The Truth About Apple's Kill Command on the iPhone

The Truth About Apple’s Kill Command on the iPhone

Apple’s kill command is not used by the phone manufacturer to switch off Apple’s iPhones 7 and below. Apple’s most recent software update for its iPhones has generated a lot of attention. The new iOS 11 comes with a “kill switch” that can remotely disable your phone if it’s stolen or you lose it. But is this kill command the silver bullet that will finally stop smartphone theft?

That’s not entirely clear, but many articles and news sites seem to think so. They have said, “With Apple’s new feature, you can lock your iPhone remotely and even make it inoperable if it gets stolen.” That sounds great, right? Well…maybe, but there are some caveats here. Let’s take a closer look at what Apple is doing and how it may — or may not help to curb cellphone theft.

What is a Kill Switch?

A kill switch is a remote ability to disable your smartphone if lost or stolen. The reason it’s called a “kill switch” is because it’s like cutting off the power to the device. The user can shut the phone remotely when a kill switch is enabled.

This is done through an app on the person’s smartphone, tablet, or computer. By disabling a phone, the thief won’t be able to sell it, use it to make calls, or access the Internet.

This makes kill switches appealing to phone manufacturers, governments, and consumer advocacy groups. It’s important to note that many of these kill switches are not built-in. For a remote kill switch to work, your carrier must agree with your phone manufacturer.

What You Should Know about Apple’s Kill Command

Apple’s new kill switch, available on the latest iOS and iPhone versions, is similar to kill switches on other smartphones. You can use the new Remote Device Disabling feature to track, lock, and erase your device.

This feature is also designed to lock your device’s screen so no one can access your data. Remote Device Erasing will completely erase your device after ten failed attempts to unlock it.

Another aspect of Apple’s kill switch is that it only works after the device is stolen. Other kill switches, like Samsung’s, can be manually enabled by the user. That means it can’t be remotely shut down if you lose your phone or misplace it.

It is easy to assume that with Apple’s kill switch, you can keep your phone on, track it, and remotely shut it off after you lose it. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Screenshot 1 The Truth About Apple's Kill Command on the iPhone

Debunking the Rumor About Apple’s Kill Command on iPhones 7 and Below

Not long ago, a rumor spread on social media platforms that Apple was sending a kill command to iPhones 7 and below to shut them down so that users could purchase the latest models.

It turned out that this was untrue, as Apple clarified that indeed it released an update for older models to address security issues. The iOS 12.5.4 update is meant to thwart cybercrooks from attacking your older model iPhone.

Debunking the Rumor About Apple Kill Command on iPhones 7 and Below

Setting Up and Using Apple Kill Switch

It is no coincidence that iPhone theft has reduced worldwide since the release of the Apple kill switch. It is estimated that theft has reduced by 19% in New York, 24% in London, and 38% in San Fransisco.

The good news is that the kill switch has been added to iOS 7 and enables you to lock your phone remotely in the event it’s stolen. Here is how to set up and use the command.

You can enable the feature by going to:

  • Settings.
  • Scroll to iCloud.
  • Log in with your Apple ID
  • Turn on “Find My iPhone.”

Suppose your iPhone is stolen; activate the switch by doing the following:

  • Go to
  • Log in using your Apple ID credentials and set your iPhone to “lost mode.”

When your lost phone is in “lost mode,” you may opt to display a message and a phone number for anyone who has found it to aid in easy return. Also, you can choose to wipe out all data and lock it remotely.

A wiped and locked iPhone becomes useless as the owner’s username and passcode can only activate it.

Note: You must be able to send a signal to your phone to succeed in wiping and locking it. If, for instance, the thief places your iPhone on flight mode to block the incoming data, there is nothing you can do.

Reasons Why Apple’s kill switch May Not Be as Effective as You Think

As you’ve just read, Apple’s kill switch is only activated after you lose your phone. Therefore, if someone steals your phone, you can’t remotely turn off the device. From the thief’s perspective, the kill switch is nearly useless.

There are countless ways to circumvent Apple’s kill switch. For example, thieves can break the device’s passcode and remove the SIM card. They can also open the device’s reset menu and clear the settings. Many thieves will first break the phone to turn off the kill switch.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Tell if Apple is Sending Me a Kill Message?

It’s essential to know your phone’s settings if you’re on an older version of iOS (10.1.1) and that version of iOS has recently been updated with a newer operating system (such as iOS 11).

In that case, the kill messages will be sent by default on any new iPad or iPhone running this newer operating system. It’s also possible that they’ve been sent out before (for example, by Facebook), but Apple had only confirmed this information once in their history of this kind of thing — in 2016 when they were asked about killing devices after their users had installed an app from Facebook’s app store.

Is Apple’s Kill Switch Successful at Curbing Phone Theft?

The short response is no; it’s not particularly effective. That’s not to say that the kill switch is a bad feature. It’s a great feature. It’s just that it’s not a silver bullet for curbing phone theft.

In fact, according to a report from the Federal Communications Commission, smartphone theft has steadily increased since Apple introduced the kill switch. This may be because many thieves know the kill switch and how to disable it. One way to solve this would be for Apple to enable users to enable the kill switch remotely.

Who Can Benefit from the iOS 11 Kill-Switch Feature?

Anyone who owns an iPhone and has iOS 11 installed can use the kill switch feature. Bear in mind that if someone else has your phone, they can turn off the kill switch.

Therefore, it’s not a foolproof way to keep track of your phone if someone else has it. You can use other features, like Apple’s Find My iPhone app, to locate your device. You can also set up an iPhone alert that notifies you if someone tries to log into it with another Apple ID. The alert is helpful if you’re worried your device may fall into the wrong hands.

Can Apple Use the Kill Switch to Remove Undesired Apps Remotely?

Apple has said it will not use the kill switch to remove undesired apps on your phone. While this assurance has calmed some fears, it’s not enough to stop conspiracy theorists from believing that Apple can use this power for nefarious purposes.

Indeed, some smartphone users worry that the government could use the kill switch against them. And some are concerned that Apple could remotely shut off their device during a dispute over intellectual property infringement.

The kill switch does have the potential to be abused. Apple, however, has publicly stated that it will not use the kill switch to shut down any apps on your iPhone.


Overall, the kill switch is a feature that can benefit smartphone users. It’s important to remember that the kill switch is only remotely enabled after the phone has been stolen. In other words, if you lose your phone and someone else finds it, you can’t track it or remotely shut it off.

In general, kill switches are great features to have on your smartphone. The only thing to note is that they aren’t 100% effective against theft. Unfortunately, kill switches aren’t a cure-all to stop smartphone theft.

You can, however, take steps to protect your device from theft. For instance, you can use a lock screen passcode, change your phone’s default PIN code, and avoid keeping sensitive information on your phone.

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