Luxury Apple products like the iPhone and iPad are considered highly desirable - not just by the general law-abiding public, but also by thieves and criminals who know that they can sell stolen devices on to others.
The fact is underlined by statistics from New York City Police, who said last year that they had 11,447 incidents of stolen Apple products reported to them between January 1st and September 23 2012, a whopping 40% increase over the same period in 2011. The thefts of luxury Apple devices have become so widespread that they have even coined their own term: “Apple picking”.
Sadly, not all iPhone thieves are dumb enough to post a picture of themselves smoking pot on their victim’s Facebook page to help the police, so it may be time to make your smartphone less attractive to thieves and muggers in the first place.
That’s what the newly announced iOS 7 hopes to do, by making it tougher for the people who end up with your lost iPhone or iPad in their hands to use the device.
For some time, iOS has incorporated a “Find My iPhone” feature to allow owners to remotely wipe their lost devices, ensuring their sensitive data does not fall into the wrong hands. But there’s been nothing to stop unauthorised users from factory resetting and reactivating the device that has “fallen” into their hands, and continuing as if it was an iPhone or iPad they had just purchased in an Apple Store.
Yesterday, at WWDC in San Francisco, Apple Senior Vice President Software Engineering Craig Federighi announced a new feature of iOS 7’s “Find My iPhone” facility that changes all that.
If you lose your iPhone, and it looks like you’re not going to get it back, a third party is going to find it harder to use or sell your device. Because, before it can be reactivated, the iPhone will demand that your Apple ID and password are re-entered.
What is more, any custom message you have told your iPhone to display through “Find My iPhone” will continue to appear, even after your device is erased.
Good luck thieves trying to sell that iPhone to anybody else.
Oh, and if you do manage to get your iPhone back after you have remotely erased it, Apple says you will be able to just enter your Apple ID and password to reactivate the device.
This new feature comes not a moment too soon for Apple, who - along with other smartphone manufacturers - have come under the spotlight for potentially benefiting from increased sales caused by users replacing stolen devices.
Eric Schneiderman, attorney general of State of New York, has summoned Apple, Google, Microsoft, Motorola and Samsung to a meeting later this week where they will be asked what they are doing to make stolen phones inoperable.
iOS 7 will be available later this year.