SACRAMENTO — California just flipped the kill switch for smartphones, in a move to make iCrime a thing of the past.
Governor Jerry Brown signed into law State Sen. Mark Leno’s Smartphone Theft Prevention Act (Senate Bill 962). The law will affect any smartphone manufactured on or after July 1, 2015.
There’s some reason to hope that the kill switch will do for smartphones what sophisticated alarm systems did for cars: make stealing them less appealing than a pair of leg warmers. Car thefts plummeted 96 percent in New York City when engine immobilizer systems came into play.
Find My iPhone has been invaluable at recovering lost Apple devices, but if you’re anything like me, keeping track of where you parked the car amid a sea of concrete and sedans is even harder than remembering where you dropped your selfie machine.
Apple’s latest patent filings reveal it has been working to solve those lost car disasters with an ingenious system that could be included in the future iPhones to guide you back to your vehicle, and it doesn’t even need an LTE or GPS signal.
A U.K. man has been charged with murder after using Find My iPhone to track down and kill the thug who stole his son’s iPhone at knifepoint earlier in the day.
Derek Grant reportedly used Apple’s tracking software to locate the nearby thief after his son was robbed on his way home from work at McDonalds. When Derek confronted the thief and demanded he return the iPhone, the thief blinded him with a knife to the eye, which Grant says caused him to lash out in self defense and kill him.
Activation Lock is a new feature in iOS 7 that allows you to remotely wipe all the data on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch in case it gets lost or stolen. It’s such a great idea that 78 percent of iPhone users have it enabled.
After Activation Lock is enabled remotely, your iPhone will display a message for you with details on how to return it to you. This is a great feature.
When you get the device back, all you need to do is enter your Apple ID (and password!), and your iPhone or iPad will reactivate, give you a fully functional iOS device again without letting anyone else use it in the meantime.
The redesign of Apple’s iWork and iLife apps received all the attention at today’s keynote, but Apple isn’t totally neglecting some of its lesser-used apps. Apple released an update for Find My iPhone this afternoon that brings a redesigned interface to the security app to bring it inline with iOS 7’s UI.
Find My iPhone allows users who misplace their iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Mac to use another iOS data to find the lost device and protect your data. The redesign seems to be purely aesthetic as all of the core feature remain relatively unchanged. Users can still remotely lock devices, wipe data, view battery charge, and even get driving directions to a lost device.
The free update is available in the App Store now.
Apple devices are on the most wanted list for thieves who snatch smartphones and tablets out of the hands of distracted commuters in big cities.
This type of theft is so easy and generally without consequence that it’s become known as “Apple picking.” The Cupertino company has been on the forefront of trying to curb these crimes, dating back to the Find My iPhone app in 2010 and the new Touch ID fingerprint sensor for the iPhone 5s. Apple has also added a new i0S 7 feature called Activation Lock, which many are dubbing the “kill switch.”
“As a consumer, I love the idea of a kill switch for the device that I, as the owner, can invoke, but giving that type of power to my carrier is another thing.”
The industry insiders Cult of Mac sounded out, not so much.
“To really make this work, the ‘kill switch’ would need to be wired to carrier networks, so that as soon as the device’s IMEI shows up on the network, the device is disabled by the carrier,” said Tom Kemp, CEO of Centrify, a company that provides unified identity services across data center, cloud and mobile for businesses. “As a consumer, I love the idea of a kill switch for the device that I, as the owner, can invoke, but giving that type of power to my carrier is another thing.”
As smartphone use grows — nearly half of Americans own one — so has iCrime. According to recent comScore data, Apple owns almost 40 percent of the smartphone market, more than its next closest competitors Samsung and HTC combined, with 23 percent and 8.7 percent, respectively. But part and parcel with Apple’s success and their distinctive design aesthetic is the fact that Apple products are an easy targets for a quick snatch-and-resell.
“How much would mugging decrease if your wallet was worth $0? Essentially, that’s what Apple is doing with its new kill switch feature – making your smartphone worthless, ideally. But, who is it really worthless for in the end?” said David Anderson, director of product for smartphone insurance company ProtectYourBubble. “Smartphone thieves often resell stolen devices on the secondary market…Unknowing consumers will purchase devices from sites like eBay and Amazon to cut costs but (will) end up receiving a ‘killed’ device in the mail.”
Companies that survive on tracing stolen gadgets are also not worried that the kill switch will sound the death knell for their businesses. “Unfortunately for consumers, Apple’s tracking and other anti-theft measures are also fairly easy to disable. People are going to continue to steal iPhones and hackers will find a way around the kill switch. It can be as simple as jailbreaking the phone,” said Ken Westin, founder of GadgetTrak. Most of GadgetTrak’s customers are tracing Apple devices — check out the live map — and use of the service has led to a few spectacular recoveries like this one from Kansas to Mexico.
Which brings up another point: whether Apple should be partnering with authorities rather than potentially enabling users to pursue their stolen iPhones
Maybe Apple should be partnering with authorities rather than enabling their customers to pursue their stolen iPhones.
Absolute Software, which says it has recovered 29,000 devices in 100 countries to date, recently launched a partnership with Samsung and says one with Apple is very possible. They work with police and discourage people from trying to get their gadgets back, rogue style.
“Deactivating a device with Activation Lock so that an unauthorized user is unable to use it or sell it can have a positive impact on deterring theft. However, the value of this capability is limited and could lead to encouragement of owners trying to recover devices from thieves themselves,” said Ward Clapham, vice president of recovery services at Absolute. “Self-recovery can be dangerous – even fatal. The best case scenario is for the user to rely on trained professionals to work with law enforcement to recover the device and pursue any criminal charges that may result.”
iPhone users who keep their smartphones mute in their pockets out of fear may find the new service makes it once again OK to stumble down a crowded sidewalk while checking email.
The iWatch might be a really popular theft target.
“With the kill switch, you will no longer feel unsafe using your iPhone on a city street. The kill switch makes the iPhone a much less desirable target for thieves — they’ll have to go back to nicking gold watches and fancy handbags,” says Dave Howell, founder and CEO of Avatron Software, which makes a number of productivity apps. “With this feature, Apple is responding to rising iPhone theft rates, but the company may also been preparing for the launch of the iWatch. The iWatch might be a really popular theft target. The kill switch is a neat, thoughtful feature but it won’t move the market-share needle.”
Howell, a former Apple software engineering manager whose team includes a number of veteran Mac programmers, says he doesn’t have any inside knowledge about the kill switch but that the service fits into Apple’s general ethos.
“I know Apple’s been working hard for some years to make iPhone as safe as possible…Apple has always garnered a reputation for designing for the benefit of users, even when it hurts sales. Certainly preventing theft will put a dent in replacement iPhone revenues.”
We’re a few weeks away from the final release of iOS 7, but it looks like Apple is starting to prep its non-stock apps with an iOS 7 update. This morning Apple released an update for Find My iPhone that comes with a new icon more fitting for iOS 7.
A few bug fixes were tossed in, but early reports claim the update has broken the app for non-developers, so we’d advise against updating right now. The new Find My iPhone icon was also added to the beta.iCloud.com homescreen, but hasn’t been updated on iCloud.com yet.
With less a month to go until Apple unveils its new iPhones and the release date of iOS 7, the iCloud beta site just received a redesign to bring it more in-line with iOS 7’s UI.
Apple has replaced the old iCloud app icons for Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Notes, Reminders, and Find My iPhone with their counterparts from iOS 7. Along with the new icons, Apple has redesigned the UI of each app with the updated look of iOS 7 as well.