Samsung Electronics will add two safeguards to its latest smartphone to try to deter rampant theft of the mobile devices in the US.
The world’s largest mobile-phone maker said users will be able to activate free its “Find My Mobile” and “Reactivation Lock” anti-theft features to protect the soon-to-be-released Galaxy 5 S.
The features that will lock the phone if there’s an unauthorised attempt to reset it will be on models sold by wireless carriers Verizon and US Cellular. The phones go on sale next week.
“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 announcement 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 combat surging smartphone theft across the country.
Earlier this week, California legislators introduced a bill that, if passed, would require mobile devices sold in or shipped in the state be equipped with the 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.
Apple created a similar “activation lock” feature for the popular iPhone last year.
Almost one in three US robberies involve phone theft, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Lost and stolen mobile devices – mostly smartphones – cost consumers more than $US30 billion in 2012, the agency said in a study.
CTIA-The Wireless Association, a trade group for wireless providers, has said a permanent kill switch has serious risks, including potential vulnerability to hackers who could disable mobile devices and lock out not only individuals’ phones but also phones used by entities such as the defence department, Homeland Security and law enforcement.
The association created a national stolen phone database last year to remove any market for stolen smartphones.