San Francisco: Smartphone thieves are set to have a harder time after Apple Inc. introduces an “activation lock” feature in its new mobile software, a move that comes amid pressure from authorities and consumers for companies to do more to stem a tide of smartphone theft.

Apple’s Craig Federighi, vice president of software engineering, introduces iOS7 at a keynote address during the 2013 Apple WWDC at the Moscone Center on Monday in San Francisco, California. Photo: AFP
Apple’s Craig Federighi, vice president of software engineering, introduces iOS7 at a keynote address during the 2013 Apple WWDC at the Moscone Center on Monday in San Francisco, California. Photo: AFP

The new feature, available with the launch of iOS 7 in the fall, will require a legitimate owner’s ID and password before an iPhone can be wiped clean or re-activated after being remotely erased, Apple executives said in a brief outline at company’s annual developers conference.

iOS 7 hits iPhones this fall, but only the iPhone 5 and iPod touch will get all the features announced at WWDC. The iPhone 4 and 4S will only get the new iOS 7 look and a splattering of features. And forget about the iPhone 3GS and older iPhones. They will be stuck in the skeuomorphic world of iOS 6 forever.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon plan to meet with representatives of Apple, Google Inc.’s Motorola Mobility, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd and Microsoft Corp. to discuss theft prevention on Thursday.

Both prosecutors have criticized the cellphone industry for what they say is a perceived unwillingness to solve an escalating problem. About half of San Francisco robberies last year involved stolen mobile devices, Gascon has said.

A recent study found that lost and stolen cellphones cost consumers some $30 billion in 2012, his office has said.

Some companies have measures in place to reunite smartphones with their rightful owners. Apple has ‘Find My iPhone’, which allows a user to track a missing device on a map and remotely lock it or erase data.

“‘Apple Picking’ is a huge epidemic in the US. 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,” Schneiderman and Gascon said in a joint Monday statement.

“We look forward to having a substantive conversation with Apple and other manufacturers at our smartphone summit on Thursday.”