AS Steve Jobs explained to a rapt audience of technofiles in San Francisco this week, Apple Inc. will release a new and improved version of its iPhone on July 11.
If what happened after its iPod release a few years earlier holds true, Apple will not be the only entity to see increasing profits. Common thieves and criminals will be eating better this summer as well.
That’s because there is a direct correlation between every new release of the latest palm-sized Internet device and street crime.
In the year after the iPod was released, Los Angeles saw an increase of 34 percent of robberies of iPods and other similar electronic gadgets and San Francisco saw a doubling of such crimes, according to a report by Chris Hansen at Dateline NBC.
While Hansen was doing a yeoman’s job reporting the dark side of the usually all-giddy new technology news reports, most of the bad news from the electronic revolution never becomes conventional wisdom.
Sure, techno-bloggers and some iPod and iPhone users know about the bulls-eye painted on their back — even the increasing chance of becoming a victim of a violent robbery — but most go about using the devices oblivious to the dangers.
I happened to be in the Bay Area the day Jobs was unveiling the new iPhone, which will be sold at a lower price ($199 for the 8-gigabyte model and $299 for the 16-gigabyte model). The price of the required service will, however, rise to $39.99 a month plus $30 for data.
While at an orientation lecture from a police officer from U.C. Berkeley, where I was with my son, Matt, who’ll be attending there in the fall, the officer spoke in frank terms about these devices being magnets for “thugs” who often roam the city and campus looking for expensive electronic devices to steal from Cal students.
She mentioned, matter-of-factly, that the release of iPods and iPhones spiked the crime rate at U.C. Berkeley. As a precaution, students should not walk around campus with their iPods or iPhones visible, nor should they have both earplugs in their ears. “Those two white ear plugs are a dead give away,” she told the freshman parents, who absorbed the message like dry sponges.
I have to admit, I had no idea these devices were such a problem. But I did recall my son getting a $300 iPod from his uncle in New York and remembering it was promptly stolen after only two weeks. Most likely, it was lifted from a backpack or gym locker at his high school.
The thefts of these video-data-music devices are quite common. Hansen reported that it has become such a problem on college campuses that some have banned them.
On more than a half-dozen occasions during my visit to the Bay Area, I witnessed a person take out an iPhone and begin surfing data. At the airport, at a Giants game, on the Berkeley campus, on the BART — none tried to hide the device. Were they unaware they were sitting ducks?
Colleague Daniel Fritz, who was using his iPhone in the newsroom Friday, said he never uses the device unless he feels secure. When he does use it in public, he cups his hands around it “so it looks like any, ordinary PDA,” he told me.
A very funny YouTube video by Flixxy Films shows how a bump-and-rob scenario can cost a person several hundred dollars in a few seconds. Also, some iPhone users are victims of identity theft as thieves download the owner’s personal banking data and use it for fraudulent purchases. The video concludes with the owner pressing a remote control detonator that blows up the device and the thief.
Hansen of Dateline asked if Apple can design such advanced technology, why can’t they incorporate a way to track down the thief or render the device useless when stolen?
I’m guessing that will never happen. More reason why users of new technology should know the down side as well as the up.