What’s an IMEI number and why should I care?

Taylor Gadsden

Jan 16, 2020 — 2 min read

It’s the most important number you didn’t know you needed. Find out what it’s for and why you should keep yours private.

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Most wireless users are well aware of their mobile phone number. How else would we swap contact information with friends, family and those all-important takeout orders we just can’t seem to quit? However, your IMEI number is just as important as your phone number, especially when it’s time to upgrade your device or report it missing. 

Take a look at what your IMEI does and how you can locate it on your own.

What is an IMEI number?

IMEI stands for International Mobile Equipment Identity and you can think of it as your device’s 15-digit social security number. An IMEI number is assigned to any phone operating on a GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) network. 

Your IMEI is helpful on a few occasions, especially when your phone is stolen and needs to be deactivated or when checking the status of a used phone you’ve just purchased. The IMEI will let you know if the device has been reported lost or stolen by a previous owner.

If you’re not sure, you can also use the IMEI number to see the details of your phone like the brand, model, release year and device specifications. When you’re switching devices with a no-contract wireless provider, you’ll also need the IMEI to transfer service from one phone to the other. 

Oftentimes, the IMEI will be located on the packaging if you purchase your phone outright. But if you’re looking for the IMEI of a device that’s already in use or has been used, there are a few simple ways you can find it.

How to check your IMEI number

It’s not hard to find the IMEI as long as you know where to look. 

On an iPhone

Running the current version of iOS? You’ll find your IMEI located in the Settings app.

  1. Open Settings and select General
  2. Choose About at the top of the expanded menu
  3. Scroll down to the Primary settings to view your IMEI number

On an Android

On some Android phones, you can dial *#06# to locate your IMEI number. But regardless of the device you’re using, your IMEI can also be found in the Settings menu.

  1. Open Settings and select General
  2. Choose About device or About phone
  3. Select Status to view your IMEI number along with your mobile contact information

If you’re using an older iOS or Android, your IMEI may be found inside the SIM tray or on the back of the device. If your device still uses a removable battery, the IMEI is usually located under the battery next to the SIM slot. 

Once you’ve found your IMEI number, be sure to write it down and put it in a safe space. In the wrong hands, scammers could use the number to compromise your phone service. 

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