Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) was essentially a lot of glitz and glamour in its first day of the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco Monday, which should be expected. The keynote address that kicks off the five-day Apple-palooza for established and budding developers, and that first address is the first opportunity for Apple to basically unveil all the new software and services that are due to come out in the coming months. This gives those developers an agenda for what they want and need to work on to ensure they get involved and engaged in the iOS or Mac OS ecosystems.
Among all the Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) glitz and glamour though – which was dominated by the emergence of iOS 7 and the introduction of OS X Maverick for laptop and desktops, along with an iTunes Radio streaming service – there seemed to be one little feature that was generally overlooked by conference attendees, but got the attention of prominent law-enforcement officers in the country.
These people have been fighting an uphill battle with iPhone and overall smartphone thefts; in some parts of the country, smartphone thefts have made up as much as two-fifths of all street crime, with iPhones being a very popular target in New York.
In the last couple of years, several LEOs have written letters to the major handset manufacturers asking for their help to try to provide better security for smartphones so in the case that one is stolen, it can be more difficult to use and/or resell. At first blush, it seems that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has taken a step toward improving smartphone security when it announced a new iPhone feature called an “activation lock,” which is apparently designed to make stolen smartphones inoperable and thus next to impossible to resell.
Resale is apparently the No. 1 motive of smartphone thieves, according to law enforcement, and there seems to be less interest in personal data that might be on the phones.
This new activation lock feature works if the phone is locked, disabled or otherwise wiped. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) instituted a lock that requires the smartphone owner’s Apple ID and password to reactivate a phone after it has been stolen or otherwise compromised. Upon learning of this new feature, San Francisco city district attorney George Gascon and New York state attorney general Eric Schneiderman said in a joint statement, “We are appreciative of the gesture made by Apple to address smartphone theft. We reserve judgment on the activation lock feature until we can understand its actual functionality.”
While this sounds like a good step, is there more to this that we may not know about? What might be unintended consequences?