iPhone theft down
Smartphone theft in London, San Francisco and New York has sharply fallen as manufacturers have introduced so-called kill-switch features in their smartphones. Reuters

For thieves, the Apple iPhone is becoming a less attractive target. With the activation lock on the company’s smartphone -- and so-called kill switches on other devices -- thefts have dramatically declined.

IPhone thefts dropped 25 percent in New York and 40 percent in San Francisco in the year after Apple Inc.’s introduction of the activation-lock feature, according to Reuters. And London has seen an even bigger dip in smartphone thefts, which fell by one-half. “We have made real progress in tackling the smartphone-theft epidemic that was affecting many major cities just two years ago,” Reuters quoted London Mayor Boris Johnson as saying.

Officials in the three cities observed the reduction in thefts after Apple introduced the activation-lock feature, according to report issued by the New York state attorney general’s office. In New York City during the first five months following the launch of the feature, the theft of Apple devices fell 17 percent, while the theft of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. products rose 51 percent, compared with the same period in the previous year, the report found.

Apple released the activation-lock feature with iOS 7 in September 2013. It prevents thieves from restoring and activating an iPhone without the original user’s Apple ID and password. A similar feature was introduced on some Samsung devices through the reactivation-lock feature. And, with the rollout of Android Lollipop last year, Google Inc. launched its own kill switch, which prevents an Android phone from being reset without the user’s Google ID and password.

In California, a law passed last August will require all smartphones sold in the state to come with kill-switch features by July. And in December, a Federal Communications Commission panel recommended introducing a national framework to prevent device theft, citing the success of kill switches such as activation lock and the passage of California’s kill-switch legislation.