TECHNOLOGY GIANTS Apple, Samsung and Microsoft, among others, have committed to introducing anti-thief kill switches on smartphone devices, enabling users to easily lock and wipe a handset if it gets stolen.
Starting in July 2015, all smartphones made by the companies onboard with the initiative - a list that also includes Google, Nokia, HTC and Huawei - will come with free anti-theft tools preloaded on the devices or ready to be downloaded, wireless association CTIA announced on Tuesday.
CTIA said, "Each device manufacturer and operating system signatory of Part I of this 'Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment' agrees that new models of smartphones first manufactured after July 2015 for retail sale in the United States will offer, at no cost to consumers, a baseline anti-theft tool that is preloaded or downloadable on wireless smartphones."
These anti-theft "kill switches" will allow users to easily wipe personal data from a smartphone if it gets lost or stolen, and will enable the device to be remotely locked, rendering the smartphone useless to any unauthorised users. This will be reversible, CTIA said, if a device is recovered by its authorised user.
New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco district attorney George Gascon welcomed the agreement, but said it fell short of the measures they have advocated to prevent theft.
"While CTIA's decision to respond to our call for action by announcing a new voluntary commitment to make theft-deterrent features available on smartphones is a welcome step forward, it falls short of what is needed to effectively end the epidemic of smartphone theft," the prosecutors said in a joint statement reported by Reuters.
The agreement is expected to save US smartphone users $2.5bn a year. µ