How a key iOS feature is warding off smartphone thieves

How To Prevent iPhone Theft

Smartphone theft has been a growing problem in recent years but apparently a key feature that Apple introduced last year is helping to stop it dead in its tracks. The New York Times reports that law enforcement officials in London, New York and San Francisco have all credited the addition of the Activation Lock feature in iOS 7 with leading to a sharp drop in smartphone thefts in their cities. In all, police found that iPhone robberies dropped by 38% in San Francisco and by 24% in London in the six months after Apple introduced the new feature.

For those who don’t recall, the Activation Lock feature can lock down your phone if it’s been stolen and make it impossible for thieves to wipe your data from the device. The only way thieves are able to reactivate stolen iPhones with Activation Lock is if they know the user’s Apple ID and password.

“The introduction of kill switches has clearly had an effect on the conduct of smartphone thieves,” New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman tells the Times. “If these can be canceled like the equivalent of canceling a credit card, these are going to be the equivalent of stealing a paperweight.”

Apple isn’t the only company to introduce a “kill switch”-like function to its phones, of course, as Samsung earlier this year added a new feature to the Galaxy S5 that will brick the device in case it’s stolen.

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