Android, Windows Phone devices from Google and Microsoft to launch with ‘kill switches’

19 June 2014, 7:18 am EDT By Alexandra Burlacu Mobile & Apps

The next generation of smartphones from Google and Microsoft will come with the much-touted "kill switch," according to the New York attorney general's office.

Smartphone theft is one the rise and it has become an increasingly alarming issue. Over the past year, public officials have been pressuring mobile phone makers to add the so-called killed switch, i.e. a mechanism that would allow smartphone owners to disable their devices altogether in case they are lost or stolen. This would limit the resale potential of said device, and may greatly contribute to deterring smartphone theft in the long run.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), more than 30 percent of robberies that occur in major cities involve mobile phones, and in some cases the theft also includes violence.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has played an important role in implementing a new law enforcement coalition that aims to deal with such thefts. Apple released such a kill switch back in September 2013 in the form of its 'Activation Lock,' and Schneiderman said that iPhone theft in some cities have "plummeted" as a result.

In a new report, the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative group revealed that robberies involving Apple products in New York have declined by 19 percent in the first five months of this year, compared to the same period last year, Bloomberg reports. In San Francisco and London, meanwhile, robberies involving Apple products have seen an even more dramatic decline, dropping to 38 and 24 percent, respectively, Schneiderman's office further revealed.

"The statistics released today illustrate the stunning effectiveness of kill switches and the commitments of Google and Microsoft are giant steps toward consumer safety," Schneiderman said in a statement, as cited by Bloomberg.

The smartphone market is increasingly competitive and there are plenty of options to choose from, starting from top-notch smartphone powerhouses all the way to more affordable entry-level handsets. With the growing popularity of smartphones, phone theft has also spiked and kill switches may be the best course of action to deter this alarming issue.

Disabling a smartphone remotely would automatically make it harder to resell, and at the same time it would keep the owner's data and information safe. Google and Microsoft are just two heavyweights that will take part of this ambitious initiative, but more phone makers are expected to follow suit and design their new smartphones with kill switches on board.

For the time being, however, Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Bascon, also among the leaders of this initiative, said that the offer still falls short. All devices should have anti-theft features enabled by default, and maybe in the future they will. For now, this initiative seems to hold great potential and it will certainly move forward in the right direction as more big backers join the fray.

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