The Governor of Minnesota signed a new bill into law that prohibits the sale of any smartphone without anti-theft software pre-installed. The idea is to deter criminals from stealing handsets in the first place by allowing users to remotely disable and wipe a phone's data, rendering it useless. If a stolen phone is remotely disabled, there wouldn't be any monetary incentive left in the endeavour.
While the legislation does not mention the exact nature of anti-theft measures that need to be installed, it does state that all devices need to be "equipped with preloaded anti-theft functionality or be capable of downloading that functionality." Similar bills are underway in California, New York and Illinois. At the federal level, a Smartphone Theft Prevention Act bill was introduced in February, but it is still in committee.
In addition to anti-theft measures, the Minnesota legislature also states that second hand mobile devices cannot be paid for in cash, and that stores purchasing second hand devices will have to pay sellers by check, store credit or electronic transfer. Retailers as well as used phone vendors will have to keep records of all second hand device related transactions.
While individual states are taking matters into their own hands by introducing such laws, carriers and manufacturers are also undertaking measures to deter smartphone theft. Samsung, Google, Apple, and Microsoft have announced that they're committing to a CTIA "Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment," through which they'll be launching anti-theft tools that will allow users to remotely disable their devices.
The measures will be included in all handsets launched by these brands starting next year. In addition to handset manufacturers, all four major US carriers have also registered their interest in bringing anti-theft measures to consumers.