New York: Google and Microsoft will incorporate a "kill switch" into the next versions of their smartphone operating systems as evidence mounts that such security measures may be deterring theft.
Mobile phone technology companies have faced pressure from public officials over the past year to add mechanisms for disabling the devices if they're lost or stolen to help curb resale potential. More than 30 per cent of robberies in major cities involve mobile phones, with smartphones often targeted because of their high value, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Google, based in Mountain View, California, said in a statement yesterday that it will add a "factory reset protection solution" to its next version of Android. Microsoft's Vice-President for US Government Affairs Fred Humphries said the Redmond, Washington-based company will offer new theft-deterrence mechanisms in an update for phones running its software, including those made by Nokia.
"With these additional features, we're hopeful that technology — as part of a broader strategy — can help to further reduce incentives for criminals to steal smartphones in the first place," Humphries said in a blog post.
Following Apple's release of a kill switch in September, thefts of iPhones in some cities "plummeted," said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who helped start a coalition of law enforcement officials and consumer and public safety activists that has prodded the industry to add the theft-deterrence measures.
The Secure Our Smartphones Initiative group said in a report yesterday that robberies involving Apple products in New York dropped 19 per cent in the first five months of 2014 compared with the same period last year. In San Francisco and London, robberies involving Apple products dropped 38 per cent and 24 per cent, respectively, according to Schneiderman's office.
"Today, the smartphone industry acknowledges that its wonderful products have been driving an international crime wave," Schneiderman said in a news conference in Manhattan yesterday. "That change in attitude has opened the door to great possibilities."
According to the analytics firm ComScore, Android has a 52.5 per cent market share in the US, while Apple has 41.4 per cent and Microsoft has 3.3 per cent.
Android phones will make up 80.2 per cent of global shipments this year, according to the research firm IDC. Apple, with its iOS platform, will have a 14.8 per cent share, IDC said.
At the time, Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, who also leads the smartphone initiative along with London Mayor Boris Johnson, said that the offer fell short "of what is needed to effectively end the epidemic of smartphone theft" and that anti-theft features should be enabled on all devices by default. — Bloomberg News