Google, Microsoft Commit to Smartphone Kill Switches
Google and Microsoft today indicated they will add theft deterrent tools to their respective mobile platforms. The commitment comes after major cities, including New York and San Francisco, saw significant drops in iPhone thefts during the first few months on the year. Apple added kill switch tools to the iPhone when it introduced iOS 7 last September. Google has yet to spell out the specifics of its kill switch feature, but Microsoft said it will add a kill switch to all devices running Windows Phone 8 and up. The Windows Phone tool will allow owners to: remotely wipe personal data from the phone; render the smartphone inoperable; prevent reactivation without the owner's permission; reverse the inoperability if the phone is recovered; and restore user data if the phone was erased. These functions will be added to Windows Phone's Find My Phone tool. Microsoft said it will have the tool ready before the July 2015 deadline set by the CTIA for implementing such features. Lawmakers have been urging phone makers and carriers to add these tools for well more than a year. The CTIA Wireless Association, which lobbies for the wireless industry in Washington, voluntarily set up a timeline for theft deterrent tools which are to be added to all new phones by next year. The commitments from Google and Microsoft should help speed up those efforts. The long-term goal is to reduce the number of smartphone thefts, which are popular targets due to their value.