Cellphone 'kill switches' could save Americans billion of dollars

"Kill switches" could help save consumers billions in replacement costs and insurance, as there would be no incentive for thieves to steal smartphones and cellphones.
By Ananth Baliga  |  Updated April 2, 2014 at 5:31 PM
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OMAHA, April 1 (UPI) -- American consumers can save billions of dollars in replacing stolen phones and cellphone insurance if only cellphones came with a "kill switch."

According to research from Creighton University, Americans annually spend $4.8 billion on cellphone insurance and $580 million on replacing phones that they have lost. The Creighton study estimated that consumers could save $2.6 billion a year if they phones had "kill switches" installed.

Dr. William Duckworth, a statistics, data science, and analytics professor at Creighton University, surveyed 1,200 smartphone owners and found that not only did they support the "kill switches," but expect such safeguards to be already in place.

“Overall, it seems clear that Americans want the kill switch and that an industry-wide implementation of the technology could significantly improve public safety and save consumers billions of dollars a year,” said Duckworth.

The rationale behind having a "kill switch" is that if a smartphone can be killed after it is stolen, there will be no incentives for thieves to steal them, keeping consumers safe and saving them some money in the bargain.

"My research suggests that at least half of smartphone owners would in fact reduce their insurance coverage if the kill switch reduced the prevalence of cell phone theft," Duckworth said.

California lawmakers have introduced legislation requiring all smartphones and cellphones have kill switches, which was followed by similar legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate by Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

The wireless industry has been averse to having kill switches, saying that the technology could get in the wrong hands and at times a killed phone will not be able to make 911 calls during an emergency.

Apple introduced Activation Lock in iOS 7, which blocks stolen phones and gadgets from being reactivated without the user's Apple ID and password. Samsung has been working on similar technology as well.

[Creighton University] [PC Mag]

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