You may have heard your insurance company or law enforcement encourage you to record your IMEI. You may have even noticed it in your iPhone’s settings or
device box. What you might not be aware is what the IMEI number is actually for.
In this article, I’ll explain what an IMEI number is, and how you can find yours.
What Is an IMEI Number?
The International Mobile Equipment Identity—or IMEI—is a unique numerical identifier for every mobile device.
This number helps to distinguish each device. If you return your iPhone for repair, they will track it using the IMEI to differentiate
it from the other tons of iPhones, for example.
A standard IMEI number is a 14 digit string, with an additional 15th check digit for verifying the entire string. There is also a 16 digit variant that
Contains information about the software version of the device known as IMEISV.
Since 2004, the IMEI appears in the format AA-BBBBBB-CCCCCC-D. The sections labeled A and B are called the Type Allocation Code (TAC). The TAC portion
of the IMEI identifies the manufacturer and model of the device. For example, the Google Pixel TAC code is 35-161508, while the iPhone 6s Plus is 35-332907.
Some models have several TACs depending on revision, production locationand other factors. For instance, the iPhone 5C contained five different TAC codes.
The six C digits represent the unique serial number of your device and the handset manufacturer defines it. The D portion of the IMEI is a check digit that
ensures that the IMEI complies with the Guidelines for Allocation and Approval. The check digit is displayed on the packaging to prevent incorrect IMEI recording, but it’s not part of the documented IMEI.
While the IMEI number is absolutely important, it is not the only legal requirement for your iPhone. Manufacturers must comply with regulations
for each region in which they plan to sell their devices. The IMEI doesn’t demonstrate that the equipment meets any of those other safety and regulatory requirements.
Finding Your IMEI
There are a number of ways you can find your device’s IMEI. The most universal approach is to go to your device’s phone app. Type in *#06#
and the IMEI will be displayed on the screen.
If you own an Android or iOS device, you can also find the IMEI under Settings. On iOS, simply start the Settings app and head over to General > About and the IMEI will be displayed.
If you want to copy the IMEI, simply tap and hold on the number. Android devices may vary, but generally going to Settings > About Phone should display
If you don’t have access to your device, there are other ways to find your IMEI as well. The retail packaging must have a label that shows the IMEI. If your
device has a removable battery, the IMEI is often listed under the battery. Most devices have the IMEI written on the rear. Others, like
the iPhone 6s and newer, have the IMEI engraved on the SIM tray.
However, in case you are planning to buy a new device, especially a second-hand one, you’ll want to confirm it’s status with the IMEI. To do this,
and type in the iPhone’s IMEI number.
This free tool will tell you a bit about the device, and provide additional services, such as simple blacklist check. If you want to get additional
clarity, IMEI.info offers premium services such as a distinct blacklist check for each major US carrier and a SIM-lock status tool.
What Is an IMEI Number Used For?
The main purpose of IMEI’s is to equip your device with a unique ID number. In practice, therefore, the IMEI is very much like the Vehicle Identification Number
(VIN) used in the automotive industry. Although sometimes confused, the IMEI number is completely separate from your SIM number and cannot be changed.
When you connect to a cellular network, the provider records both numbers to enable their service. The
SIM number identifies your subscriber account,
while the IMEI just identifies the device.
If your iPhone is lost or stolen, you can contact your carrier who may be able to block the IMEI number from being used to connect
to the network. Your provider may also be able to contact and ask other networks to block the device. After doing so, you can then use built-in
find your iPhone’s location.
Usually, law enforcement keep records of lost and recovered phones, identified by their IMEI. Because there is no good reason to change the device’s IMEI, the
practice is considered illegal in most regions.
While it might be illegal to change the IMEI of a device, it does happen. Thieves, specifically, will try to take non-blacklisted numbers and apply
them to their stolen devices to make them usable again. As such, we suggest you never share or post your IMEI number online, otherwise you
might find your device cloned.
Have You Recorded Your IMEI?
The IMEI number is one of the most significant and distinctive ways of identifying your iPhone. If you haven’t already, you should locate it and take note of
Keep a record of your IMEI in a safe place, so it’s readily available in case you ever need it. If you are looking for a digital safe, then apassword manager might even
do the work.
Having said that, if you’ve found or recovered someone else’s iPhone, you may be wondering how to get it back to them. As such, you’ll want to know
what to do if you find a lost or stolen iPhone.