It's getting harder for smartphone thieves to make a living these days as kill switch technology is proving to be a viable, and valuable, anti-theft mechanism.
It seems the feature is paying off for consumers using Apple, Samsung and Google, with reports that the number of stolen iPhones between September 2013 and September 2014 dipped by 40 percent in San Francisco and 25 percent in New York. In London, the payoff was even more rewarding with smartphone theft cut in half.
The kill switch impact bodes well for Microsoft handset users as Redmond is expected to install the feature in its smartphones at some point this year.
"The wireless industry continues to roll out sophisticated new features, but preventing their own customers from being the target of a violent crime is the coolest technology they can bring to market," stated San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.
A kill switch allows a user or service provider to shut down the phone, yielding it useless to whoever may have swiped it, unless they know the required ID and password for re-activation.
The news will likely spur more individual states to enact laws requiring smartphone and cellphone makers to install the security feature. Minnesota was one of the first states enacting such legislation in 2014. California approved such a law last August, which will go into effect this upcoming July.
In New York, according to one report, 8,465 iPhones and iPods were stolen from mass transit users and pedestrians in 2013.
"The significant decrease in smartphone thefts since the implementation of kill switch technology is no coincidence," said New York Police Commissioner William Bratton. "Restricting the marketability of stolen cellphones and electronic devices has a direct correlation to a reduction of associated crimes and violence."
Law enforcement agency and lawmakers, in the meantime, are lobbying and pressuring more smartphone vendors to put the technology as an active feature and a default measure.
Apple took such a step with its mobile iOS 7 system in the fall of 2013. The Apple Activation Lock feature, which allows the device to be locked down, requires a user to input their Apple ID and password to be reactivated.
Google's Android 5.0 Lollipop provides what it calls a Factory Reset Protection requiring a user's password to swipe the phone clean, which thieves tend to do before reselling a handset.