California Becomes Second State To Require “Kill Switch” On All Smartphones

California officially became the second state in the U.S. to require smartphone manufacturers to include a “kill switch” function on all devices. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law on Monday, just two weeks after the measure passed the state senate.

The measure would require phones made after July 1, 2015 to include a feature that allows phone owners to remotely deactivate their devices until, and only if, they are located, Reuters reports.

The new law goes a step farther than the one passed in Minnesota in May. The California law requires manufacturers to notify consumers that the kill switch technology is available, which proponents hope will prompt consumers to enable the technology.

So-called kill switches have been a hot topic for legislators, wireless industry insiders and consumers when discussing ways in which to curb the number of smartphone thefts. In 2013, an estimated 3.1 million phones were stolen nationally, costing consumers nearly $2.6 billion.

In June, a report [PDF] from several state attorneys general, prosecutors, police and other officials from around the country highlighted the difference a kill switch can make when it comes to phone thefts.

The “Secure Our Smartphones Initiative” found that phone thefts dramatically decreased after Apple introduced the “Activation Lock.”

In just the first five months of 2014, robberies and grand larcenies in New York involving Apple products dropped 19% and 29%, respectively. Statistics from San Francisco show a similar outcome, with iPhone robberies declining 38%.

Back in April, the first attempt at a California kill switch bill fell two votes short of passing in the senate. The bill’s author, Leno, blamed the failure on wireless industry trade group CTIA, which lobbied heavily against the legislation, despite having previously announced a voluntary measure to bring kill switches to phones by 2015.

California to require anti-theft ‘kill switches’ on smartphones [Reuters]