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Officials praise Samsung's Galaxy S5 antitheft features

Samsung flags are set up at the main entrance to the Berlin fair ground before the IFA consumer electronics fair in Berlin, August 28, 2012.
Samsung flags are set up at the main entrance to the Berlin fair ground before the IFA consumer electronics fair in Berlin, August 28, 2012.

By Marina Lopes

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A move by Samsung to include free anti-theft features on its Galaxy S5 smartphones sold by Verizon Wireless and U.S. Cellular won praise on Friday by two U.S. members of an international coalition aimed at combating robberies involving smartphones.

The new features allow Galaxy S5 users to track devices and require the owner's account information to reset the phone. The features, Find My Mobile, and Reactivation Lock, will come installed in the phones but must be activated by users.

"The decision ... to provide Samsung's Find My Mobile and Reactivation Lock features on Galaxy S5 smartphones and to allow those features to be activated for free is a step forward in our effort to ensure the industry makes effective theft deterrents available on every smartphone sold in America," New York's attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, and San Francisco's district attorney, George Gascon, said in a statement.

Schneiderman and Gascon, along with London Mayor Boris Johnson, are co-chairs of the coalition Secure Our Smartphone Initiative.

They said, however, that they remain "concerned that consumers will need to opt in to the system, thereby limiting the ubiquity and effectiveness of the solution."

Both Schneiderman and Gascon have criticized the cellphone industry for what they say is a perceived unwillingness to solve an escalating theft problem.

Schneiderman has publicly supported bills currently in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate that would require a kill switch to be installed in every smartphone manufactured in the United States. The switch would prevent the phone from being re-activated in the black market.

In 2012, 1.6 million Americans were victimized for their smartphones, according to Schneiderman's office.

(Reporting by Marina Lopes; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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