Google and Microsoft will add a “kill-switch” feature to their smartphones using Android and Windows operating systems.
The feature is a method of making a handset completely useless if it is stolen, rendering a theft pointless.
Authorities have been urging tech companies to take steps to help curb phone theft and argued that a kill-switch feature can help resolve the problem.
Apple and Samsung, two of biggest phone makers offer a similar feature on some of their devices.
The move by Google and Microsoft means that kill switch will now be a part of the three most popular phone operating systems in the world.
Smartphone theft has become a big problem across the world.
According to a report by US authorities:
- Some 3.1 million mobile devices were stolen in the US in 2013, nearly double the number of devices stolen in 2012
- One in three Europeans experienced the theft or loss of a mobile device in 2013
- In South Korea mobile device theft increased five-fold between 2009 and 2012
- In Colombia criminals stole over one million devices in 2013
In attempt to tackle the issue, policymakers have launched an initiative called Secure our Smartphones.
A part of it, they have urged tech companies to take steps to make it less attractive for robbers to steal mobile devices.
“An activated kill switch converts an easy-to-sell, high-value multimedia device into a jumble of plastic and glass, drastically reducing its street value,” the report by New York Attorney General said.
Authorities claim that Apple’s feature – dubbed Activation Lock – which it introduced on all iPhones running the iOS 7 operating system in September last year, has helped reduce theft substantially.
According to a report by the New York State Attorney General, in the first five months of 2014 the theft of Apple devices fell by 17% in New York City.
Meanwhile iPhone robberies fell 24% in London and 38% in San Francisco in the six months after Apple introduced the feature, compared to the previous six months.
“During the same period, thefts of other popular mobile devices increased,” the report says.