The rise of the mobile phone has been rapid, even by technology’s standards. There are more handsets than people in the UK in fact, with many users owning more than one. Now the average smartphone price is well into the hundreds, though, theft is also on the up.

According to home office figures from 2013, around 700,000 devices are stolen each year – amounting to 224 thefts per hour. Many more are taken without being reported too; it’s a major issue that needs tackling.

This is exactly why the ‘kill switch’ concept was introduced by manufacturers. The simple tool can render a device inoperable if lost or stolen, making theft completely pointless. It’s activated remotely, usually by the true owner, who can send a command that prevents it from being operated or reset until a certain ID and code are entered.

Thefts down in several major cities

The early signs are of success as well – London, San Francisco and New York have all reported significant declines in the number of theft incidents since iPhone and Android phone-makers started including the feature.

Police in London say that, since 2003, when Apple first added the measure to its iOS operating system, cases of theft have fallen by 40 per cent. There’s also been a 38 per cent drop in smartphone robberies involving violence or threats. That all equates to 20,000 fewer victims every year.

London Mayor, Boris Johnson, said in 2015: “We have made real progress in tackling the smartphone theft epidemic that was affecting many major cities just two years ago.”

The stories are similar in San Francisco and New York, where iPhone robberies have been reduced by 40 and 25 per cent respectively. General mobile theft has fallen by 27 and 16 per cent, reports.

Apple, in typical market-leading fashion, has already turned the kill switch on by default on all of its devices (iOS 8 or later) – users must manually turn it off if they don’t want it. Unfortunately, the opposite is true for many other manufacturers’ devices. Changing that fact is undoubtedly the next step.