Wireless Carriers Oppose Anti-Theft Feature for Smartphones

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Samsung recently developed a “kill switch” that allows users to disable their smartphones and tablets remotely if they are lost or stolen.

The kill switch would serve as a deterrent to thieves because the mobile devices would be worthless once they’re disabled, and smartphone users would feel more secure, proponents say. About 1.6 million smartphones were stolen in the U.S. in 2012, according to Consumer Reports.

But there’s a problem.

Wireless companies in the U.S. won’t sell Samsung devices that have the kill switch, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. It says:

For carriers, the technology would add an enormous customer-service burden. Troubleshooting for mobile devices often falls to the wireless stores where customers bought them, and setting up a kill switch — or reactivating a phone that’s been deactivated by mistake — can be a challenge for lay users and time-consuming for staffers.

It also says that wireless carriers profit from the status quo through smartphone insurance sales and activation fees.

The carriers say they’re working on other ways to deal with theft, like creating a phone-tracking database and cooperating with investigations.

Businessweek notes that Apple’s latest mobile operating system comes with an activation lock that can be enabled remotely if a phone is lost or stolen. Because Apple handles its own customer service, providers don’t have to deal with it, the article said.

What are your thoughts about the kill switch? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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Comments & discussion

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  • prvteye

    A kill switch is a really good idea. It would cut down on the thefts of these expensive phones. No wonder the companies don’t want them because they can’t sell as many new phones. All about money.

  • shumidog

    If it was staff time they would just have to charge for mistakes. But they’ll do that anyway, so the excuse doesn’t pass the smell test.

  • Michael Smiley Gawthrop

    I’d think that carriers would be all over this… it is a feature they could charge for (I can see them requiring you to purchase an “anti-theft” plan with a phone with a kill switch, that would probably be much more profitable than their insurance plans are).

  • Jack Mabry

    Wireless companies have to be the biggest crooks out there. Talk about theft! Tell your wireless company to embrace this idea, or you’ll switch to another company. If this happens, before you know it, they’ll all embrace it.