California’s smartphone kill switch bill is about to become law, only awaits governor’s signature



After a final Senate vote of 27 to 8, California’s smartphone anti-theft bill is now one step away from becoming law. The bill (SB962) requires smartphone manufacturers to implement a kill switch in all of their smartphones sold in California, essentially making a lost or stolen smartphone inoperable. This will help curb the ever growing epidemic of smartphone theft although not everyone is so enthusiastic about the new legislation. Apparently wireless carriers feel like a smartphone kill switch could be exploited by hackers, because… well, they’re always up to no good.

The bill now only waits for a signature from California’s governor before officially becoming law. With or without the bill, major smartphone makers like HTC, Apple, and Samsung have all voiced their intentions on introducing kill switches in their handsets. When it comes to those still dragging their feet on the matter, the bill should help nudge them into making a change sooner than later.


Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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  1. apple and Android both have this already right?

    1. As far as I know, it’s just wiping the phone…

    2. It’s due for the next version of Android: You can currently wipe the phone remotely, but there’s no way of encrypting it to prevent further use.

  2. So will the state pay damages when someone figures out how to hack this and destroys 10,000 phones some day?

    1. Exactly. This is a bad idea if they can’t undo it.

    2. I think you are able to opt out.

      1. For now

        1. The only reason I could see it not being an option is if your cell provider required it for them to insure your phone.

  3. What exactly is a kill-switch? Does this kill-switch brick your phone? I’d like to understand more on a technical aspect of what exactly happens to your phone.

    And if your phone does get bricked, jtags bring them back to life. So…? I mean, yea. Some explaining on what they kill-switch is supposed to do is nice. What are they considering inoperable? SIM-Lock and blacklisting an ESN can make a phone inoperable, and bricking a phone can make it inoperable.

    I’ll like to know more details on this. Because right now, this doesn’t really matter. Just get a jtag and restore the phone. Heck, there’s this dude that did my E4GT for $50 when I bricked my phone by putting an international ROM on my USA version. LoL!!

    1. From what I understand, Apple’s kill switch remotely encrypts your phone which requires activation from Apple’s servers to unlock it. Hackers have found a way around this though:

      I wouldn’t call this a kill-switch, but this seems to be all the California law requires. That said, it’s still been ‘proven’ to reduce thefts dramatically, so maybe this is all that’s needed (I can’t imagine people feeling comfortable with an actual kill switch that remotely and permanently renders your device inoperable).

      1. In the end, the hackers ALWAYS win!

    2. If it doesn’t short the battery internally then it’s useless.

  4. Could be a good way to get a free upgrade. If someone hacks the system and makes your phone a paperweight, someone is paying for the damages.

  5.’s to cut off communication between the rebel scum if the day ever comes. Like Obama’s “time of crisis” internet kill switch.

  6. This all looks fine and good until a gray market kill switch device is found at a mass murder scene, victims’ bloody fingers still clutching their useless cell phones with a 911 call that never went out.
    Oh what am I saying; like all other good idea fairy projects, it will no doubt be a huge success.

  7. How many phones are stolen annually to justify this “kill switch”?

    1. Its the #1 crime in most major u.s. cities. In new york city enough phones were stolen to cause a rise in overall crimes, even though all other crimes were down something like 10%, so its actually a fairly big deal.

      1. I’d disagree. The biggest crime is marijuana use without a medical card. Millions of people smoke cannabis, maybe thousands of phones are stolen weekly. Not ONCE in my life have I had my phone stolen but I’ve smoked PLENTY of joints!

        1. “In New York City, 8,465 Apple products were reported stolen last year,
          an 8 percent increase from the year before, according to police
          statistics. It was the second year in a row that thefts of iPhones and iPads went up in the city” Source:

          I correct myself. Just in NYC alone 8K iPhones were stolen. That’s not a lot and you notice most articles on the net regarding stolen phones revolve around iPhones… why would you take a crappy ass iPhone? lol!

  8. California- always leading the nation in stupid laws designed to say that we know better than everyone else. No wonder half their cities and the state itself are headed for bankruptcy.

  9. A kill switch doesn’t do anything. It only damages the second hand market (which is what carriers want). If a phone was stolen, the owner most likely won’t report it stolen. If I were to steal a phone, I would have sold it off on craigslist within a day or 2. The legitimate buyer would have paid for a phone which could shortly be killed by the switch. The thief still wins and the only thing the switch did was put that legitimate second hand buyer out a few hundred bucks. As people get more educated about this kill switch, they turn away from the second hand market and buy direct brand new just because they fear the phone they bought will get killed.

  10. I don’t see how this prevents theft. A thief doesn’t need an operable phone to sell on eBay and take the money and run.

  11. I thought if you reported your phone stolen the ESN gets blocked and no one can activate it on a network anywhere. If that’s true, what difference will a kill switch make?

    1. because it’s for the gubermentz…

  12. This is a bad idea. Android Device Manager does just fine.

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