Samsung Electronics Co will add two safeguards to its latest smartphone in an effort to deter rampant theft of the mobile devices, the company said on Friday.
The world’s largest mobile-phone maker said users will be able to activate for free its “Find My Mobile” and “Reactivation Lock” anti-theft features to protect the upcoming Galaxy 5 S.
The features that will lock the phone if there’s an unauthorized attempt to reset it will be on models sold by wireless carriers Verizon and US Cellular. The phones are to go on sale this week in the US.
“Samsung takes the issue of smartphone theft very seriously, and we are continuing to enhance our security and anti-theft solutions,” the company said in a statement.
The news comes as San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and other US law enforcement officials demand that manufacturers create “kill switches” to fight smartphone theft across the US.
Last week, California legislators introduced a bill that, if passed, would require that mobile devices sold in or shipped in the state be equipped with anti-theft devices starting next year — a move that could be the first of its kind in the US. Similar legislation is being considered in New York, Illinois and Minnesota, and bills have been introduced in both houses of Congress.
In July last year, Samsung officials told Gascon’s office that the major carriers were resisting using kill switches.
However, Schneiderman and Gascon said in a joint statement on Friday that Samsung’s latest move sends a strong message that the wireless industry can work together to make consumers safe. The prosecutors have given the manufacturers a June deadline to find solutions to curb smartphone theft.
“More work needs to be done to ensure that these solutions come standard on every device, but these companies have done the right thing by responding to our call for action,” the prosecutors said. “No family should lose a mother, a father, a son or a daughter for their phone. Manufacturers and carriers need to put public safety before corporate profits and stop this violent epidemic, which has put millions of smartphone users at risk.”
Apple Inc created a similar “activation lock” feature for the popular iPhone last year.
Almost one in three US robberies involve phone theft, according to the US Federal Communications Commission. Lost and stolen mobile devices — mostly smartphones — cost consumers more than US$30 billion in 2012, the agency said in a study.
CTIA-The Wireless Association, a wireless providers trade group, has said a permanent kill switch has serious risks, including potential vulnerability to hackers who could lock out not only individuals’ phones, but also phones used by entities such as the US Department of Defense, Homeland Security and law enforcement.