After seeing Apple successfully add kill switches to iPhones, Google and Microsoft have decided to follow suit. Once these Android and Windows smartphones have this feature by the end of next year, 97% of smartphone users in the United States should have access to kill switch technology.
A kill switch is a setting on a smartphone that allows the owner to remotely disable the phone if it is lost or stolen. It is similar to a person cancelling a lost or stolen credit card. The kill switch makes the phone completely useless and, thus, less desirable.
Apple has seen a severe drop in smartphone theft since they began testing the kill switch in two American markets in September 2013. New York City reported a 17% decrease in iPhone theft after the kill switches were issued and San Francisco reported a 38% decrease. In addition, New York City saw a 51% increase in the theft of Samsung devices during the same time, which suggests that thieves moved on to more accessible phones.
At this time, users must activate kill switches on their iPhones in order to use them. The same will be true for Google and Microsoft phones. The next hurdle to overcome is getting kill switches to be standard features in operating systems, not just add ons to be used by those who know about them. If every smartphone on the market could be disabled with a single phone call, imagine what that would do to theft statistics in the future.