Google and Microsoft are planning to join Apple in offering theft-deterring “kill switches” in their smartphone operating systems.
The announcement came in a report on Thursday by the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative led by the New York state attorney general with officials from San Francisco and London.
The coalition of more than 100 elected leaders and law enforcement officials from major cities said the agreement means the three main smartphone platforms would soon add the feature as part of an effort to curb an epidemic of thefts.
The report said Google Android and Microsoft Windows Phone would add the feature – enabling a user to deactivate a stolen handset – after Apple included this last year.
Google confirmed the news on Friday without providing a date for the new feature.
“Yes, the next version of Android will include a factory reset protection solution to help deter smartphone theft. We will be releasing more details shortly,” a spokesman told news agency AFP in an email.
Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The commitments of Google and Microsoft are giant steps toward consumer safety and the statistics released today illustrate the stunning effectiveness of kill switches,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
“In just one year, the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative has made tremendous strides towards curtailing the alarming trend of violent smartphone theft. We will continue the fight to ensure that companies put consumers’ safety first and work toward ending the epidemic of smartphone theft.”
The report noted that preliminary data following Apple’s adoption of its “activation lock” feature found that in the first five months of 2014, theft of Apple devices fell by 17 per cent in New York, while thefts of Samsung products increased by 51 per cent from the same period in the previous year.
In the six months after Apple introduced the feature, iPhone thefts fell 24 per cent in London and robberies fell 38 per cent in San Francisco, while thefts of other popular mobile devices increased, the report said.
The report cited studies that showed 3.1 million mobile devices were stolen in 2013 – nearly double the levels of 2012, and one in three Europeans experienced the theft or loss of a mobile device last year.