Phone Locks. Literally.

Iquique phone lock

Unlike software locking mechanisms, this hardware lock not only restricts the use of the phone to a specific country and network provider, it also dictates the location of use.

As you guessed correctly, the precautions are intended to prevent theft of the devices. With the shop owner of the convenience store behind the counter and the phones oriented towards the crowded side street, there are just too many chances for opportunist theft.

Bottom line: If a software solution is not appropriate, a hardware solution might work.