Last fall, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) introduced a “kill switch” theft deterrent feature known as Activation Lock in its iOS 7 mobile operating system. According to Apple, this feature prevents thieves from disabling the Find My iPhone application even if the phone data is erased. It also requires the owner’s Apple ID and passcode in order to reactivate the phone. The feature was introduced to help make the iPhone a less attractive target for thieves. According to the Federal Communications Commission, approximately 30 to 40 percent of all robberies in major U.S. cities involve the theft of a mobile phone.
While some commentators dismissed the feature as a marketing gimmick, Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, told last year’s Worldwide Developers Conference audience that he believed Activation Lock “is going to be a really powerful theft deterrent.” Now, less than a year after Activation Lock was first made available to iPhone owners, law enforcement officials are already reporting a noticeable drop in iPhone theft rates, while thefts of devices that don’t include similar kill switch technology have increased.
Police officials in London, New York City, and San Francisco have all reported a decline in iPhone robberies since the introduction of Activation Lock, noted New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman via a press release. According to Schneiderman, robberies and grand larcenies involving Apple products dropped by 19 percent and 29 percent, respectively, during the first five months of 2014, compared to the same time period last year. As noted by the attorney general, this was more than a statistical anomaly, since the decline in Apple-related robberies and grand larcenies significantly exceeded the overall decline of those crimes. Meanwhile, thefts involving Samsung’s (SSNLF.PK) smartphones jumped by over 40 percent during the same time period in New York.