Google and Microsoft to follow Apple and Samsung with ‘kill switch’ on phones

Google and Microsoft have agreed to add remote kill switches to their smartphone operating systems - following in the footsteps of Samsung and Apple. The feature allows users to render a phone completely useless if it is lost or stolen, by remotely wiping data and bricking the device. New York State attorney general Eric Schneiderman has been putting pressure on the firms for several months after launching an initiative called Secure Our Smartphones.

The commitments of Google and Microsoft are giant steps toward consumer safety and the statistics released today illustrate the stunning effectiveness of kill switches.

New York State attorney general Eric Schneiderman

iPhone robberies fell 24% in London, 38% in San Francisco, and 19% in New York City after Apple introduced the feature as part of the iOS7 update last September, his report said. Google - which is behind the Android operating system - and Microsoft have not yet given a date by which all of their phones will be fitted with the feature. Once it is introduced, it means that around 97% of smartphones on sale in the US can be remotely disabled.

Over recent months, Microsoft has been working with others in the wireless industry to develop voluntary principles for implementing more robust theft-deterrent technologies in smartphones.

Microsoft’s vice president of US Government Affairs Fred Humphries