A new study says implementing a "kill switch" could save mobile consumers billions of dollars per year.
According to Huffington Post, consumers could stand to save $2.5 billion USD annually with the introduction of a kill switch on smartphones. This breaks down to $500 million in replacing stolen phones and another $2 billion each year in carrier insurance.
A kill switch allows a consumer to completely disable their smartphone once it is stolen or lost in an effort to prevent access to their personal information (as well as general use).
The study, which was conducted by William Duckworth, a statistics professor at Creighton University, said that the implementation of a kill switch would prevent the increasing number of annual cell phone thefts because a disabled smartphone is of no use to anyone.
“If theft becomes a non-issue then only the most paranoid person would pay the extra money for premium insurance to cover theft,” said Duckworth.
In 2012, about 1.6 million cell phones were stolen in the United States. Some police departments around the country have said that the crimes are becoming increasingly violent, even leading to death.
While many have pushed for kill switches on cell phones -- such as San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman -- the CTIA, which is the wireless industry trade group representing major carriers, opposes the idea.
According to the CTIA, criminals could break into the kill switch feature and disable the phones of regular consumers and even law enforcement.
However, others believe the CTIA just wants consumers to continue buying cell phone insurance from carriers. The U.S. top four carriers made $7.8 billion USD last year in insurance premiums from their customers, so of course they don't want to lose that income.
The problem is that carrier insurance is not always the solution consumers expect. Carriers typically use a third-party provider called Asurion, which charges anywhere from $7 to $11 per month and sometimes has high deductibles of about $200 for lost phones, and the "new" phone you get can be refurbished. Sometimes you don't even get the same model you lost.
Duckworth's study found that 99 percent of participants were in favor of having a kill switch feature.
In February, Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) introduced a bill that would require all smartphones and tablets sold in California to have a kill switch.