Samsung Galaxy S4 made with new tracking feature

Samsung Galaxy S4 to add new built-in cellphone tracker, for a cost.

Lee Jin-man/ AP Photo/ File
A man walks by the billboards of Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S4 smartphone at a showroom of its headquarters in Seoul, South Korea. The Samsung Galaxy 4S will come with LoJack cellphone software built into the phone.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 now comes with a new technology that will help users track down their missing or stolen smart phone or, in dire situations, kill the phone.  

While skilled phone hackers can circumvent phone-tracking applications – such as the popular "Find My iPhone" – the LoJack system is built into a smart phone's core, or its firmware. To unlock the phone and turn off the tracking device, the thief would have to destroy the firmware, in effect ruining the phone. Of course, there is also the cathartic (and perhaps practical) benefit of being able to "kill" a device when users are unable to retrieve it from a thief. "Killing" a phone renders it useless, meaning that a new operating system cannot be installed. 

The feature costs $29.99 per year and includes the cost of tracking down the phone. The LoJack software feature from Absolute Software has previously been available only for laptops and tablets. This is the first time that the technology will be built into the phone itself.

Building tracking capabilities into cellphones like the Samsung Galaxy 4S reflects the rising incidences of phone theft in the past few years, says Mark Grace, the vice president of consumer global at Absolute Software.

The San Francisco and New York attorneys general both issued their support for the creation of a Save our Smartphones initiative to combat this rise in cellphone thefts. In 2012, half of all robberies in San Francisco involved a mobile device. In New York City, 20 percent of all robberies involved the theft of a smart phone – a 40 percent increase since 2011, according to a statement issued by the Save our Smartphone coalition.

New York City has a separate Apple task force that deals solely with the theft of iPhones and iPads.

The Samsung Galaxy 4S is the first phone to have this LoJack software automatically built into the device, but Mr. Grace foresees the possibility of incorporating this software into other smart phones in the future. Though Absolute Software is able to track cellphones without the LoJack software, the process is easier with the mechanism built into a phone’s firmware.

Absolute says that it has been able to retrieve three-quarters of all lost laptops, excluding the number of devices that are permanently damaged, says Grace. The company has ties to more than 6,600 different law enforcement agencies in more than 100 countries, and has recovered more than 30,000 devices.

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