Share This Page

Smartphone makers try to deter thieves

| Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The theft of iPhones and iPads is so widespread it's known as “Apple picking.”

But Apple devices aren't the only targets. Nearly one in three robberies nationwide involves the theft of a mobile phone, according to the Federal Communications Commission. The problem is so severe in their cities that San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman this summer convened a “smartphone summit” to urge the smartphone industry to implement technological solutions to thwart the robberies.

Now, some makers of wireless mobile devices, notably Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co., are taking steps to fight back against the thieves.

Apple's iOS 7 mobile operating system includes a security feature called Activation Lock that automatically works with the free Find My iPhone feature. Find My iPhone is built into iOS 7 and can be enabled in Settings.

Activation Lock basically ties your devices to your Apple ID. Criminals who steal phones typically “wipe” the devices clean so they can resell them. Any thief who wants to turn off Find My iPhone, erase the device, or reset the device will be required to enter the Apple ID and password.

Supporters of such security measures say they will discourage thieves from stealing phones because they will not be able to sell them.

Alex Castro, who lives in Oakland, Calif., started spreading the word about Activation Lock as a community service as soon as it came out in October.

“A friend's cousin was killed for her iPhone in St. Louis,” said Castro, 39. “My goal is to educate others. I had no idea that there was such a black market for smartphones.”

Castro notes that Activation Lock won't stop someone from robbing you for your phone. But it will discourage thefts, he says, by making stolen phones “nearly worthless.”

Samsung partners with Absolute Software, which sells device tracking and recovery software and services for PCs, laptops and mobile devices. Samsung's Galaxy S4 smartphone includes Absolute software that allows owners to remotely delete files and lock down the stolen device, rendering it useless to thieves.

If you lose your iPhone or if it is stolen, Apple advises trying to locate the device using Find My iPhone. You can put the device in “Lost Mode,” keep track of its location and indicate to anyone who comes across it that the device has been lost or stolen. And if you want to delete all of your personal information from your missing device, you can erase it remotely.

If you forget your password, reset it at appleid.apple.com or contactApple Support and verify your identity.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.