Our phones contain more information than we might realise. More than just the personally identifiable information that we know phones contain, such as emails and contact details, every phone also has a unique IMEI number which is designed to tell manufacturers or service providers a wealth of information from a quick lookup.
A serial number is used primarily by the phone’s manufacturer. It can tell you where the phone was made, whether it’s in warranty and, if you ever need to send it to repair, will help you get the same phone back when it’s returned. This can be found within your phone’s ‘About’ data, and on the back of the device in some models.
An IMEI has a similar but larger purpose. It’s still there to identify a mobile device, but it offers a level of protection if the device is stolen or lost. Similar to a VIN on a car, it gives detailed information regarding the device and its history.
For example, if you take your phone to a high street mobile phone recycler who uses MobiCHECK, a quick IMEI look-up will tell the store whether the phone has been reported as lost as stolen and whether they need to report this to the authorities.
You can learn your IMEI number in a few ways if you ever need it. The quickest way is to dial *#06# from your phone – the IMEI will appear on the screen. You can also go into your settings and look in the About section – most iPhones and Android devices will have it written here as well. Older iPhones also have the number printed on the back cover and SIM card tray.
The information IMEI provides is mainly added when the phone is built. It doesn’t include any information about the name or address that the phone is registered to, or the number on the SIM card. There is some information about network and location that is transmitted by the IMEI number that could be considered personal in the wrong hands. It’s for this reason that we recommend you only trust your IMEI number with trusted providers, such as Mobicode.
The basic information that an IMEI number holds is all about the device. This is hard-coded in when the number is created, going into depth about the make, model and specifications of the device it refers to. From this, a carrier can take a look at what the device is supposed to be able to do.
The primary reason that IMEI numbers are important is their ability to help track down and secure lost or stolen phones. With every connection your phone makes, your IMEI number is shared with the provider. This serves a few vital purposes. Firstly, it helps locate the phone and guide it to the local connections so that you connect to a nearby tower. This provides a secondary benefit that in the event of a lost or stolen phone, it’s easy to locate where the last connection was. This is often used to locate missing people and understand the calls that were made from their devices to track their movements.
Finally, if the location isn’t enough to find your lost phone, every IMEI number in the UK is connected to a nationwide database that allows providers to see if it has been marked as lost or stolen. When you report your phone, it will then be blacklisted so that if it’s brought to be unlocked or sold, it will be flagged.
Mobicode base their extensive MobiCHECK device checkup on an IMEI lookup that allows us to then apply this information to a wide range of datasets for a fully comprehensive analysis of a phone’s history.