What if you could kill your stolen phone?

A London sign that read: "Beware, mobile phone thieves operating in this area."

 Thieves want your smartphone. They really, really want it. Consumer Reports estimates 1.6 million smart phones were stolen in 2012.

"In some cities, a majority of the reported thefts are for smart phones and other mobile computing devices," said Rob D'Ovidio, a criminal justice professor at Drexel University.  

He thinks a kill switch, which would allow you to disable your phone remotely, could make a lot of sense. A stolen phone that doesn't work isn't worth much. But the ability to kill a phone could be worth a lot to its owner.

"People who formerly had their phones stolen, they won't have that happen anymore so they won't have to go out and buy a new phone," said William Duckworth, a statistician at Creighton University.

And if there's a lot less theft, he said, insurance for phones wouldn't cost as much. All together, he estimated, kill switches could save consumers $2.6 billion a year. That doesn't include the time that police officers spend on smart phone thefts.

"When you look at the rate of thefts of smartphones in major metropolitian areas in the United States," D'Ovidio said, "it's just taxing law enforcement resources.

He thinks it's just a matter of time before all phones come with kill switches. Apple's newest operating system allows users to shut down a phone remotely. And according to Duckworth's research, that's something 99 percent of smart phone owners want.

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

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