Apple has made iPhone theft even harder with a series of significant security enhancements within iOS 8.
Mobile phone theft is a huge problem. It accounts for up to 40 percent of reported crime in major U.S. cities. In 2012, stolen and lost mobile units, primarily smartphones, cost customers more than $30 billion, said the FCC.
In the UK one-in-three people have suffered a stolen phone and over 50 percent of phones stolen in London, UK between August 2012 to January 2014 were iPhones.
Apple has been working to end the iPhone crime wave for years, introducing Find My iPhone in 2010 and 2013's iOS 7 Activation Lock which enables users to remotely lock a lost or stolen device.
This kill switch works.
In New York, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said robberies involving Apple products dropped 19 percent during the first five months of this year, compared with the same period in 2013.
Police in London UK also saw iPhone thefts decline, but added they had also seen, "a corresponding reduction in the black market value of iPhones (likely to be a result of a rise in the perceived risk of stealing or handling a stolen phone)," said the UK Home Office this month.
iOS 8 improves the protection. Activation Lock is now enabled automatically when you turn on Find My iPhone, which has already empowered some iPhone/iPad owners to get their device back. Also new, Send Last Location shares the last known location of an iOS device before its battery dies.
It is now incredibly difficult to steal and use someone else's iPhone unless you know their Apple ID and password.
If it's too good to be true...
This means that many of those iPhones sold on the second-user market may actually be stolen but bricked by Activation Lock. You can check this out easily enough if you are with the device using these steps described on Apple's website, but that's useless online.
This is where Apple's latest protective layer kicks in, the "Check Activation Lock Status" service. All you need is the device serial number and you can check its status online -- though this won't stop unscrupulous sellers simply sharing a legitimate number before sending a locked device.
Check Activation Lock Status works like this:
- If you are purchasing a second hand iPhone or iPad you should ask the seller for the device's IMEI or serial number.
- You then visit Apple's iCloud-hosted "Check Activation Lock Status" page and enter this information.
- Apple will then check that Find My iPhone Activation Lock is turned off and the device is ready for you to use.
- If the phone is locked, you can ask the seller to unlock it, or not buy the device.
These new features won't completely eradicate iPhone crime, but all these measures mean criminals are increasingly turning their attention to other less well protected brands.
In the six months following Apple's introduction of Activation Lock, iPhone robberies declined 38 percent in San Francisco as robberies of Samsung devices climbed 12 percent.
Similar protection becomes mandatory on most smartphones beginning next year.
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