SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - 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.
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.
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 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 United States. 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."
(Editing by Edwina Gibbs)