For the first time, Apple is accepting damaged iPhones as a trade-in item.
CLEVELAND - You've probably heard of "apple picking" and we don't mean the fruit on the trees.
It's about the growing problem of people stealing Apple iPhones and iPads. The problem is so big right now that some law enforcement agencies are officially endorsing Apple's new iOS 7 operating system as a way for you to protect yourself.
Giovanni DiPio has had an iPhone for years and he has already downloaded iOS 7.
"I think it's pretty good - security's pretty good... up to date," DiPio told us while standing in a parking lot near the city park where he was working.
The new Apple operating system was released three weeks ago and cellphone experts say its "industry-first" security feature was much needed.
"2012, was the first time in our nation's history that something was stolen more often than money - and that was the iPhone," said Phone Ambulance Manager Charlie Harb, who's also been dealing with Apple products for years.
The feature is called "activation lock" and when in use, it means a lost or stolen apple device simply cannot be re-programmed without the real owner's Apple ID and password.
"Before, if you were to steal an iPhone, all you'd have to do is plug it in your computer and wipe it and you can go sell it to a new customer," Harb said.
iOS 7 is available as a free downloadable upgrade for all iPhones, iPads and iPod touch devices. (Link to more info on iOS7: http://www.apple.com/ios/ )
New York City police said they believe in the theft-deterring feature so much that they've been handing out fliers urging iPhone users to upgrade to iOS 7. But a local law enforcement professional we talked to said you should remain careful.
"Just don't assume because you have iOS 7 that your phone is safe being left out or in sight if left lying in a car," said Mike Stone from Polaris Career Center. "Because (crooks) may still steal it in the hope that they can get it to work," he added.
Still, iPhone user DiPio said iOS 7 gives him some peace of mind.
"Before the update, I was worried that someone might take my phone and all my information might be lost -- but now I feel a lot safer," DiPio told us.
The key here is: You must download iOS 7 and turn on the "activation lock" to be protected.
The thought is that as more people sign on, Apple products will become less attractive to thieves.
What about other phones? Experts tell us certainly there will be a demand for this kind of security on Android phones. We'll keep you updated.
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