Creighton Professor: Adding a Kill Switch to All Smartphones Will Save the US $2.6 Billion Annually

April 1, 2014 - Written By Tony Simons

According to a new study, United States consumers alone could stand to save approximately $2.6 billion a year if a mandatory Kill Switch were to be added to all smartphones. In case you’re unfamiliar, a Kill Switch is a feature that allows victims of mobile device theft to remotely shut down and lock their device, rendering it useless to the individual(s) who stole it.

If you have ever had your smartphone stolen, you know exactly how much of a hassle it can be, and that’s not even considering the financial aspect of having to cough up the cost of a replacement phone. Even with insurance, most customers are faced with an average premium of $150 to replace a high-end device, and without insurance we’re talking about a five or six hundred dollar setback to replace your phone at original cost. And if you’ve ever owned a high-end device, you know it’s nearly impossible to go back to a “dumbphone”, so you’re almost guaranteed to find yourself looking for something of value equal to or better than your last phone.

The study, conducted by Creighton University professor William Duckworth, Ph.D., suggests that by adding a Kill Switch to all smartphones, the incentive for criminals to steal smartphones would exponentially decrease. After all, what good would a completely useless device be to them? Duckworth figures that Americans spend roughly $580 million a year to replace stolen phones, and another $4.8 billion goes to the carriers for premium insurance. He also believes that Americans would switch to less expensive plans without theft coverage, like SquareTrade if a Kill Switch mandate went into effect. He estimates that the addition of a Kill Switch would eliminate the $580 million in replacement fees and lower insurance rates, which would result in $2 billion a year in savings for American consumers.

It’s worth noting that in Duckworth’s study, 99% of his survey respondents were in favor of a Kill Switch mandate. It’s also worth noting that the main reason this hasn’t already been put into effect is because the carriers don’t want it to happen. Think about it. If they’re making over $5 billion a year in insurance and replacement fees, why would they want to instate such a feature that would cut into their profits? It’s certainly not going to help their bottom line, so they’re all for tucking this situation under the carpet and hoping everyone forgets it. My guess: that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

Readers, what do you make of all of this? Do you think a Kill Switch mandate would be a good thing, or are you comfortable with the current insurance and replacement scenario?