Apple's done it. Now Google and Microsoft are on board as well. The two companies will equip the next versions of their mobile operating systems with a so-called "kill switch" that can remotely erase and disable lost or stolen smartphones.
Altogether, this means 97% of smartphones in the U.S. will run on an operating system—iOS, Android, or Windows—that includes a kill switch, according to Secure Our Smartphones, a consortium of elected officials, law-enforcement agencies, and consumer advocates.
Since Apple debuted Activation Lock in September, the association said iPhone thefts dropped sharply, with thieves targeting other popular smartphone models. In New York City, for example, theft of iPhones declined by 17% in the first five months of the year while Samsung products experienced a 51% increase, compared with the same period last year.
"The commitments of Google and Microsoft are giant steps toward consumer safety and the statistics released today illustrate the stunning effectiveness of kill switches," said New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman in a statement.