IMEI stands for International Mobile Equipment Identity—and if you’ve never heard of it—you’re not alone. But nearly every mobile device on the market today comes equipped with one and—for good reason. It plays an important role in keeping you and your device safely and seamlessly connected. Let’s take a closer look at IMEI numbers.
What is an IMEI number?
This number is a 15-digit identification number unique to your device. The IMEI number is different from a serial number and is used to identify and track devices for a number of purposes. Devices that come equipped with IMEI numbers include smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. These codes are used by carriers to identify a device on a mobile network, and they are often used by both carriers and law enforcement to block stolen or lost devices from accessing a network.
What is an IMEI number used for?
The IMEI number on your phone and other mobile devices actually provides a lot of important and useful information. For starters, the IMEI number can be used by your carrier to provide technical support. Ever had an issue with your phone, tablet, or laptop and been asked to identify not just the brand but model? Very few of us can remember exactly what year we got each of our devices! The IMEI number identifies your device and its specifications, such as the model, manufacturer, and software version. This information can be a lifesaver when you need technical support and troubleshooting and you’re not able to take it in for repairs in person.
If your device is lost or stolen, the IMEI number becomes an important tool for preventing thieves from continuing to use it on your network and can, in some cases, even help recover it. Law enforcement has used IMEI numbers to track a device to within a few feet.
When a device is lost or stolen, you should report it immediately to the police or service providers. Since some carriers require proof of theft to block devices, documentation from a police report helps provide that information. From there, your carrier can then use the IMEI number to disable it and, in some cases, block access to the personal information you’ve saved.
How to find the IMEI number on your device
There are a few different ways to find the IMEI number on your device, depending on the brand, device type, and model.
- Dial a Code: A simple way to find your IMEI number on a cell phone, regardless of the brand or model is to dial *#06# on your device's keypad. Once dialed, the IMEI number will be displayed automatically on the screen.
- Check the device settings: Depending on the type of mobile device you have, you can also check your IMEI number in the settings.
On an iPhone
- Select “Settings” icon on your display screen
- Scroll down and tap the section marked “General”
- Choose “About”
- Your IMEI will be listed along with information such as the model name, number, and serial number
On an Android phone
- Open the Settings app
- Select “About Phone”
- Scroll past information such as emergency contact and model number to your IMEI
Google “Find My Device” Feature
- Open Settings
- Tap Security and then Find My Device
- At the top left tap the phone icon
- Tap Information
- Your phone’s IMEI will appear to the right of the phone icon
- Look at the physical device
If for some reason you’re unable to check your IMEI number in your phone’s settings, there are also a few places you can look on your physical device.
On an iPhone
- If your iPhone has a SIM card, you can eject the card to find the IMEI number on the SIM card tray. However, the IMEI number is only located on the SIM card tray for iPhone generations 4S – iPhone 13.
- For iPhone generations 5-6 (including the first-generation iPhone SE), the IMEI number is engraved on the back of the device. And for first generation iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch, the IMEI number is also provided on the back of the device.
On an Android phone
- Many Android devices, including those made by Samsung, include the model, serial number, and IMEI number printed on the back of the device.
On devices with a battery pack
On many of these devices, your IMEI, along with the serial number can often be found printed on a sticker attached to the battery.
- Check the original packaging: If you kept the original box your device came in, you’ll find the IMEI number alongside other information, such as the model and serial number, printed on the label of the packaging.
- Call Your Service Provider: In the event that your device is stolen, you won’t be able to check settings or the physical device for your IMEI number. Not to worry! Your service provider will have a record of your phone, complete with your IMEI number. Call customer service as soon as you realize your phone is missing to both get access to your IMEI number and find out the next steps for blocking access to your personal information and making sure you’re not billed for a stolen device.
When will you need your IMEI number?
Reporting a device stolen is just one reason you might need your phone’s IMEI number. That’s why it’s a good idea to write down your IMEI number, serial number, and other information as soon as you get a new device and keep it in a safe place, since it can come in handy for a number of other reasons.
For instance, if your device is under warranty and needs repairs, you might not be able to access the IMEI number in your settings. But this information will likely be used by your device’s manufacturer or mobile carrier to identify the device and provide warranty and repair services.
Additionally, if you want to switch carriers or unlock your device from your current network, you’ll likely need to provide your IMEI number.
And finally, if you’re buying a used device, use the IMEI number to make sure the phone hasn’t been reported lost or stolen to avoid being caught with someone else’s property.
If you don’t have the IMEI numbers for your devices stored in a safe spot, you should consider keeping a list on hand. Being prepared can not only help keep your devices safe but can come in incredibly handy to get repairs and services fast!