I lost my smartphone at the supermarket this year, and nobody turned it in. So I know firsthand about the problem of stolen smartphones.
Wired has a nice spread on the “The Secret World of Stolen Smartphones, Where Business is Booming,” which is also available in its magazine’s January issue. The story notes that 3.1 million Americans were victims of smartphone theft in 2013, up from 1.6 million a year earlier, according to Consumer Reports. And that device may very well wind up in Asia thanks to the efficiency of a black market.
Some interesting stats: In 2009, roughly 5 percent of the global population owned a smartphone; by the end of 2015, that is expected to be 35 percent, or 2.5 billion people. Lookout, a mobile security firm, believes that 1-in-10 smartphone owners have had their phones stolen. Sixty-eight percent of those victims never saw their device again. About a third of robberies now involve a smartphone.
And Americans spent about $4.8 billion a year on premium phone insurance and $580 million on replacement phones, according to William Duckworth, a professor at Creighton University’s business school.
But kill-switch technology is working. Apple’s Activation Lock led to a 38 percent drop in iPhone robberies in the first five months of 2014. In New York City, Apple-related robberies were down 19 percent. But criminals might still sell the smartphone parts, too.
“There’s no bulletproof solution to smartphone theft and there never will be,” wireless industry analyst Jeff Kagan told Wired. “It’s like the long war between the people who create computer viruses and the people who wrote security software. Or the people who make radar guns and the people who make radar detectors. It’s just continually escalating.”