannot adequately protect its law-abiding citizens from the criminals who prey upon them.”

        The killswitch IS the state protecting you.

  1. Part of the problem, thievery, is an innate animal need. It’s not particularly bad, most creatures do it, without realizing that it hurts others. It’s a survival skill.

    We, however can understand, the concept of ownership and consequences. Our nature though takes control without logic, and it’s unpreventable. It can be mitigated but not stopped.

    Let’s say you have enough free iPhones or golden bobbles for everyone. There will be some who horde these things, much in the same way people do horde trash. So to solve the problem, you would need as many of these things as we have grains of sand.

    There is no solution. There are not enough resources to build a society where thievery does not exist. You can reduce the problem, slightly. You could make the crime punishable by torture and death, that helps. Prison helps… But does not solve the problem.

    Religion tries to teach us not to covet what others possess, as if this is the root cause of thievery, yet we see some others possess things, because they lied, cheated and stole to get them. I would suggest the majority of the top 1%, didn’t get there because they did it honestly.

    Fairness comes into play, and without fairness people tend not to want to follow the rules.

    This is not justification, just an attempt to understand the miscreant.

    1. Reinforced cultural issues. Government began giveaways in the 60’s beginning with the “war on poverty” without noting that it is debasing our society. Society can only value members that work and other wise contribute to the overall needs of the many. Unfortunately, we have glorified those who refuse to work or provide and otherwise positive value to society, and want to simply be given a life or take what they want. Government has developed programs that only reinforce this lifestyle.

      Health care was the most recent opportunity. I am all for universal health care for those who work or are judged unable to work. I abhor Walmart, McDonalds and their army of under worked people who aren’t eligible for health care because they are kept under 30 hours per week by those companies solely to avoid paying for health care. If you work, even just one hour, you should be entitled to health care. If you don’t work and aren’t disabled, then you should have to buy your own.

    2. You assert that the so called 1% achieved that status dishonestly? Do you think Apple achieved its position as the most valuable publicly traded company in the world dishonestly? Steve Jobs? Jonny Ives? Hewlett or Packard? Did Henry Ford act dishonestly in founding Ford Motor Company? Is Stephen King or J.K.Rowling dishonest in writing books millions enjoy? Was Thomas Kincade dishonest for popularizing his art in prints that he sold to millions? Was Oprah dishonest in monetizing her popularity? Was my fourth cousin George Lucas dishonest for risking investors’ money on a serial SciFi space opera back in 1977?

      Why not name some of these 1%ers who made their millions dishonestly, who have not been caught and punished, who you claim make up a majority of the 1%. I do have a list of my own in mind, but it is a very small fraction of those who make up what you call the 1%.

      As an economist, I can tell you there is no evidence to back up your assertion that the major portion of rich people are dishonest.

  2. There are multiple types of thieves. There are thieves that premeditatively set out to take other people’s property, and there are thieves that unintentionally come across property that was accidentally left behind by the owner. Apple’s kill switch addresses both types of thief. MDN’s take addresses the former type but not the latter.

    1. Easy fix here for honest people. If you find an iPhone, turn it in to an apple store. The serial number is read and the last owner is notified. If they no longer want the phone, its cleared and the one who brought it in can keep it.

      Keep in mind that there is a growing market for used iPhones, because they last so long.
      I have about 10 iPhone 3Gs units so far, which we are trying to set up to give to needy music loving kids. An iPod with music that can be used as a by the month phone if needed.
      Only Apple could make a product that lasts so long.

      At the moment we are NOT looking at iPhone 4 or above units because of the issues with activation lock.

  3. Actually, aside from the kleptomaniacs, the greedy, and the twisted, most theft is need based. When you’re poor, you need food, clothing, shelter, and a better life than what you have now. People deride the beggars, but they’re not stealing from you.

    It would be best to have a society where basic needs are met. If that happened, there would be far less crime than there is today.

    Of course, we are humans. So there will always be some level of crime. But the crimes that are based in hunger and homelessness would disappear. I really think we could cut all crime in half if not by two-thirds if we did that.

    1. No, most theft is not need based. It is most often personal choice based, and a large portion of the time starts with a person using illegal drugs, getting addicted, and needing resources to obtain more.

      There is always that small portion of society which, whether due to cultural education based on how they were raised or simply an inherent desire not to work in “normal” jobs, decides that it is easier/better/more profitable to take from others than it is to earn for oneself. The thing is, virtually all criminals leave clues and hints that they did the crime, and it simply takes a dedicated investigator to find them. Eventually they suffer the consequences — by prison time, death at the hands of colleagues, bad karma, etc.

      Bottom line is that no laws, no amount of police, no legislation of kill switches or otherwise will end theft and crime. But Apple knew this was a problem for people, and put into iOS methods for us to protect ourselves. So give up your iPhone rather than fight a criminal willing to do harm to get it, then lock it down remotely and get a new one. You’re safe and the iPhone is worthless to the criminal (I’m sure some very sophisticated ones could get around it somehow, but so be it, those are few and far between).

  4. So, given the OS update rate, 5% of Android phones will eventually have a kill switch a year from now. On the Apple side more than 75% of phones will be protected because they DO get the newer versions of iOS.

    How will this have any effect on theft of Android phones escapes me. Then again, the only reason they get stolen in the first place is because they look like iPhones in many cases so Apple may be the one effectively reducing Android phone theft. Who will know ? so Android’s ineffective move will certainly be presented as having had a real effect by the clueless pundits.

  5. MDN, your take on reducing crime sheds a ton of heat and zero light. Having had my wallet stolen on a NYC subway and having gone over several dozen times how i never noticed anything and no one else noticed anything, I would love to hear your take on what the NY Attorney General and the NYC Police should have done to prevent that in the first place. I certainly couldn’t see anything they could have done.

    So, what’s your solution? Life sentences for petty criminals? Preemptive arrests for people who look shifty? Thought police? C’mon MDN, shed some light on the problem.

    1. I would like to add that the detectives at the NYC Precinct that handled the theft of my wallet went above and beyond what I expected anyone could do about it. They tried tracking my transportation pass being swiped after it was stolen, and they found an attempted use of my debit card near a subway stop that also helped fix what time the theft occurred, but none of the surveillance cams showed anything useful. They kept following up with me for several weeks in case any identity theft issues came up (thankfully, the thieves got nothing from me along those lines). There was probably zero chance they could have found the culprit, but those two detectives kept looking long after I would have given up. Thank goodness for dedicated officers like them!

  6. Yep a lot of catching up to be done by the opposition. I wonder if all those ‘fans’ dismissing Apples developments as catch up will be on the oppositions back, think we all know the answer to that and no doubt they will be late and still it won’t be so well executed.

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