White or black iPhone more tempting to thieves?
September 28, 2012 11:03 AM   Subscribe

Is there a difference in the white or black iPhone's attractiveness to thieves-- to the point where it should influence my buying decision?

I ride the train in Boston a lot, sometimes later at night and alone, and like a lot of my fellow riders, I use my iPhone to keep me amused during the commutes. (I know this goes against advice to keep electronics tucked away and hidden, but I don't see the point of having them if I don't get to use them during my commute when they are most needed.

Fortunately, I have never in my now fairly long life been the victim of a snatch-and-grab or a mugging. But now it's time to trade up to the iPhone 5 and I am really tempted to buy the white one, whereas all my previous phones have been black or otherwise nondescript.

My question: does a white iPhone which is more visible from across the train or bus make me any more tempting a target?
posted by bchaplin to Technology (19 answers total)
Most phones coming out are black, for whatever reason. A white iPhone without a case is pretty distinct. A black iPhone without a case, less so. Are you going to get a case for it?
posted by griphus at 11:06 AM on September 28, 2012

Being a person with an iPhone 5 so close to its release date makes you a more tempting target. The color doesn't matter.

Get the one you want, and just don't be stupid (i.e. don't brandish about saying "I HAS A FAAAANCY PHOOONE!!!" while wearing a t-shirt that says, "I'm carrying cash!") and you should be fine.
posted by phunniemee at 11:06 AM on September 28, 2012

I think you're asking the wrong question. Get a nice bulky case for it to use on the train so it doesn't look like an iPhone at all.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 11:07 AM on September 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

The earbuds are the giveaway that you're using an iPhone. Buy a different looking pair of buds or even earphones for the train ride and things should be fine.

Thieves only care that it's an iPhone, not the color of it. The color can be easily changed with a holder, so it doesn't matter. A thief is just going to sell it anyway, so he has little reason to care about the color.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:11 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks so much for the answers so far. Yes, I use my own earbuds, not the stock ones. I was going to go with a minimal case that just covered the back and sides, but from a safety standpoint I can see the advantage of something bulkier (and uglier).
posted by bchaplin at 11:13 AM on September 28, 2012

for a dollar you can put a really distinctive skin on it, which makes it a bit harder to unload nonchalantly (and sort of makes it look unlike any particular thing). I have a neat paint splatter-ish thing all over my iPod Touch...
posted by acm at 11:13 AM on September 28, 2012

iPhone 5? No one's going to bother to steal a phone that has a terrible map app. Just kidding. Sort of. But anyway, I don't know of any statistics, but a white iPhone is definitely more noticeable immediately. A black iPhone in a case is less noticeable, but you should still use your gut instinct and not take it out if there are shady-looking people around.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 11:14 AM on September 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Buy a boring butt ugly case for it and unless they are looking over your shoulder they'll have no idea what phone you are using.
posted by wwax at 11:21 AM on September 28, 2012

... but a white iPhone is definitely more noticeable immediately.

Here's the thing, a thief isn't going to merrily going about their day and then suddenly see someone with a white iPhone and think "I GOT TO HAVE IT." They're going to be casing the entire car of a train or subway to see who's got what and who looks the weakest. If you pull pretty much any iPhone out of your pocket and use it, a decent thief will notice it's an iPhone, no matter the case or headphones. It's their living, they'll know models on sight.

So yeah, be cautious, but don't think you're totally protected because of different case or headphones.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:24 AM on September 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

A bulkier/ugly case and some duct tape here and there should be a pretty good deterrent. If you can connect the phone to a wrist band, it will make grabbing the phone even harder to quickly snatch out of your hand. Quick grab thievery of ipads and iphones seems to be getting even worse in the area where I live. Disguise the phone as a non-iphone5 and make it look half broken.
posted by quince at 1:04 PM on September 28, 2012

I think your initial assessment of "what's the point in owning it if you can't use it" is correct here. I obviously don't have any data to back this up, but I can imagine a would be grab-and-go thief might steal first, examine the phone later. I'd say they effectively have equal "risk" levels, in this situation.
posted by Patbon at 1:09 PM on September 28, 2012

What with the ability to disable a lost phone and make it useless... do thieves bother to steal phones?

I'm on Android so maybe that feature is not available on iPhone but I thought Prey and systems like that were cross-platform.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 1:16 PM on September 28, 2012

Buy whatever color you prefer. The solution is to not have it out where thieves can see it or have an opportunity to steal it.

If you're not actively using it, keep it in your purse or pocket. I've seen three phones stolen by a thief simply swiping it off the table where a person left it. These were in areas that weren't exactly crime ridden. (Two in business district coffee shops, one at a restaurant.) I guarantee the thieves didn't think "Ah, a black one, I won't bother taking it. I'll just lurk some more waiting for a white one." They saw an opportunity, grabbed and ran.
posted by Ookseer at 2:46 PM on September 28, 2012

yes, the iPhone has a lock-and-disable function that renders the phone useless to thieves. You can track/locate it remotely, and even wipe the data remotely if you so choose as well.

Be smart, use a case, be situationally aware (i.e. don't brandish it about) and it really won't matter what the color/model/brand is. pickpockets and thieves will steal any small electronic gadget that's easily available; doesn't matter what, if they feel you are an easy mark. So I guess just be careful. I've lived in various hell-holes of urban infamy (Baltimore, Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati) and used nice e-devices on transit, and am a small, vulnerable looking female. I have never been mugged.

If you're looking for a nice arty solution, I have been putting GelaSkins on all my phones, tablets and laptops for the past few years and really like them. They make skins for all brands. You can even skin it and use a case if you prefer, as the skins are really minimal.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:52 PM on September 28, 2012

What with the ability to disable a lost phone and make it useless... do thieves bother to steal phones? 

Absolutely. Mine was stolen from me while I was walking down the street a few months ago. The police told me that phone theft has been on the rise.
posted by ocherdraco at 3:48 PM on September 28, 2012

Here's the thing. Owning an iPhone and using it in public is inherently dangerous because iPhones are extremely coveted by thieves for obvious reasons. In my town, there have been over 300 iPhone snatch-and-grab incidents at the local state university, wherein ballsy thieves are brazen enough to walk up to someone using their phone and just snatch it and run. This stuff happens. It's part of the package when you own a luxury device.

Personally I'd get a case for it that makes it look like a really crappy phone but that's just me.

Buy the device in the color you like most.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 4:30 PM on September 28, 2012

Thanks for the advice!
I know the options for tracking a stolen iPhone, but it would be traumatic to have something stolen from me and I'd like to avoid that if at all possible. I like the ugly case idea!
Boston must be relatively safe compared to some cities, given that I use public transportation a lot and have never seen a theft incident. But I know it happens.
posted by bchaplin at 4:41 AM on September 29, 2012

In case you're interested in some data from 2011:
"So far this year, 98 Apple products have been stolen from people while waiting at T stations. Of those products, 58 of them were iPhones."

Basic rules of thumb: Don't have it out if you're standing near the doorways before/while they're open, keep a firm grip on it, and don't get lost in what you're doing on the phone and odds are you'll be ok.
posted by FreezBoy at 5:11 AM on September 29, 2012

Going with the black iPhone, just to make myself more comfortable. No point in being extra nervous every time I pull out my phone!

Thanks for the stats, FreezBoy. That's not a huge # considering the amount of people who use the system every day but it's still intimidating.

And as others have pointed out, situational awareness (not sitting by the doors, losing track of my surroundings, or leaving items unattended) is important. I'm pretty careful about that.
posted by bchaplin at 4:22 PM on September 29, 2012

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