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The results are in: Smartphone kill switches decrease thefts by as much as 50 percent

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There’s nothing worse than buying a brand-new phone only to have it stolen a few days later. Smartphone theft is shockingly common around the world, especially in big cities. In response, lawmakers and device manufacturers are pushing for built-in kill switches. Now, three of the cities with the most smartphone thefts — New York, London, and San Francisco — all say that thefts have declined dramatically since companies and carriers added kill switches to their devices.

All three cities started the Secure Our Smartphones (SOS) initiative in 2013 to encourage smartphone makers and mobile networks to come up with new security measures to curb phone thefts. So far, Apple has been one of the most proactive companies. It’s Find My iPhone feature and built-in kill switch are now automatically turned on in iOS 8. The company first introduced the feature in 2013 with iOS 7, but back then, it was optional.

Ever since the iPhone added a kill switch, iPhone thefts in the three cities have decreased significantly, reports the BBC. Phone thieving dropped 50 percent in London, 40 percent in San Francisco, and 25 percent in New York over the 12 months after the feature was added. These numbers are pretty significant, as the number of phone thefts in those cities numbered in the millions in recent years. If these numbers are any indication of how well kill switches work to discourage phone theft, it seems likely that lawmakers will continue to push for their installation into every device made.

In fact, many companies will probably add kill switches before the year is out. In 2014, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, Apple, Google, HTC, Huawei, Motorola, Microsoft, Nokia, and Samsung signed an agreement with the Cellular Telephone Industries Association (CTIA) promising to add a kill switch by July of 2015.

So far, Google’s Android Lollipop 5.0 has an optional feature called Factory Reset Protection, which will lock your phone down if it’s stolen. Samsung’s Reactivation Lock is available on some Galaxy S5 handsets, though it varies carrier to carrier, and it’s optional, too. Both Microsoft and Qualcomm say they’re working on adding a kill switch for their devices, and processors, respectively.

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Malarie Gokey
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