holding cellphone

In the latest effort to dissuade thieves from targeting smartphones in the US, the CTIA and some of the biggest names of the mobile world announced they will be participating in the Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment, which mandates new models of smartphones manufactured after July 2015 offer a “kill switch” to remotely wipe all data and disable the device, rendering it practically useless and, hopefully, less attractive to thieves.

Apple, Google, Samsung, and Microsoft, along with carriers AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint are among the participants. The security feature will be offered at no additional cost to consumers, and the inoperability will be reversible if the owner recovers the device.

“We appreciate the commitment made by these companies to protect wireless users in the event their smartphones are lost or stolen,” said Steve Largent, President and CEO, CTIA. “By working together with policymakers, law enforcement and consumers, we will deter theft and protect users’ personal information on smartphones.”

As the name states, the Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary commitment isn’t mandatory. However, the California Senate has gone one step further, approving a bill that will require smartphones sold in the state to have kill switches, giving buyers, not phone manufacturers, the option to opt-out. Apple previously opposed the bill but changed course last week after a few amendments were made, including pushing out the implementation date to July 2015 and having the requirement not apply to tablets. The bill now heads to the California State Assembly for approval.

Some, including the CTIA, aren’t too thrilled about the California bill, saying a law that applies to technology in a specific state threatens uniformity, interferes with innovation, and would ultimately hurt the consumer.

Would federal mandate solve the issue?