Cell phone theft is among the fastest-growing crime segments in the US – and likely elsewhere too. To that end services like Android Device Manager, Find My iPhone and others aim to help users locate stolen devices or at least secure data by remotely wiping them. Taking things a step further, last year the FCC and four of the largest US carriers set out to create a national lost-and-stolen phone registry that would be used as a blacklist to deny activation and thus reduce the value of stolen smartphones. That database is now complete.
Announcing the milestone in a press release, CTIA president and CEO Steve Largent noted that the effort will be tied in with international databases so criminals have fewer outlets to sell devices on. Going forward the database will be maintained by each carrier, tracking all phones reported stolen with their respective serial number, while smaller, regional wireless service providers will be allowed to join in the coming months.
It remains to be seen how effective of a deterrent this database will be. Previous efforts such as the "Save Our Smartphones Initative" aren't exactly encouraging in light of recent accusations that carriers have fought the idea of anti-theft systems pre-installed on phones as that would eat into profits made from selling insurance plans.
Manufacturers and software developers are also doing their part independently. Aside from the aforementioned phone tracking services, Apple recently implemented a first-of-its-kind Activation Lock feature in iOS 7 that will make it impossible to reactivate a lost or stolen device without its associated Apple ID and password.