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March 31, 2023

What is an IMEI Unlock Check?

Every mobile device includes an identification number that allows cell phone service carriers, owners and potential buyers to understand the device’s ownership and cell carrier status. This number is referred to as the IMEI–international mobile equipment identity–and it is typically found behind the battery of the device.

An IMEI number can be ‘locked’ and this means that the device might be used only with a specific carrier; users also can lock the IMEI to their SIM to help secure their device. A locked IMEI, though, can be problematic for resellers or a new owner. Performing an IMEI unlock check can ensure that a phone that has been lost or stolen or one that has been locked isn’t resold. Here’s what to know about an IMEI unlock check.

How to Perform an IMEI Unlock Check

Businesses and independent resellers cannot resell a phone or mobile device if its IMEI number is locked or is found on any IMEI blacklist. This list denotes phones that have been reported lost or stolen or devices owned by individuals who are in financial arrears with their cell phone carrier. Any phone or device identified on the blacklist cannot be connected to a cell phone service provider.

Before a cell phone carrier/service provider activates service, they check the IMEI number of a device to ensure that it hasn’t been blacklisted. Unfortunately, any individual who unknowingly purchases a blacklisted device simply won’t be able to activate it for service. 

In addition, the phone or device’s IMEI could be locked to a particular service provider. This means that the device cannot be used with another carrier. How can resellers or buyers check a phone to ensure that it isn’t locked?

Phonecheck provides diagnostic tools to check if an IMEI is blacklisted or if the phone is locked or has been ‘jailbroken.’ The term ‘jailbreak’ means that the device has been modified to remove software and service provider restrictions and install new software or utilize a different cell phone carrier; jailbreaking a phone can void warranties and cause other issues, too. For these reasons, resellers and businesses avoid any phone that has been revealed as a ‘jailbreak’ device. 

Checking the ‘jailbreak’ and IMEI status of a phone is easy. Phonecheck can be installed on most PC and Mac devices, and the device is plugged into the computer and assessed by the software. Phonecheck will perform a full diagnostic assessment of the phone and analyze all components to ensure that any repairs include authentic parts. 

In addition, the program checks the IMEI and will show an alert if the number is found on a blacklist. Phonecheck also assesses the phone for signs of a jailbreak and will reveal if the phone is authentically unlocked (this allows the device to be used with any service provider). 

Some devices are tied to a particular cell phone carrier. Phonecheck will show the carrier to ensure that resellers can note this to potential buyers. A phone or device that was purchased from a carrier’s store is locked to that carrier. 

IMEI and the SIM Card

The IMEI is the identification number for a device. Smartphones and cell phones also include a SIM card; this tiny card includes information about the phone including the phone number, the owner’s identity, location data, text messages and more. Calls, texts and other activities require a SIM card. 

Since this card holds pertinent data, users can lock the card to their phone (or their IMEI number). Each carrier might include different instructions for locking the SIM; however, locking the card to the phone could potentially help ensure that a thief can’t use the phone.

Swapping out a new SIM card also could be another simple means to test if an IMEI has been locked to a specific carrier. If a SIM card from another carrier works, the phone is likely unlocked. However, the phone also might work because the SIM card is associated with the same carrier that is locked to the phone. 

The Benefit of Unlocked Phones

Phones offered at a store associated with a specific carrier will only work with that carrier. However, consumers can purchase a phone from the manufacturer (like Apple). These phones will be sold unlocked and will work with any service provider.

The downside to purchasing an unlocked phone, though, is the cost. Numerous sites note the obvious: unlocked phones are more expensive. The reason for this is that carriers can offer the new phone at a discount.

Consumers who want the latest smartphone might want to snag that new phone for the best price possible. At their cell phone carrier’s store, consumers could potentially trade-in their old phone to offset the cost of a new phone or even upgrade to the newest phone at a discounted price.

While Apple offers a trade-in program, buyers might still find that purchasing a new unlocked phone is pricier than purchasing the same phone that is locked to a specific carrier. However, some consumers want to be able to choose their service provider and aren’t fazed by the higher price tag of an unlocked phone.

When a Phone Is Blacklisted

There are many second-hand phones available for consumers to purchase at an affordable price. There also are numerous sites that offer these phones. While a phone that is on an IMEI  blacklist cannot be used by a new owner, some of these devices might still find their way into the secondhand market. This isn’t because sellers are trying to be dubious (although some sellers could be less than honest); some sellers simply don’t know that they need to check the IMEI status.

What happens if an individual realizes that a newly-purchased phone isn’t usable because it’s on a blacklist? Many sellers will refund the purchase, but some might not issue a refund. To ensure that buyers aren’t stuck with a phone they can’t use, they should be proactive and do their research when shopping for a used or pre-owned phone. Ask if the IMEI number has been checked to ensure it isn’t locked or blacklisted; in addition, many sellers use Phonecheck to assess all devices and these sellers include the Phonecheck report with the phone.

Avoid the issue of an IMEI lock or blacklisted phone by purchasing pre-owned or used phones from reputable sellers. Many stores offer refurbished or reconditioned smartphones, and these devices might offer a much lower price tag, too. Apple also offers refurbished products. 

How to Protect a Device 

While a locked IMEI or a locked SIM can be problematic for those who need to resell a phone, these lockdowns can be beneficial for owners. iPhone owners can use the Find My app to mark their phone lost or stolen; this ensures that the phone cannot be used by whoever finds the device. Marking the device also places the phone on a list via Apple and a message appears on the device’s screen.

Locking the SIM card to the IMEI also makes it more difficult for someone else to use the phone (if it’s lost or stolen). This lockdown is another safeguard for owners.

An Unlocked Phone is Not the Same as a Jailbreak

Unlocked phones might be more desirable for some buyers. An unlocked phone can be used with any carrier. However, there is a difference between an unlocked phone and a phone that was modified through a jailbreak.

Phones offered from manufacturers or even from some stores will be sold as unlocked devices. This lets owners choose their service provider. Buyers might pay a premium for the unlocked phone, but they also have the freedom of career choice.

A phone can be modified and unlocked through jailbreaking. Again, though, this modification removes restrictions imposed from manufacturers, a service provider or specific software. Unlocking the phone via jailbreaking could lead to issues related to warranties.

An unlocked phone that is offered from a store or manufacturer won’t have issues related to any warranties because the phone is being sold as ‘unlocked.’ The manufacturer is offering the phone with this open format; nothing was hacked within the phone to remove restrictions or to modify the software or phone in any way.

While jailbreaking unlocks a phone, it isn’t the same as an unlocked phone offered by a store or manufacturer.

Why Use an IMEI Unlock Check

Businesses or independent resellers who are listing phones for sale can use an IMEI unlock check via Phonecheck to determine if the phone is locked to a particular provider, has been ‘jailbroken’ or if it’s on a blacklist.

Phonecheck not only assesses all the parts and functionalities of a device to ensure that it’s working properly, but the software also checks the IMEI number to determine if it has been blacklisted. Understanding the phone’s status can save resellers time and money, as a blacklisted phone cannot be resold.

Phonecheck also can be used to assess if ‘jailbreaking’ was used to unlock the phone. This could impact warranties or cause other issues. Businesses can print out a report from Phonecheck to include with each phone and provide peace of mind to buyers. In addition, smartphone owners can download the Phonecheck app to check the functionalities of their phone at any time. The app is free via Google Play and the App Store.

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