AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint have agreed to create a shared database of stolen cellphones in order to lock them down and reduce resale value. Once a phone is identified as stolen, carriers would be able to block it from getting service from any of the service providers. Over the next six months, AT&T and T-Mobile will develop databases like the ones Sprint and Verizon already have in place, then in the following year, they'll all be integrated, and smaller regional carriers will follow suit afterwards. We all know that the iPhone is a hot commodity in the shady crowd, and with LTE becoming more prevalent, it makes simply unlocking a phone and popping in a new SIM card very easy.
It's entirely possible that anyone unwittingly buying a stolen iPhone may be unfairly cut off from service, but at least this shared database should deter anyone from knowingly purchasing burgled handsets. If SIM cards are going to be tied to particular devices, this system also has the potential to block legitimate SIM-swapping, but the details of the shared database have yet to be nailed down.
Research data shows that of the 26,000 electronics robberies in New York in the first 10 months of 2011, 86% were of cellphones.
The U.K., France, Germany, and Australia are already implementing something like this, and have seen some reasonable success in reducing phone theft. Apple's Find my iPhone app has already proven useful in recovering stolen iOS gadgets, but it's not enough if a thief is wily enough to keep it powered down before popping out the SIM card. That said, do the pros of a shared database of stolen iPhones outweigh the potential con of further-restricted SIM card slot?