Carriers reject 'kill switch' for stolen smartphones

A kill switch can deactivate your phone in case of theft, but cell providers don't want this to happen, and lawmakers say a decline in profits is likely the reason.
Posted By Sonali Basak   |   Nov. 20, 2013 at 2:05 PM
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Nov. 20 (UPI) -- With smartphone thefts soaring, a kill switch could solve the problem, and regulators and lawmakers are now advocating their use. But cell phone carriers resist, as it would break into profits from lost phone insurance and replacements.

The number of phone thefts in New York has risen 40 percent in the last year. San Francisco officials report that almost 70 percent of all robberies are smartphone thefts. And lawmakers from both cities are leading the charge toward creating more kill switch-enabled phones, and protecting consumers from smartphone theft.

Cell phone carriers say that the kill switch might not be the answer. There are alternatives, such as Apple's latest "Activation Lock" that allows users to reactivate their phones when returned, unlike with the kill switch. They say the kill switch would make phones entirely unusable, even if the consumers found their phones, or if phones were returned to them.

But lawmakers argue that the effect of the kill switch isn't permanent.

Samsung makes a similar anti-theft software, but Samsung's negotiations with cell phone carriers including AT&T, Verizon and Sprint show that carriers are averse to the product, as carriers profit on stolen and resold phones by reactivating phones through subscriptions and on insurance paid by users in case of theft.

Consumer Reports indicates that 1.6 billion U.S. phones are stolen yearly, accounting for nearly half of the $70 billion cell phone industry.

[NY Times] [CBS News] [CNN]

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