Thanks to their high resale value, iPhones have always been a big target for pickpockets and thieves. But in big cities like New York and San Francisco, iPhone thefts are falling drastically, all because of Activation Lock.
Baked into iOS 7 and above and enabled automatically when you set up Find My iPhone, Activation Lock prevents your iPhone or iPad from being used by another person without your Apple ID.
It essentially makes an iOS device useless once it’s lost or stolen, and therefore worthless to a thief. Locked devices cannot be reactivated in any way, and they cannot be wiped.
As a result of this feature, iPhone thefts in San Francisco fell 40 percent between September 2013 and September 2014, according to a Reuters report. In New York City, iPhone thefts dipped 25 percent during the same period.
A June 2014 report from The New York Times revealed similar improvements. Back then, iPhone thefts had fallen by 38 percent in New York, and 25 percent in London. Robberies of Apple devices in general in NYC had fallen 29 percent during the first five months of 2014.
The biggest improvement was seen in London, where iPhone thefts dropped an impressive 50 percent. Mayor Boris Johnson says that real progress has been made in “tackling the smartphone theft epidemic that was affecting many major cities just two years ago.”
Since its debut, Activation Lock has inspired rival smartphone makers to include their own “kill switches” in their latest devices — and they’re going to become even more common after California passed a law last August that requires all smartphones sold in the state to have a kill switch built in by July of this year.