Google and Microsoft to introduce 'kill switch' features on smartphones to deter theft

New software will allow users to remotely lock smartphones after a theft

James Vincent
Friday 20 June 2014 13:09
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The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU
The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU

Google and Microsoft will add “kill switch” features to their Android and Windows Phone devices in order to deter smartphone theft.

The feature allows users to remotely deactivate their smartphone from a desktop and can either be ‘hard’ kill switches (where the stolen device is permanently unusable) or ‘soft’ (where only ‘unauthorised users’ are locked out). It’s not known which variety Google and Microsoft will be implementing.

The two companies signed the agreement with the New York Attorney General and means they will be joining Apple and Samsung, who have already introduced similar capabilities.

Apple’s kill switch – called Activation Lock – was introduced to iPhones with the iOS 7 update last year. A report from New York State said that following its introduction theft of Apple devices fell by 17 per cent in New York City in the first five months of 2014.

Similarly, iPhone robberies have fallen by 24 per cent in London and 38 per cent in San Francisco in the six months after Activation Lock was introduced.

"An activated kill switch converts an easy-to-sell, high-value multimedia device into a jumble of plastic and glass, drastically reducing its street value," said the report by the New York Attorney General.

Smartphone theft has proved to be a growing problem internationally as high-value objects with an eager re-sale market happy to look the other way on 'second hand' devices.

In 2013 roughly 3.1 million smartphones were stolen in America - double the number in 2012 - and one in three Europeans experience the theft or loss of a mobile last year.

The world's appetite for smartphones shows no sign of abating either, with 2 billion devices expected to be online by 2015 channelling 83 per cent of the world's internet usage.

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