Why NYC Thieves Prefer Mugging People For iPhones Than Android Smartphones

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Late last year, Cult of Mac reported that New York City’s crime rate had increased for the first time in twenty years, not due to the resurgence of criminal gangs like the Warriors and the Baseball Furies, but because the iPhone was just such a popular thing to steal.

Why are criminals so interested in ripping off iPhones, though, and not, say, Samsung Galaxy S III’s? What it all comes down to is two things. One, the predictability of the resale market: you can predict what you can pawn an iPhone for, but other gadgets are harder. Two: an iPhone or iPad is easy to identify at a glance, where as other lucrative gadgets are harder to spot.

An interesting piece over at Reason explains why the iPhone is such a tempting target:

Presumably New York City’s criminals are snapping up iPods, iPhones, and iPads not because they prefer Apple’s battery life management over that of its competitors but because the resale market for Apple devices is robust and predictable. According to The Wall Street Journal, high tariffs in countries like Brazil can drive up the price of a new entry-level iPhone 4s to $1,000, so used ones go for as much as $400 there. Here in the U.S., secondhand dealers buying in bulk on Craigs­list pay as much as $500 for a used iPhone 5. Demand is strong. Resale prices are high. There are millions of iPhones out there, but unlike so many other products in our age of plenty, they have not yet become too abundant to steal.

With other brands, theft is an iffier proposition. That snatchable seven-inch non-Apple tablet could have an initial retail price anywhere between $99 and $499, and there may not be much of a secondhand market. This magnifies crime’s inherent risks: No one wants to be the chump who earns a stretch in the Big House for strong-arming some cheapskate out of what upon closer inspection turns out to be a Nook Simple Touch.

  • Solowalker

    Total no-brainer. Real world example (of resale value, not thievery):

    One of my friends on my “family” plan last fall decided to try out the Galaxy SIII. She sold her 18-month old+ iPhone 4 to a co-worker for about $300 and used that money to get a GS3 from AT&T who gave her 2 weeks to decide if she wanted to keep it. She had lots of problems with it, especially compatibility with her MacBook Pro running Mountain Lion. But the AT&T store kept pushing her to keep it and keep trying it, even swapping her first one out for a replacement to see if it would solve her issues (it didn’t). Obviously, she ended up keeping it longer than the 2 weeks and shortly after that she decided she wanted her iPhone back.

    Resale value of that brand new GS3? About the same as her old iPhone 4 was. So she pretty much traded the same co-worker straight across for her iPhone 4 back. It was pretty sad.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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