Most iPhone users have activation lock enabled, survey finds

The survey, by San Francisco's district attorney, sees room for improvement in Apple's implementation

Four out of five iPhone users have enabled a feature that allows them to locate, lock and wipe their phones if they are lost or stolen, according to the results of a survey by the San Francisco district attorney's office.

The survey was conducted over the first two weeks of November as part of District Attorney George Gascón's push to get smartphone makers to address the rising problem of smartphone theft in major U.S. cities.

It was advertised by the district attorney's office through social media and attracted 347 responses. While the survey lacks a wide sample base and is skewed towards social-media users, it found 245 of 313 respondents -- 78 percent -- had Apple's Find my iPhone with an activation-lock feature enabled on their phones.

The software lets iPhone users see the location of their phone on a map, lock the phone and remotely erase personal data. A new version supplied with Apple's iOS 7 operating system includes an activation lock, which keeps the phone from being unlocked, wiped or erased by a third party without the input of a passcode.

Gascón has been pushing smartphone makers to include just such a lock in their phones. He believes that if smartphones can be rendered useless after they are stolen, their resale value disappears and so does the incentive for theft.

The district attorney commended Apple on its introduction of the feature but said more needs to be done.

"Until Activation Lock is fully opt-out, it appears many iPhone owners will not have the solution enabled," he said in a statement. "This leaves iPhone users at risk, as thieves cannot distinguish between those devices that have the feature enabled and those that do not."

Smartphone theft is a growing problem in large cities across the U.S. Users often have their phones snatched from them while in public, sometimes after being threatened with guns or knives.

Gascón and Eric Schneiderman, the state attorney general for New York, are spearheading efforts in the U.S. to get smartphone makers and cellular carriers to tackle the issue. The two have been in talks with Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft since earlier this year about activation locks. Apple responded with the new functions in iOS7, and Samsung has begun installing a security app on its devices that users can pay annually to activate.

Earlier this month, Schneiderman sent the five largest U.S. cellphone carriers each a letter asking why they are opposing the installation of a "kill-switch" device in their handsets as a deterrent against theft. The letter alluded to possible collusion among the carriers on the decision.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags CriminalAppleconsumer electronicssecurityphysical securitysmartphonesiPhonelegal

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?