updated 05:59 am EDT, Tue April 1, 2014
Consumers could save on phone replacements, insurance costs if kill switches are mandatory
Owners of smartphones could collectively save an estimated $2.6 billion annually if "kill switches" are made available for all mobile devices, a new study claims. The system, which would in theory make a smartphone unusable once triggered, could lead to lower sales of insurance policies, and potentially a rise in the sales of more basic insurance schemes.
Research by William Duckworth, an associate professor of statistics, data science, and analytics at Creighton University, suggests US smartphone users would save the bulk of the $580 million spent every year on replacing stolen phones. Owners would also theoretically downgrade their level of insurance to a more basic version covering damage to a device with less of an emphasis on thefts, which ComputerWorld reports could save around $2 billion from the estimated $4.8 billion currently spent on insurance.
Duckworth's survey of 1,200 smartphone owners, conducted in February by ResearchNow, discovered that 99 percent of users "feel wireless carriers should give all consumers the option to disable a cell phone if it is stolen." While 83 percent believe a kill switch would reduce phone theft, 93 percent believe the option to disable a stolen phone should be free from extra fees.
The idea of a kill switch for smartphones has both its supporters and detractors. In February, senators introduced a bill for a federal law requiring kill switches on cellular devices, as well as the option to remotely wipe the smartphone, with the bill similar in tone to another introduced in California earlier that same month.
The carriers' trade group, the CTIA, is against such a system, claiming it to leave phones vulnerable to hackers and preventing users from reactivating a recovered device. As an alternative, it is pushing for a national database of stolen phones, though its critics have pointed to it only affecting stolen phone sales in the US, and being unusable if the stolen device is taken to a country that does not participate in any stolen phone database programs.