Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016
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EDITORIAL

Smart(er) phones

After initially resisting the idea, the smart-phone industry has embraced the solution that law enforcement insisted for years was the best deterrent to rampant theft: a kill switch that renders stolen phones inoperable.

Apple equipped its iPhones with kill switches months ago. In the first five months of 2014, thefts of iPhones were down 29 percent in New York, 38 percent in San Francisco, and 24 percent in London from the year-ago period.

Some states are mandating the installation of kill switches, but coercion may not be necessary anymore. It turns out criminals aren’t interested in taking the risk if the stolen items can be reduced to paperweights before they’re unloaded on the overseas black market.

Microsoft and Google are planning to follow Apple’s lead by including a kill switch in its operating systems. Soon all Samsung, Nokia, and Motorola smart phones will be able to be shut off remotely once owners report them stolen. This is a major step forward for an industry that once loathed the idea of the consumer-friendly device.

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