Apple and Samsung are duking it out in court yet again, but there’s at least one thing they (and a host of their smartphone making rivals) agree on: users shouldn’t be helpless when their phones are stolen. That’s why, starting in July 2015, all of the smartphones those companies sell in the United States will come with an anti-theft tool meant to help keep your data out of the wrong hands. The full list of backers includes the usual heavyweights: besides Apple and Samsung, there’s Google, HTC, Huawei, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, along with the country’s biggest wireless carriers. Those parties in total represent a tremendous chunk of the American wireless industry, so your next (or next next) smartphone will almost certainly let you stick it to the sticky-fingered.
And what, pray tell, would such tools do? According to the CTIA, users will be able to remotely wipe and restore their devices (say, from a cloud backup), and prevent them from being reactivated or used by unsavory types. That seemingly simple move wouldn’t just save us all anguish, it could save us a collective total of $2.5 billion a year in replacement costs and insurance fees. It sure sounds like a win for consumers, but some — like Senator Mark Leno, who sponsored a bill to create a kill-switch for connected gadgets in the Golden State — think such tools should be on by default rather than requiring users to opt-in. He’s probably on to something, but at least all these companies have a few months to iron out the details.