The title is actually a bit harsh. Smart phones just like any other IT tool or can be used securely or insecurely. I don’t usually think about this until recently. A colleague told me of how he had a death in the family and of course there was no plan for dealing with the various technical devices.
Of course the problem was not dealing with the ISP to cancel DSL nor dealing with a smart television. The television was ancient, yet most people in the 21st century have accounts at various sites around the internet some of which have subscription fees.
How to know which services need to be canceled if you don’t know what services are being used? Well, most correspondence is done via email and if you can get access to that you have a lot of control. In this case there were kindle books and a Amazon account.
The email address was not in question, which today is almost always the user id, so how to get into Amazon. I never heard how they managed but they did manage to get into the cell phone. I can only guess that this was due to either no security pin or a well known security pin. Based on various stories in the news Apple was not involved to assist in the unlocking process.
Regardless of who managed to get into the phone, access to a cell phone is not usually enough to solve the problem of knowing which services a person is using. Quite a few of those services do send periodic correspondence. Most cell phone email apps do not require that you enter the username and password beyond the first time time. This is extremely convenient and somewhat secure as usually cell phones are secured with a pin or some other form of security method.
With access to the deceased person’s email account means you can simply ask Amazon or any other service to reset your account password.
Having a smart phone does not create any insecurity in itself but if it not properly secured it creates a even bigger security problem. You can reset existing passwords or perhaps take over certain aspects of someone’s life.