Smarter phones: An industry’s move offers consumers protection

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Some solutions are just too obvious for words. After initially resisting the idea, the smartphone 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.

Because Apple equipped its iPhones with kill switches months ago there’s now data to test the theory. During 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.

In response, some states have enacted legislation 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 their operating systems. Soon all Samsung, Nokia and Motorola smartphones will be able to be disabled remotely once owners have reported 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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