Android 'kill switch' to make mobiles worthless to would-be thieves

Google’s updating its mobile operating system with a ‘self-destruct’ feature designed to thwart smartphone thieves, turning nicked handsets into expensive paperweights…

If you've got an Android smartphone and you worry about it getting pinched, you'll soon be able to sleep soundly in the knowledge it's no longer an easy target for thieves.

US tech giant Google's adding a remote 'kill switch' feature to its Android mobile platform. Essentially a self-destruct button, it'll render your handset completely useless as soon as it's reported stolen - making stealing it in the first place a waste of time.

It follows a report by the New York Attorney General, which claims a similar feature introduced last year on Apple's iOS operating system - the one used by iPhones - reduced thefts of Apple devices in New York City by 17% in its first five months.

Microsoft has also agreed to add a kill switch to its Windows Phone software.

Once Android and Windows phones have the feature - to be delivered in the same way as a normal software update - there won't be many smartphones worth stealing.

"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," said the US report.

Once activated, the kill switch will 'brick' your beloved £500 Facebook machine, turning it into an expensive paperweight - it won't even start up - which even Del Trotter couldn't palm off down the pub.

Apple introduced its iPhone kill switch, or Activation Lock as Apple likes to call it, in last September's iOS 7 release. In the months that followed, iPhone thefts are thought to have dropped by as much as 24% in London and 38% in San Francisco.

In the meantime, you protect yourself against smartphone theft by always securing your device with a password, PIN or unlock pattern. You should also avoid saving sensitive data - like card numbers and bank details - on your device.

If your phone's ever lost or stolen, report it immediately to your mobile phone provider as you're liable for any calls made using your phone until it's reported missing.

You should also make sure that your smartphone is adequately insured, either covered by a specialist policy or your home and contents insurance.

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