For all the debates over smartphone kill switches, this one could push the envelope across the table. New research from Creighton University suggests that the controversial concept, which would make it impossible to resell stolen smartphones, could save consumers $2.6 billion a year.

Here’s the backstory: In June 2013, law enforcement authorities started calling on the smartphone industry to adopt technologies that would deter theft by squeezing the market for selling stolen devices.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon announced a nationwide 'Secure Our Smartphones Initiative' last summer that aims to have smartphone makers add kill switches to mobile devices during the summer. Law enforcement announced plans to work with device manufacturers to make a kill switches, or equally effective deterrent technology, a standard feature of their products.

How the Numbers Add Up

The CTIA, the wireless industry trade group that represents the carriers, has been against the idea since it was announced. The group emphatically stated that a “kill switch isn’t the answer.” But William Duckworth of the Heider College of Business at Creighton University, suggests it might be just the remedy.

Duckworth pointed to a recent report from comScore, estimating that over 145 million Americans carry smartphones. And, he argued, those smartphones make consumers easy targets for theft.

“A stolen smartphone -- such as the iPhone 5S -- could sell for $800 or more in the United States and overseas,” he said in his report. “For criminals, a stolen phone could be worth more than a stolen wallet, a tablet, or even a laptop.”

Duckworth conducted a survey of 1,200 smartphone owners in which he reviewed the average cost of cell phones and cell phone insurance.

Here are a few stats from his findings: 99 percent of smartphone owners feel wireless carriers should give all consumers the option to disable a cell phone if it is stolen; 83 percent of smartphone owners believe that a kill switch would reduce cell phone theft; and 93 percent of smartphone owners believe that Americans should not be expected to pay extra fees for the ability to disable a stolen phone.

“If the kill switch significantly reduced cell phone theft, consumers could save about $580 million a year from not needing to replace stolen phones and another $2 billion a year by switching from premium cell phone insurance (offered by the wireless carriers) to more basic coverage offered by third parties such as Apple and SquareTrade,” Duckworth said. “My research suggests that at least half of smartphone owners would in fact reduce their insurance coverage if the kill switch reduced the prevalence of cell phone theft.”

Follow the Money Trail

We caught up with Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT Relevant Products/Services, to get his take on the research. He told us effective kill switch technology has been around for years and its value seems to be recognized by everyone but cellular carriers.

“That's not terribly surprising since implementing kill switches would effectively eliminate the need for phone theft insurance and thus reduce carriers' revenues by a couple of billion dollars per year,” King said. "But by making phones less attractive to thieves, kill switches would also reduce the trauma and injuries suffered by victims. One can only hope that Congress does the right thing for consumers rather than bowing to carriers' greed.”