Previously we reported thoughts about how iCloud Activation Lock was not likely to prevent the theft of iPhone devices.
After several months, it’s time to weigh in and see if Apple’s “Find my Phone” function, along with other anti-theft measures, are helping to prevent phones from being stolen.
While Apple’s iCloud Activation Lock was only released in the last quarter of 2013, research conducted by Consumer Reports suggests that cell phone theft is actually on the rise by 100% from 2012 to 2013!
Stolen Cell Phone Statistics by Consumer Reports
What’s Causing The Rise in Cell Phone Theft?
Theft rising 100% year-over-year is a significant statistic, but no specific cause has been pointed to as the exact reason. However, if we look back just a few years, not all cell phone users were using smartphones, large display and advanced handset models. My view on the shocking 100% increase in cell phone theft is due in part to the following reasons:
Today’s consumers are using more expensive cell phones overall.
A few years ago, the most advanced cell phones you might see would be the iPhone 4 and some of the first Android OS touchscreen phones. Prepaid consumers were still using basic flip phones or some entry level touchscreen LCD devices. Today, some secondhand phones that are even one to two years old are more expensive than many brand new phones. Thieves have more opportunities to steal and reap the benefits of a higher resale value on average.
International markets are using more advanced cell phones, making for a larger venue to sell stolen phones.
Some kill-switch techniques have been implemented, but none that really address the market where stolen phones usually end up. Blacklists have been set up by the cell phone carriers and have even started to share this database amongst each other to help prevent theft, which is surely to be making an impact.
Carriers are now choosing to block bad ESN and IMEI numbers, which is one step in the right direction, but this still doesn’t address the international market for stolen devices. Thieves of stolen devices know they can export phones with no decrease in value. This practice is extremely hard – and most likely impossible – to prevent. Blacklisting IMEI and ESN numbers in international markets will not likely happen for at least a few more years.
It’s not an international carrier’s priority to police where the phones come from, and they can actually give their network users cheaper options when they buy used smartphones. International cell phone carriers typically do not have contracts, subsidized phones, or a GDP where the general population can afford the latest and greatest Galaxy S5 or iPhone 5s.
Consumer use is greatly increasing; we’ve unplugged from PCs, and our phones travel everywhere we go in public.
Consumers are without doubt depending on their cell phones for more tasks than a few years ago. Our cell phones come everywhere with us and are more visible than ever in public.
Are Carriers, Manufacturers and Insurance Companies to Blame?
Cell phone theft has been a big topic since last year and the buzz is sure to carry over into 2014. With so many phones being stolen, one would think the companies who sell us the devices would keep the consumer in mind more than they have. Somehow they’re able to come up with 10MP cameras, 1080P resolution LCD screens and water resistant technology – but they still haven’t equally addressed theft and security.
- Apple’s iCloud Activation Lock did not come to market until after New York City’s Mayor pushed Apple to implement some technology to prevent theft.
- CTIA is pushing the cell phone carriers, manufacturers and iOS/Android OS developers to address the issue.
Would these previous and future security measures have come to market as fast without outside pressure from the public? Probably not!
Consumers spend $500 million each year replacing cell phones through carrier or personal insurance providers. Any concept of preventing theft and stolen phones would surely decrease a consumer’s need to pay these upfront or monthly premiums where large corporations are making serious money!
Carriers will often get consumers back in the store needing to replace a stolen device and extend a two-year contract. In addition, most carriers have options to purchase a phone in between contract periods for partially subsidized prices.
Bottom line: both the cell phone carriers, manufacturers and insurance companies have nothing to gain and would make significantly less profit if a solution for preventing theft was available to consumers!
Cell phone kill-switch technologies are advancing, but they are still not addressing serious solutions that carriers and manufacturers are capable of developing. Corporate greed is the primary reason for slow progression in this field. The statistics simply confirm that any preventative measures they have put in place have little-to-no effect on the number of devices that are stolen.
The increase in the number of smartphones is surely to increase the chances thieves have of nabbing one.
CTIA is one of our only friends in this battle (along with many local and state government agencies that have expressed their concern). With a few strong advocates, the issue can’t be swept under the rug any longer; hopefully change will come sooner rather than later.
- CTIA Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment
- Creighton Professor Research on Mobile Phone Kill Switch
Do you think that large corporations are truly interested in preventing cell phone theft?
What type of “Kill-Switch” technology do you think could overcome both domestic and international use of a device?
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