Since the first iPhone was released in 2007, reports of stolen Apple devices have been on the rise all across globe.
Specifically, CNN reports that in New York alone, a special police unit has been created just to deal with stolen smartphones. While the overall crime rate in the city increased by3% last year— “if you subtracted just the increase in Apple product thefts, we would have had an overall decrease in crime in New York,” Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said.
So the wizards at Apple came up with an idea. At the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on Monday, June 10, the company unveiled something that put a proverbial twinkle in the eyes of law enforcement officers everywhere.
Meet the “activation lock”, also known as the “Kill Switch”: a new feature installed on the iOS 7— the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, to be released this fall— that locks stolen phones even after thieves snatch them.
Fans of Apple are probably aware that the company tried a similar App in the recent past— Find My iPhone— to help to locate missing Mac devices on a map. The newly coined “Kill Switch” will work alongside this App to not only find but also “kill” the stolen iPhone through a computer, making it harder for iPhone burglars to use or resell the device.
“We think this is going to be a really powerful theft deterrent,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, said in a statement.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the state’s District Attorney, George Gascon, alongside Police Chief Greg Suhr, have been particularly vocal in calling on manufacturers to incorporate some sort of kill switch concept for a long time.
“This is huge- huge for law enforcement, huge for the public,” Suhr said of Apple’s action. “We should see an immediate impact on robberies in San Francisco as soon as this becomes common on all iPhones.”
Meanwhile, the announcement comes three days before Gascon and New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman are set to hold a meeting to discuss “Apple Picking”— a general term coined for the national epidemic that smartphone theft has become. Representatives from Apple, Google/Motorola, Samsung and Microsoft will attend the meeting.
In a joint statement, Gascon and Schneiderman said: “Apple Picking is a huge epidemic in the United States. We are appreciative of the gesture made by Apple to address smartphone theft. The theft of handheld devices is the fastest-growing street crime, and increasingly, incidents are turning violent. It’s time for manufacturers to be as innovative in solving this problem as they have been in designing devices that have reshaped how we live.”
Likewise, Suhr believes that Apple is going to be a trendsetter, adding that Samsung is working on something similar.
He said that since Australia adopted a similar shutdown system in 2004, the country’s cell-pone robbery rate has been cut down by 25 percent.
Time will tell whether the “Kill Switch” will put an end to Apple Picking, but if history is an indicator, it very well might.