What is an IMEI number and what should you know about it?

Mint Fox with thought bubble that reads What's an IMEI number?

If your first thought was to type in, “what is an imei number” on Google, you’re not alone. IMEI stands for International Mobile Equipment Identity and helps identify a specific phone across all mobile networks. Think of it as a social security number for your phone, or a fingerprint. It’s a 15-17 digit number that allows networks to identify a phone and get information on what kind of phone it is, including where it was manufactured and its model.

Fun fact: Every GSM phone has an IMEI number, while CDMA phones have an MEID number (don’t know what GSM or CDMA are? Check out our article on GSM and CDMA where we get into the nitty gritty of these two acronyms). 

What is an IMEI number used for?

IMEI numbers serve three different functions:

  1. Checking your phone’s compatibility with a wireless service. With your IMEI, you can do things such as check whether your current phone is compatible with a new wireless service (you know…like when you want to bring your own phone over to Mint Mobile). That’s because IMEI numbers reveal the brand, model, year of release and other important details about each device that networks need to know to make sure your phone is compatible with them.
  1. Finding a lost or stolen phone. IMEI numbers can also be used in the event that your phone is lost or stolen—you can just call your carrier to block the device from their network and other networks, similar to stopping a credit card when your card is lost or stolen. That way, no one can grab your phone and start using it for nefarious purposes (like ruining your streak on Wordle). 
  1. Buying a used phone. IMEI numbers are also useful if you’re buying a used phone, as you can check if there are any issues with your pre-owned phone, such as it being blacklisted from certain carriers. Think of these as background checks for your phone, but they’re checking whether a phone is stolen, not whether it has unpaid parking tickets. We don’t know anything about those.

IMEI vs Serial Number

Now that you know more about IMEI numbers, you might wonder how they differ from a serial number. Serial numbers and IMEI numbers at first glance seem to operate in the same way: they’re used to track specific devices and reveal more about what that device is or does. But there’s a big difference: IMEI numbers are used externally, which means all carriers can check and see yours. Serial numbers are only used internally by the manufacturer of your phone. So a serial number will mean nothing to your carrier network, while an IMEI is something all carrier networks can look up and check. 

Also, serial numbers are used by manufacturers for every kind of device: phones, tablets or televisions. IMEI numbers are only associated with phones. Yeah, they’re a little exclusive like that.

Mint Fox Holding a smartphone with a message that reads Your IMEI is Compatible with Mint

IMEI Compatibility Check

As stated earlier, one of IMEI numbers’ most important functions is to let you know if your phone is compatible with a network you want to use. Most networks, including Mint Mobile, have their own compatibility checker where you can see if your phone will work on your new chosen network. Just use the instructions we listed above to grab your IMEI number and plug it into our IMEI compatibility check to find out if your phone is compatible.

IMEI numbers can also be used when it comes time to check if your phone is locked, or to unlock your phone. Check out our blog on unlocked phones to find out more about what an unlocked or locked phone is, but the short explanation is that you’ll need an unlocked phone to join Mint Mobile. To unlock your phone, you’ll typically need to provide your IMEI number to your current carrier to set you free from their fee-ridden, wallet-hurting ways. 

Mint Fox calling #06# to find the IMEI number

How to find an IMEI Number

All right, we’ve talked about what an IMEI number is and how important they are. Now how the f*! do you find that number? (We said fox.) Read on to learn how to find your number if you have an iPhone or Android device.

IMEI number – iPhone

There are a few ways to check your iPhone’s IMEI number:

  1. Dial *#06# on your keypad. Your IMEI number should appear on your screen.
  2. Go to Settings > General > About and scroll to find your IMEI number.
  3. Check to see if the number is printed on your SIM tray.
  4. Older models have the IMEI printed on the back of the iPhone.
  5. If you still have the box it came with, the IMEI might be printed on a sticker.
  6. You can also use the Apple ID website, click your device and find the IMEI number that way.

IMEI number – Android

Like iPhones, there are a few different ways to check your Android device’s IMEI number:

  1. Dial *#06# on your keypad. Your IMEI number should appear on your screen.
  2. Go to your Settings > About Device > Status > IMEI information and find the number there.
  3. Sometimes the IMEI will be listed on the back of your device, or under the removable battery cover on older devices. 
  4. IMEI numbers can also be under the SIM card tray on some models.
  5. If you still have the box your phone came in, the IMEI number will usually be listed on a sticker.

You’ve reached the IMEnd

Now you understand what an IMEI number is and can impress everyone with your IMEI knowledge, plus you now know how to use them to check phone compatibility and use it if your phone is lost or stolen. 

If you still need some tech-y help, we’ve got a whole bunch of tech set-up blogs you might be interested in reading. You know, if you need some more fun facts to drop at parties. And if you really want to test your knowledge, why not plug your IMEI number into our phone compatibility check to see if you can bring your phone over to Mint.

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