Do you lock your smartphone? Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer doesn’t. Apple co-founder and tech legend Steve Jobs famously hated the iPhone’s lock screen for “getting in the way of the user experience.” And they’re not alone: as many as half of iPhone users don’t set up a passcode for their iPhones at all.
We suspect that most smartphone users conduct either a conscious or sub-conscious risk-versus-convenience assessment to determine whether or not to enable passcode locks on their devices. How many times a day do you consult your smartphone? Average users check theirs every six minutes. How much time do you save per day by skipping the passcode lock? What’s the likelihood that my phone will be stolen in the first place?
Probably likelier than you might think. In major cities, smartphone theft represents a full forty percent of all theft. It’s also worth remembering that when your smartphone is stolen, thieves are making off with potentially more than the cost of the device itself. They’ll have access to your e-mails, your finances, your appointments, and if you’re fond of your tech, there’s the possibility they might even have unfettered access to your home.
And of course, there’s plenty of information out there that suggests that locking your iPhone or Android device will only slow down thieves rather than thwart them. The other, more draconian measures that users have hit on is to wipe their devices remotely, either using Apple’s Find My iPhone app or Google’s Android Device Manager. Still, in order to access either of these features, you’ll need first to be aware that your phone was stolen in the first place (you wouldn’t want to wipe it if, say, you just left it in the car), and second, you’ll need access to another device (tablet, desktop, etc.) to you can undertake the wipe in the first place.
Security measures are imperfect, in short, which is why biometrics might very well comprise the mobile security of the future. Android was the first OS to dabble in biometrics with Face Unlock, but unfortunately that can be fooled with photographs of the user’s face. Apple’s recently-unveiled fingerprint sensor, on the other hand, has a great deal of potential … provided you don’t blister your thumb during a round of golf.