Call Me...Maybe? Wireless Providers to Disable Stolen Phones

AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile are teaming up with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to make it harder for thieves to use stolen phones, since you seem hell-bent on accidentally leaving yours everywhere.

The FCC announced today that the companies will implement a centralized national missing-phone database over the next year and a half, with the goal of reducing theft by making it difficult or impossible to use a stolen device. Mobile gadgets that have been reported missing will be assigned unique serial numbers through the database. Once a carrier receives word that a phone is no longer in the possession of its owner, they will be able to use the database to disable the phone's voice and data service, rendering it largely unusable before it can be reactivated by another user.

This will no doubt be a crushing blow to thieves who steal Jitterbugs and Fireflies, though, as the Wall Street Journal points out, smart phones without voice or data service are often still somewhat functional:

They can still connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi, for instance, as well as play music or games.

For this reason, the WSJ explains, tablets that use only Wi-Fi connections will not be protected under the proposed plan; those that connect to carriers' cell networks are expected to be covered.

The carriers will roll out their own individual databases within six months; the following year will be devoted to integrating and centralizing those databases. So go out and steal all the phones now while you still can.

The complete list of participating service providers covers about ninety percent of U.S. subscribers.

Similar centralized databases are already in use in Europe and Australia, where, since their institution, the number of mobile device thefts has declined.

Of course, even without data or voice (or WiFi or Block Breaker or, heck, even a working battery), phones can still provide their number one service: allowing you to pretend you are answering a lot of texts any time you feel uncomfortable in a social situation.

[Image via Getty]