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What Is an IMEI Number?
A quick and simple guide to IMEI numbers for iPhones, Androids, and other phones
IMEI stands for International Mobile Equipment Identity. Enough said, right?
Just kidding, we’ve got a plain-English definition for you: IMEI numbers are assigned to cell phones to help identify them, sort of like a social security number. This number can really come in handy if your phone has been lost or stolen, or if you’re purchasing a used device.
Do all phones have IMEI numbers?
Yes, all modern phones come with a built-in 15-digit IMEI number (unless they are counterfeit devices).
Some older CDMA phones used an identifying number called MEID, and other phones have used something called an ESN number. But all new devices should have an IMEI number.
How do I find my phone’s IMEI number?
On any new smartphone, you can dial *#06# to see your 15-digit IMEI number and other important information about your phone.
Some older phones may have the IMEI listed on a sticker under the removable phone battery. You can also check your IMEI number on an iPhone by going to the Settings menu and selecting the About tab, then scrolling down.
Image source: Screenshot of author’s iPhone
If you want to check the history of your device (especially if you bought it used), you can use sites like IMEI.info.
What is an IMEI number used for?
IMEI numbers are used to track phones that have been lost or stolen. When a user reports a missing or stolen phone, the phone carrier can “blacklist” that phone’s IMEI number, so that it won’t work on the cellular network.
Users can also report the IMEI number as stolen, so that anyone who tries to resell the device might be caught (or at least unable to use the phone).
But there’s always two sides when it comes to numbers that can be tracked …
Technically, anyone with the right technology and access to the right networks may be able to track a phone’s IMEI. While we’re definitely not trying to hatch any tin-hat conspiracies here, some people worry that the government or hackers could use an IMEI number to track them. Play it safe and never share your IMEI number.
For more basic phone safety make sure you know how to block a phone number too.