Apple, Samsung and other big names sign on for smartphone kill switches

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Few things are more of a bummer than losing your phone; first comes the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, then the rage, and finally the anxiety that some stranger is flipping through your contacts, accessing your email and tapping on apps storing sensitive personal information.

While it may do little to save your current smartphone, beginning next year a host of smartphone makers will start voluntarily including a baseline anti-theft smartphone kill switch in the handsets they sell stateside.

The names on the signatory list of the "Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment" include some of the industries biggest players. Apple, Asurion, AT&T, Google, HTC, Huawei, Motorola, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular and Verizon are all committed to including a kill switch in their handsets.

They've agreed that all new smartphone models made after July 2015 will include a basic anti-theft tool that can be preloaded or downloaded to their devices.

What kind of protections are we talking about here?

According to the CTIA, the kill switch will have the "connected capability to" remotely wipe authorized user data such as contacts, photos and emails if and when a smartphone is lost or stolen.

The phone makers have agreed to make a phone inoperable to an unauthorized user - basically someone who doesn't know your password or PIN - except in the case of 911 and other emergency communications.

The kill switch will also prevent reactivation without the authorized owner's permission, and it will include the ability to restore a phone's function if the owner recovers it, including reinstalling whatever user data it can.

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.