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September 14, 2022

What is IMEI and Other Curious Mobile Lingo

Like any subject matter, the mobile device world has its own language that seems to progress at warp speed. This can make it difficult to understand blogs, websites, articles, instructions, and device history reports when you’re researching information about cell phones and other mobile devices. What is an IMEI? How do I find my serial number? And what in the world is a SIM lock?

Here are explanations of five words to get you started on becoming in-the-know for tech terminology. Mastering these terms is essential to understanding the product as well as the Device History Report you’ll receive when you certify your mobile device.

What is IMEI?

International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) sounds complicated, but it’s really just a unique number assigned to the mobile device. This 15-to-17-digit number helps identify a cellular-enabled device on a mobile network. It holds important information such as what kind of phone it is, where it was manufactured, and what model it is. It’s vital when checking if the phone is compatible with a wireless service, if there are any issues with your pre-owned phone like carrier blacklisting, or when you want to stop service if your phone is lost or stolen (carriers can deny listing a device based on its IMEI number and request other carriers to do the same so the phone can’t make or receive calls anymore or connect through the cellular network).

Finding your IMEI is easy.  Whether you have an Apple or an Android device, just dial *#06# and you’ll find your IMEI.

What is a Serial Number?

Serial numbers are individualized to a device and come from the manufacturer. You now know what IMEI is, but how is that different from a serial number? Serial numbers are for the device itself, whether it connects to data or not. These numbers make it easier for the manufacturers to keep track of their products. They can also help network providers track down a device that has been stolen or lost. Most devices that connect to cellular data have both an IMEI and a serial number.

To find the serial number on an Android:

To find the serial number on an Apple device::

What is a Model and a Model Number?

Models are specific to the device manufacturer. They are the type or design of the cellular device. Examples are the Galaxy S22 Ultra, Motorola Edge, and iPhone 14. They are usually released in a series, such as the iPhone 11 and the iPhone 11 Pro or the Galaxy Z Flip4 and the Galaxy Z Fold4.

Models also have their own number that varies depending on the year it was released, its color, the carrier, and more. Every model that falls into that category (same color, etc.) will have the same model number. 

To find the model number on an Android:

Phone in that menu.

To find the model number on an iPhone:

What is a Carrier?

Carriers provide cellular connectivity services to their subscribers. Carriers are the company  you pay for your cellular service. Mobile carriers are very large entities that have a radio spectrum license from the U.S. government to operate in any region of the country. The three major carriers in the US are Sprint/T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and AT&T Mobility.  These mobile carriers sell access to their radio spectrum to other companies called mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). Some of these include Cricket Wireless, Metro by T-Mobile, and Spectrum Mobile. MNVOs tend to be more regional and offer no contract, low-cost plans. 

What is a SIM Lock?

A SIM lock is a restriction built into mobile devices that lets cellular service providers lock a phone so it can only be used under certain circumstances, such as using their service. This locking function is connected to the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) in the phone. It can be unlocked by the company that provides the phone service or by using a number of different third-party applications.

Using What You Learned

Next time you’re reviewing a device history report, researching a new or used mobile device, or reading up on the latest technology, you can rest assured that you understand some of the basic terminology associated with mobile devices. And if someone happens to ask you what an IMEI is, you’ll be able to give them a confident and expert answer.

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