Every urban dweller knows better then to leave their cell phone lying around in public, as to do so would invite not just theft but the inevitable post-theft shaming from friends, family, and SFist commenters should my colleagues or I opt to write about their momentary lapse is personal security. But Apple is unfazed in the face of the many threats menacing every expensive pocket-sized computer in the city, and will soon be allowing customers in their stores to pick up and walk around with iPhones, thieves be damned.
It all started in Apple's newly refurbished London store, which opened earlier this month to predictable fanfare and with one unique feature: The iPhones in that store aren't locked to the display to prevent their theft, the way they are in every other of the company's stores. According to CNet, "Apple says this is to allow people to hold them properly, try cases on them and even see how they feel in your pocket."
But is an initiative that works in the land of Sherlock Holmes and the Krays something that will work here, in the land of people who will throw their beer (among other things) at you to get your smartphone? Apparently so, as KRON 4 reports that following a successful run in London, Apple will be unleashing their phones in stores "worldwide." (We contacted Apple to confirm that "worldwide" includes San Francsico, but haven't received a response as of publication time.)
In an article entitled "It's super easy (and pointless) to steal an iPhone from the new Apple store," website Techradar writes:
If you manage to wrench an iPhone 7 Plus from one of the many people also testing it out, you'll have to pocket it unnoticed by anyone and make your way to the door. At the door you'll probably set off the store's security alarm.
If you’re not pounced on by a security guard before you feel the warmth of the sunlight and actually manage to get away with the phone, Apple will simply brick it from afar using the Find My iPhone feature, leaving you with a very expensive paperweight.
But, seriously, will that actually deter thieves? Think about it: That same bricking function has been available to all iPhone users since 2013. According to a statement from District Attorney George Gascon in early 2015, that cut iPhone theft by around 40 percent, which is great! But still, every day, we see numerous cell phone thefts in the city, with some thieves even undeterred at the news that police will use the GPS on the phones to track and arrest them.
Who knows, I could be wrong? Perhaps my decade-plus of reporting on big and small San Francisco crime has made me cynical. Maybe Apple's move will usher in a new era of smartphone freedom, in which thieves leave us and our phones alone on Muni, the street, and in coffee shops out of disdain for the "expensive paperweight" the stolen objects will become. Or maybe I will have a lot of new thefts to write about on the 300 block of Post Street? I guess we shall see.