Beware the unanchored stat.
You may be forgiven if you saw the attached bar graph and assumed that Samsung’s smartphones are now the target of choice among New York City’s burglars and grab-and-run guys.
It was published earlier this week by Eric Schneiderman, the state attorney general, as evidence that the so-called kill switch that Apple AAPL introduced last fall has taken a serious bite out of smartphone thefts, which reached 3.1 million nationwide in 2013 — nearly double the number stolen in 2012. The results in San Francisco were similar: iPhone thefts down 38%, Samsung thefts up 12%.
But because these charts show percentage increases and not the basis from which the percentages were calculated, they represent what one of my Time Magazine editors called an “unanchored stat” — a journalistic sin, in his mind, akin to misspelling a proper name.
I’ve put a call into Schneiderman’s office asking for the raw numbers. Meanwhile the pie chart below, from the same report, puts the San Francisco stats in perspective. A 12% increase for Samsung and a 38% decrease for Apple won’t make muchof a dent in Apple’s overwhelming popularity among the thieves of San Francisco.
According to Schneiderman, Google GOOG and Microsoft MSFT have promised to put kill switches in the next release of their smartphone operating systems — although as reader Daniel Eran Dilger points out, they did so after Minnesota became the first state to mandate a kill switch on all smartphones. Similar legislation is pending in California, Illinois and New York. (See Dilger’s AppleInsider piece here.)
The next hurdle is to get these companies to make the kill switches opt out, not opt in, so that their phones are protected right out of the box.