AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile [corrected], and Verizon Wireless have agreed to make stolen smart phones unusable, in an effort to combat theft by making stolen phones worthless to thieves. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski made the announcement at a press conference today alongside various police officials and politicians.
Genachowski cited statistics that reflect a growing trend: Cell-phone theft accounts for 30 to 40 percent of all robberies, and the percentage is higher in cities such as New York.
To prevent the use of stolen phones, the carriers have pledged to create a common centralized database within the next six months that will keep a record of the unique identifiers of wireless devices. If your phone is stolen, you'll call your wireless provider to report it, and the carrier will block that device from being used again.
The carriers will also encourage phone customers to lock their phones with passwords to protect their sensitive data, and they promised to educate consumers about how to protect phones and themselves.
It's no mystery why thieves target mobile phones: As the technology behind them becomes more sophisticated, these very portable devices have become increasingly valuable. Faster networks, multi-megapixel cameras, and crystal-clear screen all add to the expense. To find the best smart phone for the money, check out our free buying guide at ConsumerReports.org.