It looks as though thieves are finding fewer reasons to target smartphones as a way to make a quick buck. Back in 2013, Apple implemented the Find My iPhone Activation Lock feature in iOS 7, which makes it extremely difficult for a stolen iPhone to be of any use without its original owner. Without a user’s Apple ID and password, a thief would be unable to turn off Find My iPhone, erase the device, or reactivate it. So someone could nab your iPhone if they wanted to, but it would completely useless in the wrong hands.
With iOS 7, Activation Lock was turned when Find My iPhone was enabled. With iOS 8, Activation Lock was enabled by default. iOS 8 currently has a 72 percent adoption rate according to Apple’s own figures, so the odds are definitely stacked against thieves.
A new report from Reuters shows that Activation Lock has resulted in a drastic decrease in thefts in major cities around the globe. iPhone thefts in New York, San Francisco, and London dropped by 25 percent, 40 percent, and 50 percent respectively in the twelve months following the first introduction of Activation Lock in September 2013.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon championed the decrease in thefts, stating, “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.”
It should be noted that California passed a law in August 2014 that makes “kill switches” mandatory for all OEMs that sell smartphones within the state. The law will go into effect on July 1, 2015.
For his part, London Mayor Boris Johnson added, "We have made real progress in tackling the smartphone theft epidemic that was affecting many major cities just two years ago.”
Apple isn’t the only OS maker that currently employs kill switches. Google and Microsoft both offer similar functionality in Android and Windows Phone respectively, and Samsung has implemented its own measures on its Galaxy devices.