The International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number is a unique, 15-digit number assigned to each mobile device, including feature phones, smartphones, as well as some satellite phones. It is used to identify devices.
In essence, when you put your SIM card in a mobile phone, the device starts communicating with the SIM. It passes on its IMEI number to the SIM, which then passes it on to the wireless carrier or mobile network. So, yes; your mobile operator or carrier can read your phone’s unique identifying number.
Where do I find the IMEI on my phone?
There are a number of ways to find or locate your cell phone’s IMEI.
- It is usually found printed as a label on the sales box of each device.
- In addition, if your phone has a removable back cover, its IMEI number can also be found inside the battery compartment of the phone.
- Lastly, you can retrieve the IMEI of your phone by dialing *#06# on your phone; the number will be displayed on the phone screen.
- On your iPhone or iPad, you can find it on the SIM tray. You can also find it in the phone’s Settings. Go to Settings > General and tap About. Scroll down to find the International Mobile Equipment Identity (as well as serial number, MEID, and ICCID too). On your Android smartphone, go to Settings > About phone > Status. Scroll down to find it.
What is IMEI used for?
As already pointed out, it is used to identify each device on the mobile network. As such, it is a useful tool for finding and blacklisting stolen phones. If your smartphone gets stolen, the security agencies, in tandem with your mobile carrier or network operator can find its location. You give them your stolen device’s IMEI and they can track it, if it is in use on that network. Security agencies often work with multiple mobile networks to find stolen devices.
Also, if your country has a system in place to blacklist stolen phones, once the device is located, it can be blacklisted, so that nobody can use it on any mobile network or carrier in that country.
Lastly, it is also possible for security agencies to actually not only track the device, but nab the thief. So, your cell phone’s IMEI number is very important.
IMEI and stolen phones
When buying used phones, you have to be careful. Many used phones on sale in the informal/grey market are stolen devices. They can be traced, and you do not want a stolen device traced to you. Yes; you are honest and had no idea that the device was stolen, but you can get into a lot of trouble with the police all the same.
Buy used mobile phones only from trusted sources. Also, there are online services that you can use to check the status of a device you are buying. An IMEI checker is such a tool. Browse to the website and enter the unique number of the used device you want to buy. The IMEI checker tool will reveal important details about the phone. An example of an IMEI checker is imei.info.
Founder of MobilityArena. Yomi’s journey in mobile started in 2001. Besides obsessing over mobile phones, he also started creating WAP sites (early mobile-friendly websites created with WML). He began writing about phones in 2004 and has been at it since then. He has owned over 200 devices, from Symbian, Palm, PocketPC/Windows Mobile, BlackBerry/BB10, webOS, Windows Phone, Firefox, Ubuntu Touch, to Android, iOS, and KaiOS operating systems.