Android iPhone and iPad Technology Explained

What Is My Phone’s IMEI? Here’s What You Need to Know

James Frew Updated 25-03-2020

You may have heard your insurance company or law enforcement encourage you to record your IMEI. You might have even seen it in your phone’s settings or device packaging. What isn’t so clear is what the IMEI number is actually for.

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So, what exactly is an IMEI number, and how do you find yours?

What Is an IMEI Number?

Apple iPad Air 2 IMEI Codes

The International Mobile Equipment Identity—or IMEI—is a unique numerical identifier for every mobile device.

This number helps to differentiate each device from one another. If you take your phone in for repair, they will track it using the IMEI to distinguish it from the other millions 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 variation that includes information on the device’s software version, known as the IMEISV.

Since 2004, the IMEI appears in the format AA-BBBBBB-CCCCCC-D. The sections labeled A and B are known as 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 multiple TACs depending on revision, manufacturing location, and other factors. For example, the iPhone 5C had five different TAC codes.

The six C digits represent your device’s unique serial number, and the handset manufacturer defines these. The D portion of the IMEI is a check digit that ensures the IMEI meets the Allocation and Approval Guidelines. The check digit is displayed on packaging to prevent incorrect IMEI recording, but it doesn’t make up part of the documented IMEI.

While the IMEI number is undoubtedly significant, it isn’t the only regulatory requirement for your smartphone. Manufacturers have to abide by regulations for each region they want to sell their devices in. The IMEI doesn’t show that the equipment meets any of those other safety and regulation requirements.

Finding Your IMEI

iPhone X IMEI Number

There are a couple of ways you can go about finding your device’s IMEI. The most universal approach is to head to your device’s dialer app. Tap in *#06# and the IMEI will be displayed on the screen.

If you have an Android or iOS device, then the IMEI can be found under Settings too. On iOS head to Settings > General > About and the IMEI will be displayed. Copying the IMEI is as simple as tapping and holding on the number. Android devices may vary, but generally heading to Settings > About Phone should display the IMEI.

If you can’t access your device, there are other ways to find your IMEI too. The retail packaging should have a label with the IMEI displayed. If your device has a removable battery, then the IMEI is often listed underneath the battery. Many devices have the IMEI printed on the back. Others, including the iPhone 6s and above, have the IMEI inscribed on the SIM tray.

However, if you are about to purchase a new device, particularly a second-hand one, you’ll want to verify it’s status using the IMEI, too. To do this, head over to IMEI.info and enter the smartphone’s IMEI number.

This free tool will tell you a bit about the device, as well as offer you additional services like a basic blacklist check. If you want to gain even greater clarity, IMEI.info has premium services like a separate blacklist check for each major US carrier and a SIM-lock status tool.

If you’re after the information in a hurry, and don’t mind paying for it, the premium service CheckMEND offers a Device History Check for just under a dollar.

What Is an IMEI Number Used For?

The IMEI’s primary purpose is to equip your device with a unique ID number. So, in practice, the IMEI is very similar to the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) used in the automotive industry. Although sometimes confused, the IMEI number is entirely separate from your SIM number and cannot be changed.

When you connect to a cell network, the provider captures both numbers to enable their service. The SIM number identifies your subscriber account What Is a SIM Card and What Does It Do? What is a SIM card and why is it so important? It connects you to your carrier network, stores contact information, and more. Read More , while the IMEI only identifies the device.

If your device is lost or stolen, you can contact your provider who may be able to place a block on the IMEI number, preventing it from being used to connect to the network. Your provider may also be able to contact other networks, asking them also to block the device. Once you’ve done so, you can then use built-in tools to find your phone’s location How to Trace and Find Your Phone's Location We show you how to trace a phone and find its location from your Android. Note that you can't find a phone location by its number. Read More .

Law enforcement often keep records of lost and recovered phones, identified by their IMEI. Since there is no good reason to change the device’s IMEI, the practice is illegal in many regions.

While it may be illegal to change the IMEI of a device, it does happen. Thieves, in particular, will attempt to take non-blacklisted numbers and apply them to their stolen devices to make them usable again. For this reason, we recommend that you never share or post your IMEI number online, or else you may find your device cloned.

We advise against sharing personal data online 5 Types of Information You Should Never Post Online What do you post online? Ever share your location, home address, bank details? There's a lot you should never share. Read More more generally, too.

Have You Recorded Your IMEI?

The IMEI number is one of the most important and unique ways of identifying your device. If you haven’t already, you should locate it and take note of it right away.

Keep a record of your IMEI somewhere safe, so it’s there if you ever need it. If you are looking for a digital safe, then a password manager might even do the trick.

That said, if you’ve found or recovered someone else’s smartphone, you may be wondering how to get it back to them. In that case, you’ll want to know what to do if you find a lost or stolen iPhone Found a Lost or Stolen iPhone? Here's What to Do Found a lost or stolen iPhone? Here's how you can try to unlock a lost iPhone and return it to its rightful owner. Read More .

Explore more about: Hardware Tips, Sim Card, Smartphone Security.

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  1. suresh prasad baiga
    February 24, 2020 at 11:32 am

    any one help me please

  2. Jonathan D Franklin
    January 20, 2018 at 2:22 am

    Why does my imei number have letters ???

  3. Rachel
    October 4, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Does the mobile operator know my IMEI number?

  4. Anand Kumar
    December 17, 2014 at 4:18 am

    You can decode IMEI to identify Manufacturer, Brand, Model, some technical
    capabilities and valid devices. And carrier use IMEI to identify in case your phone lost - stolen and blacklist this device.

    Have many website to check your IMEI number to get details about your phone like manufacturer date, factory, purchase country, purchase date and blacklist information like imeidata.net. I hope that help.

  5. Keith D.
    November 19, 2012 at 2:46 am

    Wow! I never knew! But... shouldn't I now feel... you know, ENLIGHTENED?! lol

  6. Ole Funch
    November 17, 2012 at 6:08 am

    Thx - good article ?

  7. vineed gangadharan
    November 16, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    so we can track people if we have their imei???

  8. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    November 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    I set my Monte to send a message to my other number in case it's stolen and the thief tries to insert new SIM card. The message includes the phone's IMEI.

  9. Robert Wm Ruedisueli
    November 16, 2012 at 8:48 am

    More interestingly to give you an idea of how deeply embeded the IMEI is, on many phones you can reflash flash everything on the entire phone to stock, and replace or wipe the SIM card, and it will still not wipe the IMEI, because it is encoded onto the ROM sectors on the CPU which are usually exceedingly hard to flash or otherwise alter.

    • Knut H. Flottorp
      November 16, 2012 at 10:02 am

      It is IMPOSSIBLE to change according to the GSM specifications.
      But as said above, there are some that have not read this.
      Beware that the most likely response should you manage to change the IMEI is that the phone will be rendered useless - "Bricked".

  10. blm
    November 16, 2012 at 7:33 am

    You say "it comes highly recommended that you never share or post your IMEI online", then point people to imei.info, where they're prompted to... enter their IMEI online. Brilliant.

    • Knut H. Flottorp
      November 16, 2012 at 10:36 am

      You can share your IMEI with everybody, it is utter worthless.

      The registration number of a CDMA phone is something else, that someone from the FCC should explain to you. It is only used in the US. The SIM-card with the MSIDN ("phone number") and IMEI is a GSM standard.

      The IMEI is NOT consulted except initially, to configure your phone for VAS such as multi-media messaging, this is stored on the SIM the first time the phone connects to the network, allowing this to be changed as you move around in other countries. The purpose of the IMEI is to block a stolen phone, and identify phones on contract.

  11. Usman Mubashir
    November 16, 2012 at 6:42 am

    older phones have imei stored in

    *#06#

    phones with more than one sim facility have more than one imei

  12. Dimitris
    November 16, 2012 at 6:30 am

    how to find EMEI on windows phone :
    call -> dial -> *#06#
    (it works on the most phones not even smartphones (old nokia and sony ericsson))

    Also :
    settings -> about -> more info

    • Alba Spam
      November 16, 2012 at 10:52 am

      thank you

  13. Knut H. Flottorp
    November 16, 2012 at 3:33 am

    IMEI is the identification of the phone itself, while the number - MSIDN (Mobile Subscriber ID Number) is on the SIM as you say, and what is used to dial to you.

    You operator has an equipment register: The IMEI register that is consulted every time someone initiates a request for resources - like place a call or send a message. The HLR (Home Location Register) and VLR (Visitor LR) are the main parts of the mobile network centre switch. A phone that is stolen should be blacklisted in the IMEI immediately, and propagated to all other GSM operators. However, some people came up with the notion of using the IMEI to "lock" the phone to a specific operator for a time - 2 years, and enable this to barr usage by others operators. So they drop the trace of stolen handsets. Beware of this should those that steal your handset also use your phone and you are charged for this usage. According to the GSM standard, as long as you have reported your phone - your phone number (MSIDN) is enough - they should have stopped that call from being placed, and you are not liable for the cost that they incurred for faulty installation.

    With a good management system, the operator should be able to locate your phone within 100 feet from where it last was on, so before wiping out a phone that you dropped in your office, your operator should be able to tell you that "it is in your office and you did not drop it on the way home, and it has been in the same place now for 3 hours, so should be the same place tomorrow morning."

    • Cody Richards
      November 16, 2012 at 4:52 am

      Please remember that most mobile operators will not attempt to locate a phone without intervention from emergency services. Carrier location is mainly for E911 services. Any location service that your carrier provides is just value add.

      • Robert Wm Ruedisueli
        November 16, 2012 at 8:52 am

        You can install "phone home" software on many phones, that allows you to retrieve the phone.

        I wish they also made "blanking" software that removes all your passwords and data from the phone as well.

        • Knut H. Flottorp
          November 16, 2012 at 10:10 am

          Wrong Cody.
          The operators have systems that manage the networks - "OSS". Should you have a dropped call, it will show up as a network fault and with repeated failures the operator will "do something" like install a 'repeater" to improve the coverage.

          That the operator does so little is their problem. Operators such as Vodafone and AT&T may seem impossible to confront and they will try to bill you for those calls. But send that invoice on to the FCC or Ofcom for review. There are so many stupid, incompetent consultants that have been hired.

        • Knut H. Flottorp
          November 16, 2012 at 10:25 am

          On all GSM phones the used ("subscriber") and the keys and data including encryption that identifies this is contained on the SIM - Subscriber Identity Module.

          The phone itself is identified by the "Equipment code" - IMEI and is a structured serial number that is discussed here. It is like the chassis number combined with the motor number of your car and found in the registration documents and used by the police to trace stolen cars - that you find in the Vehicle registration documents.

          The CDMA phones does not have this.

          Smartphones have apps that retrieves these numbers and I have software installed that will wipe out all my files, passwords and settings, erase the OS and make the phone useless. I have used a variant that used face recognition that worked fine, but this has been replaced by software more generally available and demanded by those that send me confidential information. But the IMEI is unchanged, so should they install new OS, and replace the SIM, the operator will have it "blacklisted" and could call the police to collect it. They will not do that for one phone, but activate 1000 phones at the same location, and await for the Men in Black.

        • Lisa Santika Onggrid
          November 16, 2012 at 1:39 pm

          Very informative. So if our phone goes missing we could ask our carrier for locating it if we have the IMEI number? Should've known this before.

      • Knut H. Flottorp
        November 16, 2012 at 10:28 am

        We have murder investigations where the phone and the phones of various suspects are traced weeks after, and submitted in court as evidence.

    • Tanka Sarma
      October 13, 2017 at 1:18 pm

      Hi Sir, May we get lost Phone through imei
      if i get then how may i get lost phone i have
      lost my phone around rs 16000 and i had buy phone on the date of 02-09-2017
      but my phone is take by pick pocketer If Get who use my phone then mail me in this no i already take FIR in my loca police station at Bangalore my phone details are

      Brand VIVO 1609
      IMEI1 863715033996850
      IMEI2 863715033996843

      • Knut H
        October 13, 2017 at 9:02 pm

        You have to submit the IMEI to your operator and they can even tell you where the phone is if someone uses it - or where it was last used on the network. The best is that they keep a record of stolen phones, and can inhibit the phone being used. The IMEI has mor digits than this - but tell your phone company that your phone was stolen - and they must flag it as stolen, and then block everyone that tries to use it. They can approach you and give it back, and you can say "thank you" to your phone company and they will unlock it.
        The problem is that many consultants are not aware of this, and the operator´s call cantre may be reluctant to help because they do not know. But it is mandatory and very simple to do.