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Smartphone kill-switch now mandatory in California

As of July 1, all smartphones sold in the state of California must come with a built-in kill-switch, an option which enables smartphone owners to remotely lock their phone so no one can use it.

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill last August mandating kill switch software be included and turned on in all smartphones manufactured after Wednesday and sold in the state.

This software is designed to render smartphone theft pointless, as the stolen devices would be unusable. The technology, which includes Apple's "Activation Lock" and Google's "Device Protection," discourages thieves from stealing phones in the first place, and offers the owners some peace of mind.

The technology seems to be working, and there are some serious numbers which back that statement.

In the past several years, government officials have noticed an "epidemic" of phone thefts, particularly in large cities. Thieves are easily able to resell the phones either to cartels, or overseas.

In 2013, 3.1 million Americans had their phones stolen, according to a study published by Consumer Reports last month. Last year, that number fell to 2.1 million, according to the report.

Last year, CNET (opens in new tab)interviewed a former smartphone thief about his motivation for stealing phones. He targeted the devices because it was "a lot faster" than other crimes. But kids might think twice about stealing phones if they knew they couldn't be unlocked, he said.

The bill received some pushback from the industry before it was passed, CNET says. It argued a kill switch could be exploited by hackers, but supporters of the law have questioned the motivations of mobile carriers, which have lucrative deals with insurance partners.

Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.