From social security numbers and family birthdates to credit card details and banking information, a ton of numbers swirl around our brains on a daily basis. While we don’t use it as much as those above, there is one number that is worth writing down for safekeeping: your smartphone’s IMEI number.
Whether switching carriers and bringing your old phone along for the ride, buying or selling a used phone, or reporting your beloved device as stolen, this 15-digit number is the key. So, what is an IMEI number used for? And most importantly, how do you do an IMEI check? Keep reading to find out.
What Is an IMEI Number?
What Is an IMEI Number Used For?
Is It OK to Give Someone Your IMEI Number?
How Do You Find an IMEI Number?
Check IMEI on an Android
Check IMEI on an iPhone
Check IMEI Using *#06#
How Do You Do an IMEI Check?
Check IMEI When Switching Providers, Selling, or Unlocking
AT&T | Sprint | T-Mobile | Verizon
Check IMEI Buying or Selling an Old Phone
IMEI Blacklist Check | In-Depth IMEI Check | iPhone IMEI Check
First things first, just what is an IMEI number? Well, IMEI stands for International Mobile Equipment Identity. As you can probably guess from the name, virtually every mobile device in the world comes with at least one of these unique 15-digit identifiers. An IMEI is specifically tied to a device’s SIM (or Subscriber Identity Module) card. So, if a phone has two SIM card slots, it will actually be tied to two different IMEI numbers.
If all these acronyms have you confused, just remember this: While your SIM card holds all the information about you and your “subscriber identity”, the IMEI number contains all the details about your “mobile equipment” (i.e. your smartphone). That’s why getting up and running when you upgrade your phone is as simple as swapping your SIM card over to your new device.
Consider an IMEI your smartphone’s VIN or social security number. This string of numbers holds the key to a bunch of information including:
• If the device has been reported as lost or stolen
• The manufacturer
• Whether the phone was/is still being financed
• If the device is unlocked, blocked, or blacklisted
• Whether there have been any insurance claims filed
• And more
Your device’s IMEI number will come into play in a variety of situations. If you decide to switch cell phone carriers and want to BYOD (bring your own device), your potential provider will want to know if your phone is carrier-unlocked or if you have any outstanding payments on your device with your previous provider. Likewise, if you want to sell your old device (to us here at GadgetGone, of course), we (or whatever other buyback company you hopefully won’t use) will want to run your phone’s IMEI to make sure it hasn’t been reported lost or stolen. You might even use it to check if your device is still covered by AppleCare.
Additionally, going back to the VIN analogy, you would also want to ask for the IMEI of a used phone you are considering purchasing. Then, like plugging the VIN into Carfax to check for accidents or malfunction history, you could do an IMEI check to discern whether the device has a pattern of technical failures or been dropped one too many times.
Finally, the IMEI number is essential if your phone is lost or stolen. While it won’t bring your phone back, your carrier is able to blacklist your device and alert other providers, thus preventing thieves or an unwitting new owner from using it. Plus, in the event of a theft, giving your IMEI number to the police may even help to recover your stolen property as they are able to track your device directly, rather than through your easy-to-change phone number.
The short answer is: It depends. As with your social security number or a VIN number, a lot could go wrong if your device’s IMEI falls into the wrong hands. Scammers abound and, just like how the police can track your stolen phone through its IMEI, hackers could trace you with it too. With that being said, however, sometimes it’s necessary to hand over your phone’s IMEI number.
Although cellular carriers and buyback companies are generally safe bets, use your best judgment when selling your device directly to another individual. If the situation feels hinky, we’d recommend going with another buyer. If the shoe is on the other foot and you’re the one doing the buying, always ask for the device’s IMEI. And if for some reason they decline to give it to you, we say steer clear—there are plenty of used smartphones out there with a less-suspicious provenance.
Depending on your device, there are a few places to check for the IMEI. Once you’ve located it, be sure to write it down somewhere safe.
For most Android phones, the IMEI can be found using one of the following paths (depending on your device, the exact path will vary):
• Settings > About phone/device > Status > IMEI information
• Settings > General > About device > Status
• Settings > System > About phone > Status
Some Android devices, like those made by Samsung, will also show the IMEI at the top of the “About phone/device” screen. Additionally, if you have a dual-SIM card slot, you’ll see two IMEI numbers. While it’s a bit more fiddly, you can also look in your SIM card tray. If your phone is older, the IMEI may also be printed on the back of your phone or, if it’s removable, under the back cover or battery.
Don’t have your phone on hand? Hopefully, you kept the box. Just look for a sticker with the IMEI number printed on it.
You can locate the IMEI for your iPhone by following Settings > General > About. If you don’t have your iPhone with you, you can also look up the IMEI using your Apple account:
• Go to https://appleid.apple.com/
• Log in using your Apple ID
• Scroll down until you reach the Devices section and click on your device for the IMEI
Or, if your iPhone is connected to a different connected Apple device (such as an iPad) that is running iOS 10.3 or later, go to:
• Settings > [Your name]
• Scroll until you see your other devices connected to your Apple ID and click on the relevant device
Can’t turn your iPhone on? Take a peek at the device itself. Some models will have the IMEI printed on the back (6, 6 Plus, SE (1st generation), 5s, 5c, 5), while others will show the number on the SIM tray. Or, if you had the foresight to keep the box, you can also look on the sticker with the barcode.
This final method, though straightforward and kinda nifty, is hit or miss. Using your device’s keypad, simply type in *#06#. From there, a box should pop up with your smartphone’s IMEI and serial number.
Unfortunately, this only seems to work with older phones (we couldn’t get it to work at all). If it does work for you, be sure to take a screenshot or write down the number separately—you can’t copy and paste any information from the box.
Ok, you know what an IMEI number is and how to find it on your device, but how do you use it to figure out the status of a smartphone? It depends on what you want to do with the device.
If you want to switch to a different provider but continue to use your current device or if you’re planning on buying a SIM card while traveling internationally, you will need to unlock your phone. While this varies depending on the carrier, in general, your phone must be completely paid for and with an account in good standing—and, of course, not be reported as lost or stolen.
For those who are planning on selling their old phone (to GadgetGone, wink wink), you can make sure you get the most bang for your buck by carrier unlocking your phone. You can also use one of the following methods if you are purchasing a used device and want to make sure that it is compatible with your network. Overall, each provider’s IMEI checking tool will let you know if the device has any issues such as if it’s still being financed, still active on another account, been reported lost or stolen, or locked to a certain carrier. Although, there are some exceptions.
The best way to run an AT&T IMEI check is with their unlock portal. Unfortunately, the tool is limited to AT&T locked devices. So, if you just want to check whether your AT&T phone is eligible to be unlocked or confirm that a used phone will work with their network, this is the option for you.
Unlike AT&T, Sprint’s IMEI checking tool has got you covered whether you want to unlock your current Sprint phone, make the jump to Sprint, or see if a used phone is Sprint-compatible.
Similar to AT&T, the T-Mobile IMEI check site won’t say if a phone from another carrier is unlocked. However, it will tell you if a device is blacklisted, T-Mobile-compatible, or totally blocked from their network. If you are a current customer, find out if your phone can be unlocked here.
When it comes to unlocking devices, Verizon customers have it easy: All devices are automatically unlocked 60 days after purchase even if you’re still making payments. If you want to switch to Verizon or see if another phone is compatible, the Verizon IMEI checker will do that and give you the option of checking your SIM card as well.
Like buying a new car, it pays to do a bit of research before you make the purchase. That can be as high level as a basic IMEI blacklist check or something more in-depth with details about previous owners, insurance claims, outstanding financing, or even if it was used in a crime. Plus, if you’re planning on buying a used iPhone, there are a few additional checks we recommend that can be completed with an IMEI.
If you’re planning to buy a used smartphone, one of the most important things you can do is an IMEI blacklist check. This quick step will ensure that you aren’t buying a phone that has been reported as lost or stolen and wasting your money on something you won’t even be able to use. For a barebones IMEI blacklist check, IMEIpro is a great (and free!) option that we at GadgetGone use regularly.
For a more robust report, consider using CheckMEND. Although this option isn’t free, paying the $0.99 fee is more than reasonable for all the information you’ll get. Is the phone reported lost or stolen? Has the device been previously recycled or involved in a murder? How many previous owners has it had and how many insurance claims did they file? You’ll get the answers to all this and more with CheckMEND.
Purchasing a used iPhone? Don’t click ‘buy’ without using the Apple IMEI checking tool from our favorite, IMEIpro. This comprehensive and, again, free service will tell you if the iPhone has been blacklisted, as well as its iCloud status, manufacturing date, Find My iPhone information, and whether it is still covered by AppleCare and tech support. This check is crucial to ensuring that the iPhone has a clean iCloud status and no Find My iPhone blockade.
Planning on buying a new (or new-to-you) phone? We’ll take your old one off your hands—and put cash in your pocket. Wanting to sell a device that is past its prime? Send it to GadgetGone. Thanks to our PriceMatch+ guarantee and our commitment to providing some of the highest offers in the business, we make sure you get top dollar.
You say “Goodbye” and we’ll say “Hello” (to your used phone).
Don’t worry—you also get to say “Hello” to extra money in the bank.