(NEW YORK) — Apple is set to release later this week what it is calling the most forward-thinking smartphone, and one that also addresses one of the biggest issues facing users — smartphone thefts that have come to be called Apple picking.
Apple itself has beefed up security with a fingerprint sensor and some new software features that make it harder for a thief to use a stolen phone, but Louisiana-based YellowJacket has a deterrent with a bit more sting.
That idea? An iPhone 5S case with a stun gun.
Concealed in the YellowJacket’s $140 case is a built-in battery-powered stun gun that produces what the company describes as a “painful sting.” Charge the case and press the activation button and you are able to shoot 650 kilovolts of electricity through someone’s body. The case, which has been available for the iPhone 4 and 4S, is going to be available for the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S in a couple of weeks for pre-order and then will ship in time for the holidays, according to company’s co-founder and president Seth Froom.
Froom, who launched the company after he was robbed and wished he could have used his phone for self-defense, believes that the YellowJacket is necessary to provide real protection against iPhone thefts.
“Really in that moment when the violent crime does occur, we want to give our users a way to escape that situation,” Froom told ABC News. “We want to give them a preventative step to where they don’t become the victim in the first place.”
Other security features on the iPhone and other phones are aimed at helping you find your phone or making it harder for thieves to use the phones once they have stolen it, said Froom and YellowJacket VP of Marketing Caroline Barry. The TouchID fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5S is meant to make sure that people protect their information from being accessed by others and a new feature in iOS 7 requires your Apple ID to be put in if someone tries to reset the phone.
“What Apple is doing is a great step forward. They are clued in to what is happening,” Froom said. “However, it isn’t a preventative measure. They can’t fully vet that out. That’s where we come in. We add the preventative measure. What if you can prevent that theft entirely?”
But not all law enforcement officials agree with that method. James Pasco, executive director of the Steve Young Law Enforcement Legislative Advocacy Center, has famously said that “stun guns are no more regulated than hairdryers.”
Pasco not only has concerns about the quality, reliability and safety of the case, but about it making a robbery even worse.
“Plenty of offensive weapons in the wrong hands can exacerbate an already serious situation,” Pasco told ABC News. He added that “you don’t know what is going to happen with these devices, yet these things are out in people’s hands and they say it is a reliable deterrent to crime and theft.”
Despite having sold thousands of units, YellowJacket said it hasn’t heard of any instances where people have used the stun gun functionality, but company officials said they have heard from users who have threatened to use it to prevent unfortunate situations. Barry also added that the company absolutely doesn’t advise that people use this if the thief has a gun. Ultimately, she said that even if people don’t plan to use it, it is a very helpful tool to many.
“We hear from people that they aren’t leaving home without it anymore. It provides peace of mind for many, especially women,” Barry said. “As much as we advocate protection, we are advocating awareness.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio