The Economy of Stolen iPhones: How Apple and ATT Could But Don’t Prevent Reactivation

The Economy of Stolen iPhones: How Apple and ATT Could But Don’t Prevent Reactivation

why att and apple like iPhone theft

UPDATE: The FCC has pressured the phone manufacturers (including Apple) to add a KILL SWITCH to phones. So when your’s is stolen you can render it as a permanent brick. Oh, in 2015!! Better than nothing. New post about iPhone 6 release: The Big Rip Off: Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6+ Most Wanted

Imagine your iPhone is stolen. [My week-old iPhone 5 was ripped right from my texting hands in Mexico last week.] Aside from the hassle and expense of getting a new phone, there are some interesting things you can do to LOCK and FIND your iPhone. But it’s NOT ENOUGH.


I am in Mexico. My brother is in the hospital. I am standing in front of our hotel in Guadalajara, txting my sister who is coming to hotel via taxi. From behind me, a gloved hand snatches the iPhone out of my hand and two hoodlums speed off on a motorcycle. I give pursuit. They run several red lights and vanish into the haze of Mexican exhaust fumes and cobblestone streets.

Apple has a cool app on the phones (if you enable it) called Find My iPhone. Since my phone was gone I had to use a different device. But this is what the screen looks like. The app located my iPad in 30 seconds, using the wifi signal and gps. BINGO. There it is, there I am.

Screen Shot 2012-12-12 at 10.04.34 AM

Not so easy with the iPhone. The thieves know to turn the phone off. I set up the “if they ever access the web with this phone” presets that give my Skype ID and then LOCK the PHONE. Since my phone was passworded, I am not too worried about the data. But I want my phone.

Being the smart pirates that they are, the phone is never activated again. And with the magic of some software off in a dark alleyway, my iPhone 5 is wiped and made-ready for sale on the open market.

Guadalajara Craigslist - iPhone 5 for sale

Not much I can to about that.

So I LOCK my phone using the software provided by Apple. I log-in to my ATT account and kill the cellular access on the phone. And I head back to Austin, Texas that afternoon, as planned.

That night at the ATT store I ask about replacement costs. The agent looks up my account. “Did you pay for the insurance?” he asked. “No.”

“Okay, the new iPhone will cost 499.95.”

I’m unphased. I’m hoping my computer loss coverage from my insurance company will cover the replacement cost. But I’m curious. “So what would it cost, if I did have the insurance?”

“It’s a $200 dollar deductable.”

“So if I paid you $118 a year in monthly insurance fees, you’re still going to charge me a deductible for the replacement?”

“It’s just like regular insurance,” he says.

I leave the store.

The next day I log into my ATT account and talk to the agent online. Same story. BUT… because I also have my mom’s phone on the account, and SHE is due an upgrade, they are going to side-upgrade me to replace my iPhone 5 for the normal $200 upgrade fee. As long as I agree to her new 2-year contract commitment.

Here are my questions for ATT and APPLE:

  1. If the phone is hardwired to ATT’s networks, can’t they simply BRICK (kill forever) the iPhone after it is stolen?
  2. If Apple really wanted to prevent the theft of iPhones couldn’t they simply LOCK the phone out of all Apple services? For example, I register my phone with Apple. They now know my UDID# (the hardwired code number that stays with the phone even if it is wiped or jailbroken) so if I call in and report the phone as stolen, Apple could LOCK OUT that UDID from ANY APPLE SERVICES: iTunes, Siri, Maps.

But neither of these companies will BRICK the phone. Why?

Because every single theft of an iPhone is essentially another sale of an iPhone. Sure, they are not getting money for the black market trade, but the affluent carriers of the iPhones will simply replace their stolen phone. BINGO, another sale.

If the iPhone was BRICK-ABLE by ATT and APPLE, the black market would dry up. As it is today, it’s the hotest theft item in the world. Here in the US, in Mexico. The market for stolen iPhones runs unabated  And until someone does something about it, we are going to have to keep paying for the insurance, and the replacement of the phones as they migrate south across the border.

It SUCKS. And ATT and APPLE have the means but not the will to stop it. Thanks for the 007 software, Find My iPhone, but I’d prefer, BLOW UP MY iPHONE NOW.

"Thieves know that carrying a smartphone is like carrying $500 in your hands," said Mahaffey. His company estimates that stolen and lost cell phones could cost American consumers more than $30 billion this year. -- Stolen iPhones

See also:  The Big Rip Off: Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6+ Most Wanted

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

reference: Huffington Post  Stolen iPhones And Other Smartphones Have Become A Nationwide Problem

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