They’re taking a byte out of crime … some of it, anyway.
To combat a surge in smartphone theft, the NYPD has launched a campaign to advise consumers about the security benefits of updating to Apple's latest -- but neglected to promote a similar feature Google launched on Android one month earlier.
“Attention Apple Users!!!!” reads a flyer cops began handing out Friday, the same day Apple started selling the new iPhone 5S and 5C. “The new iOS7 software update avaialble [sic] for your Apple product brings added security to your devices.”
“For additional information on iOS7 features visit www.apple.com,” the flyer helpfully suggests.
Apple’s smartphone competitors including Microsoft, Google and Motorola declined FoxNews.com requests to comment on the program. But a Google source did note Android's similar feature, which is available for all users running version 2.2 and above -- that’s 100 percent of Android-based devices now on sale.
“If your phone can’t be recovered, or has been stolen, you can quickly and securely erase all of the data on your device to keep your data from ending up in the wrong hands,” wrote Adrian Ludwig, an Android security engineer with Google, when he announced the feature in early August.
The Activation Lock feature in Apple’s iOS7 makes it impossible for a thief to deactivate the "Find My iPhone" or "Find my iPad" feature without the owner's Apple ID and password. Similarly, Google’s Android Device Manager can remotely locate a lost device and can lock and erase it.
The feature is easily set up from android.com/devicemanager. The police did not advertise its launch, however.
NYPD officials said that the Apple feature may help prevent theft.
“Members of the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau set up information tables at Apple and Best Buy stores in all five boroughs,” sergeant Brendan Ryan told FoxNews.com. “Police suggested iPhone owners download iOS7, which has an upgraded ‘Find My iPhone’ program that makes it more difficult for thieves to turn off the security settings.”
Between May and Sept. 15, there have been at least 114 incidents in which patrol officers either using their own iPhones or iPhones allocated by the NYPD recovered stolen property using the Find My iPhone feature. This led to 159 arrests and 109 recovered iPhones, iPads, Macbooks and iPod, Ryan said.
Four uniformed NYPD officers were at my subway stop tonight asking me to upgrade to iOS 7. Not a joke! pic.twitter.com/CGdR2RqtKJ
— Michael Hoffman (@Hoffm) September 21, 2013
The NYPD refused to comment on why the Apple feature was promoted but not the Google feature.
A flyer supplied by the Police Department describing the Operation I.D. program incorrectly states that Android lacks the feature.
“While Android devices do not have native features to assist in the recovery in the event of loss or theft, there are a variety of third party applications available for this purpose. The NYPD cannot specifically endorse any one application; however we encourage you to research and find one that is right for you!”
Jeremy A. Kaplan is Science and Technology editor at FoxNews.com, where he heads up coverage of gadgets, the online world, space travel, nature, the environment, and more. Prior to joining Fox, he was executive editor of PC Magazine, co-host of the Fastest Geek competition, and a founding editor of GoodCleanTech.