Big U.S. Carriers Don’t Want Smartphone Muggings To Go Down

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Smartphone crime is a huge problem. In fact, New York City’s crime rate went up for the first time in twenty years because people are mugged violently so often for their iPhones.

In response to iPhone crime, Apple has made some important improvements to iOS, including requiring users to enter their iCloud password to turn ‘Find my iPhone’ off, and the new ‘Activation Lock’ feature in iOS 7which allows users to disable stolen or lost iPhones remotely.

Apple’s got the right solution, but you know who hates it? The carriers. In fact, as other manufacturers have tried to insert similar cellphone kill switches in their smartphones to Apple’s, the carriers are standing defiant against them. Why? Because they are afraid that it will affect their bottom lines.

Law enforcement officials are up in arms that carriers have rejected building a kill switch into every smartphone, even as an increasing number of smartphone and tablet users are being violently assaulted for their gadgets.

“It is highly disturbing that these corporations rejected a proposal that would have helped keep millions of consumers safe,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said Wednesday, as reports swirl that carriers have rejected the idea. “If they did so to protect their own profit margins, as several recent reports suggest, it is even more egregious,” the pair continued.

The issue for carriers is this: the threat of being mugged sells insurance plans to customers. If you’re less likely to be mugged for your smartphone or tablet, because it will stop functioning the second someone hits the kill switch remotely, you’ll be less likely to buy insurance.

To be fair, though, the carriers have other concerns. For example, a kill switch could be taken advantage of by hackers to disable phones maliciously. But it sure sounds like an additional concern for carriers is the fact that that the less people getting beaten and stabbed for their smartphones, the less money they’ll make.

Another way Apple is ahead of the competition, and standing up for the little guy.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that ‘Activation Lock’ would not survive an iPhone wipe. Thanks to Apple representative Trudy Muller for reaching out to set us right.

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  • Adrayven

    That report sounds bogus.. I’ve talked to several reps, they don’t make money from stolen phones, they make it from broken phones.. which is a much higher rate.. What this really is they don’t want to spend money to develop a software mechanism when all they need to do is kill the ESN/IMEI on the phone. Once blacklisted, it’s useless as a phone.

    HOWEVER, a useless phone still has value! Go onto eBay, you’ll see BAD ESN/IMEI phones sold for parts. Simply put, no matter what they do, phones can be sold for parts.. I bet nearly every phone on ebay sold for parts with BAD ESN is a stolen phone.

    Unless they can literally fry a phones circuits and break the LED screen, there will ALWAYS be a market for stolen mobile hardware..

    eBay, the mobile chop shop for high tech gadgets!

  • gettysburg11s

    I’d have to agree with not having a kill switch. It could easily be hacked and used for bad, bad things. What Apple is doing is a step in the right direction, with Activation Lock. Hopefully others, like Google, will do something similar.

  • jeffythequick

    Yeah, those evil phone companies, doing things for profit.

    Hey cultofmac, why do you do what you do? Why do you sell ad space?

    Instead of castigating, or reporting gleefully what others do as egregious, how about you go first.

    John, how about you work for free?
    Cultofmac, how about you not sell your ad space, and just give it away?

    You can tell a lot about a man’s character by the way he treats money. Those that despise it have come by it dishonestly. Those that respect it have earned it.

  • Mike Dawson

    It won’t effect the carriers’ bottom line.

    But it could affect them.

  • BBK2009

    Be honest, Cult of Mac, if the carriers did agree to that kill switch, you’d just run headlines blaring “Apple wants power to brick your iPhones, probably will take your souls too!”

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 girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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