IMEI vs. MEID what is the difference?

Are you wondering what that IMIE or MEID number is on your cell phone? Wondering why your phone shows an MEID number instead of an IMEI number or vise versa? Interested in knowing what the difference between the two is? Then you have come to the right place. This article explains what an IMEI and MEID number is and what they are used for.

Purpose of the IMIE and MEID

Both of these numbers are often referred to as “Device Identifiers” and are used to help wireless carriers and cell phone manufactures identify specific devices. Each of these Device Identifiers is unique to their specific device.

Think of the IMEI number or MEID number as the phones Social Security Number. There might be thousands of a specific make and model of phone produced and released but each of those cell phones will have its own unique Device Identifier.

Finding your phones Device Identifier

There are a few ways that you can locate the IMEI/MEID number on your cell phone.

Through the dialer

On most smartphones the easiest way to find your phones IMEI/MEID number is to open up the phones dial pad as if you were going to dial a telephone number and type in *#06#. Once you type in “*#06#” the IMEI will pop up on the phones display.

Through the settings

You can also locate your cell phones Device Identifier through the phones settings. This will depend on what type of phone you have and what version of software is on the phone so you might have to search around in your settings a bit to find it.

On the label

Sometimes it’s not possible to even use the phone. How can you provide this number if your phone won’t even power on for example? IMEI and MEID numbers are usually printed on a sticker and are attached to the phone. The exact location will depend on your device but it’s often located in the phones battery compartment, SIM compartment, or memory slot. If your phone allows you to remove the battery then take the battery out and look where the battery sits and your likely to see your phones IMEI/MEID number.

If you have an Android smartphone and would like some more information about how and where to locate your phones IMEI/MEID number you can click here for more details.

What are the differences between an IMEI an MEID or ESN?

These are all types of Device Identifiers.


ESN stands for Electronic Serial Number and was/is used in the United States to identify cell phones that require a CDMA network for wireless service. ESNs are slowly being phased out in favor of the MEID, a longer number that is more similar to the IMEI number which is used in GSM and UMTS cell phones.


A Mobile Equipment Identifier (MEID) is 14 digits long and is used to identify a cell phone that utilizes the CDMA technology for wireless service. CDMA phones don’t typically have SIM cards and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) is just a type of technology used for wireless phone service.

Verizon, Sprint, and US Cellular are all wireless communications service providers that use the CDMA technology to provide service to their customers.


An International Mobile Station Equipment Identity or IMEI for short is a number that identifies mobile phones that run on a GSM network.  

GSM is just another type of wireless technology used for mobile service.

AT&T and T-Mobile are both wireless carriers that use GSM technology to provide their customers with wireless service.

So what does all this mean?

Nothing much for the average phone owner; in a nutshell if you have a phone that runs on the CDMA network then your phone is going to have an MEID number. If your phone uses GSM technology for wireless service then your phone is going to have an IMEI number. It’s as simple as that.

What can they be used for?

These numbers are actually very important for cell phones and the mobile phone industry.

Wireless carriers

If a cell phone is lost or stolen then that cell phones wireless provider can block that phones IMEI/MEID number and that specific phone will no longer be able to connect to a wireless network and will no longer have service. The device will be pretty much worthless as a phone. This is great as is discourages theft and fraud.

IMEI numbers are also used by wireless carriers to look up what kind of phone you have, when you activated that phone for the first time (they can see your activation date and time to the second), and they can see what telephone numbers have been used on a specific phone using that phones IMEI/MEID number. This is also a powerful tool as the first used date of that phone can show the phones warranty date and when that phone is out of warranty.

If you contact a phones warranty department then chances are they might just want the IMEI/MEID/ESN or S/N number off that phone not only to check the warranty date but also to make sure that they receive the correct phone if it needs to be sent in to be repaired or replaced.


This is a good way to track common issues as well. If there seems to be a common problem that is occurring on a specific cell phone the manufacture can cross reference the phones IMEI/MEID numbers to see if the phone was produced around a specific time or specific location. If a pattern emerges the manufacture can tag specific IMIE numbers that were assigned to the bad batch of phones and add those phones to a known defect list.

This all happens behind the scenes of course and users of these cell phones are not guaranteed to experience any issues whatsoever but it’s a powerful tool to track such things. And if a known issue is a physical problem like a defective piece of hardware (like a volume key for example) then the cell phone user is less likely to be considered at fault for physical damage when they try to file a warranty claim as it’s a known issue with the phone.

Since physical damage voids a phones warranty then a known issue could mean the difference between getting the cell phone repaired or replacement for free by the phones carrier or phones manufacture, or having to buy another phone which can be expensive. Especially if your still locked in a contract and don’t have the option to upgrade yet.

Other uses for the IMEI and MEID

Buying a used cell phone

This is also an important thing to keep in mind when buying a used phone. If the description of the phone for sell says “bad ESN” “bad IMEI” or “bad MEID” then the phone is not going to be able to connect to a wireless network and is not going to be able to make and receive calls, so unless you are buying the phone for replacement parts you might want to think twice before buying it.

Tracking – lost or stolen cell phones

Some third party applications claim to be able to help you track your phone in the event that it gets stolen. Using your specific device (often with its Device Identifier) and through the use of the phones GPS feature. These applications need to be installed on the phone before it gets stolen, and offer no guarantee of helping you locate or recover your stolen phone.

The idea is sound, but often there are no guarantees when it comes to stolen or lost phones.

Tracking – Repair and replacements

Earlier in the article I mentioned that IMIEs are a powerful tool of cell phone manufactures and wireless carriers because it aids them in tracking their equipment. But don’t forget that it can also protect you as well.

If you ship your phone in to get it repaired or are sending in a malfunctioning phone after receiving a replacement and then a week or two later your phone comes back all smashed up with a letter inside letting you know that the phone was returned damaged and is no longer under warranty, but when you sent in your phone it was perfectly fine, and not only is this phone broken, but doesn’t quite feel like your phone then you can compare the IMEI/MEID of the phone you sent in to the one that you got back to make sure it’s even the phone you had in the first place. If it’s not then there was a mix-up and you should certainly point that out to the people you were sending your phone into for repair or replacement.

Insurance or warranty claims through your Point of Sale

One minor thing to keep in mind and that I feel like I should mention about IMEIs is a little grey area when choosing to buy phone protection through your POS (Point of Sale). If you buy your phone through a reputable retailer, let’s say… Best Buy for example, who offers you an extended warranty through their store for an additional fee then they typically require you to return the exact same phone you purchased from them when filing that warranty claim.

So let me try to explain in more detail. If you buy a phone from a retail location, pay to have that phone insured through that retail location as opposed to purchasing protection through your wireless carrier or an insurance provider like Asurion, and that phone malfunctions. You must take it back to that retail location to have it replaced and must not choose to file a warranty claim or insurance claim through your wireless provider because if you do, the retails warranty that you purchased is going to be void because the phone you received as a replacement for your warranty claim is not the same phone that you purchased at that retail location, and as such their IMEI numbers are not going to match.

So if you choose to buy an extended warranty from your Point of Sale, make sure to use that extended warranty first, before filing a manufactures warranty claim. That way there are no problems later and it will not only save you the money you spent on the extended warranty but a lot of time and frustration later on down the road.

So now you know

I hope that this has article has shed some light on that mysterious IMEI or MEID number shown on your cell phone. If you have found this article informative or helpful you can let me know that you liked it by leaving a friendly comment or by simply pressing the Facebook Like button or Google + button below. Thanks for reading and don’t forget to check out some of the other interesting articles on the site.

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33 thoughts on “IMEI vs. MEID what is the difference?”

  1. Asking for any suggestions on how to get a virus off cell phone.
    I appreciate you for explaining the difference between IMEI/ MEID, but which one do I need to go with? Someone tried to hack my facebook, gmail was changed, password hacked, contacts gone, etc.

    PLEASE Help!! Also I am THANKFUL for people like yourself, I am still new to the internet world AND could use some advice. You can text me if you can’t get through my gmail account because I’m still trying to fix all the issues.


    1. Happy to help

      Hi Tanya,

      You won’t have to pick between an IMEI or an MEID number your phone has one automatically. It’s like your SSN you don’t get to pick what your Social Security Number is its just assigned to you at birth. The same goes with a smartphone; as soon as it’s made it’s assigned a number.

      If you want to find out what your phones IMEI or MEID number actually is then you can see an example with pictures by clicking –> HERE <–. It may not be the same phone that you have but it should help point you in the right direction as far as locating the IMEI or MEID number on your phone.

      It does sound like a real problem on your cell phone. Viruses and hacking isn’t as common on cell phones yet like it is on normal computers but software issues do happen.

      If you think that your phone has a virus or software issue then you can start fresh by performing a hard reset or factory data reset which basically wipes everything off the phone and makes it like it was brand new again. If you want to know how to backup and reset your phone then you can read my Guide on how to backup and reset an Android smartphone. I tried to be as detailed as possible for people who may not be as tech and internet savvy as other phone owners so I don’t think you will have too much trouble with it. That will help you get your phone back to like new condition and remove anything that might have been put on your phone that’s causing issues.

      Do you know what the name of your phone is? Different phones will have different troubleshooting steps.

      As far as some tips when using the internet… I removed your phone number from your comment. Unless you are ordering or buying something online then you shouldn’t post your personal information for the world to see. Things like your phone number, email, physical address, etc don’t need to be shared publically but can be shared on a need to know basis.

      For example: If you order or buy something online then whoever you ordered it from would “need to know” where to send it so it would be ok to provide them with your address and they might need to contact you as well so providing an email or phone number would typically be ok as well. I just wanted to point that out for you, as it could save you a big headache later.

      I hope that helps Tanya, if you have any more questions then don’t hesitate to ask.

  2. IMEI Number
    The IMEI number is used by your carrier to register your phone on their network. Usually this is done in the store so you are not aware that it is happening. The clerk messes with your phone and then hands a working phone to you.

    1. Yep that’s right

      Hi Cliff,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and yes, phone companies can and do use the IMEI from a cell phone to register and communicate with that phone through their network. And much of the time it’s all done automatically.

      For example if you had an AT&T phone then it operates on the GSM technology (briefly mentioned above) and many of these types of phones use SIM cards to communicate with a wireless network. If you were to take a SIM card from an active AT&T cell phone and then put that SIM card into another AT&T mobile phone then the IMEI number on that other AT&T phone should automatically sync with the AT&T network and AT&T would be able to see that you put your SIM into that exact phone (using the IMEI number) at the exact time that it connected to their network for the first time.

      And it all happens behind the scenes which is great as all that really matters is that your cell phone connects with the wireless network and works properly. Isn’t technology awesome? Thanks again for commenting Cliff; I hope you have a fantastic day.

  3. Stolen phones
    Nice article. Thanks for taking the time to write it. I would just like to ask a question and leave one comment. You write:

    “If a cell phone is lost or stolen then that cell phones wireless provider can block that phones IMEI/MEID number and that specific phone will no longer be able to connect to a wireless network and will no longer have service. The device will be pretty much worthless as a phone. This is great as is discourages theft and fraud.”

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that blocking the IMEI (on a GSM phone) will keep the thief from using your ACCOUNT. It does nothing to make the PHONE worthless, since the thief can just insert a new SIM card. (People are discussing ways to allow the carrier to kill the PHONE after a theft, but that’s not what you were discussing above.)

    Thanks again.

    1. Terrific Question! And the answer is Yes, and No…

      Hi Dan,

      You asked a very good question.

      Yes, on a GSM network like AT&T or T-Mobile you would be able to remove a SIM card from one phone, insert it into another phone from the same carrier and use either phone that the SIM card was inserted in. The SIM connects the phone to the wireless network, accesses your account and allows you to use whatever phone number is associated to that SIM card on whatever phone the SIM is inserted into.

      So for example, if you have an AT&T smartphone and it malfunctioned and you needed a phone as soon as possible, then you could run down to a local store, buy an AT&T phone, remove the SIM from your malfunctioning cell phone, insert it into the new cell phone (assuming that the SIMs are compatible), turn on the new cell phone, the SIM will reach out to AT&T and tell the AT&T network to start using this new phone.

      If you called AT&T, and verified account ownership, the AT&T representative would be able to pull up your account information and see the IMEI number that is currently being used by your wireless telephone number. The AT&T computer system should do all this automatically behind the scenes although if your phone didn’t connect properly the representative could go in and update the IMEI manually.

      If however your phone was stolen, you called AT&T and reported it stolen, AT&T would deactivate the SIM card (so that the thief couldn’t connect or use your account any more even if they inserted the stolen SIM into a different phone), and they would mark the phone as stolen which would blacklist the phones device identifier aka the IMEI number and they would no longer be able to connect the stolen phone to the AT&T network either, even if they tried to use a different and working SIM card in the stolen phone.

      The working SIM would try to connect the stolen phone to the AT&T network, the network would try to verify the IMEI number, see that it was blacklisted and then refuse service to that phone. Whoever was trying to use the stolen phone would have no wireless service, even though their SIM card is perfectly legitimate.

      This is a shame because sometimes thieves sell the worthless phones to unsuspecting buyers, at a discount of course, the unsuspecting buyer receives it, tries to use it, and low and behold it doesn’t connect and has no service. The unsuspecting person calls AT&T (or whoever the carrier is) confused because their phone should have connected and didn’t and asks them to see if they needed to call in to activate the phone. The representative pulls up the account, to see why their customer’s phone won’t connect to their network; they run the IMEI and find that the phone was reported lost or stolen. Then they have the unfortunate duty of telling their customer that they were scammed and have purchased a stolen and worthless phone which the carrier cannot re-active as the person calling in could be the thief for all the representative knows.

      When the customer tries to contact the person(s) that sold them the phone they don’t get a reply or the vender has vanished. A very messed up situation for the person whose phone was stolen, for the person the stolen phone was sold to, and even messy for the wireless carrier who supports the phone; very lucrative however for the thief who has vanished into thin air.

      So does blocking an IMEI number prevent theft? Yes, as the person stealing the phone won’t be able to use it; and No, because it doesn’t prevent them from selling the worthless phone to someone else.

      Since technically the phone would still power on the thief could use it as a mobile media device, like an MP3 player or connect to Wi-Fi for a data connection but as far as wireless service the phone would be worthless.

      So good question Dan, I hope that helps clarify things a little bit. Thanks for commenting and visiting the site. I love receiving and answering terrific questions like yours. If you have any more questions or you’re curious about anything else then don’t hesitate to ask.

  4. MEID/IMEI number used for breaches
    If you give your IMEI/MEID to someone to obtain an unlock code in order to put in another vendor sim card, is there any security concerns i should consider now that this person has my unique identifer?



  5. Lost Galaxy S4
    Hi, I recently lost my phone, Samsung Galaxy S4, to a conman. I bought this phone as a second -hand from an informal trader but unfortunately, I did not write down the Serial Number or the IMEI. I had used this phone for about two weeks. Is there any way I can get the IMEI from my mobile network provider?

    1. Trying to find the IMEI number of your lost Samsung Galaxy S4


      If you are wondering about the IMEI number of your Samsung Galaxy S4 then the mobile network provider that you used that Samsung S4 on will have a record of the IMEI number associated with your cell phone AND every other telephone number that has ever used that S4. Will your network provider confirm or provide you with that information? No, probably not.

      Your best bet would be to try and find the box that the phone came in, assuming that it came with the same box the manufacture originally shipped it in, as Device Identifiers (like the IMEI) are often (not always) printed somewhere on that box. Since you got the phone from a second hand store though… You might not be able to trust that number even if you were able to locate the box that it came in.

      If your phone ever gets stolen then make sure to report it stolen right away. Your service provider will make sure to blacklist that phones IMEI number (they will look it up through your records) and the thief won’t be able to use it. If however you got swindled, and sold the phone to a conman then that’s a different story and I recommend that you cut your losses and try to avoid such swindlers in the future. There is a lot of money in the cell phone market/industry and it pulls in all kind of unscrupulous people looking to make a quick buck however they can.

      I suppose this holds true to any topic or subject involving money but… sometimes all you can do is roll with the punches.

      I wish you the best of luck, and if there is anything else that I can try to help you with than please let me know.

      1. Thank you James

        Thank You James, I managed to get the IMEI from the telcoms operator and the police are now doing their job. Thank you a million times!

  6. Using another persons meid to activate a device?
    Hi, I recently experienced a horrific hacking of all my accounts. I noticed in July that my Google account showed a previous phone of mine, identified by the MEID number, one I still had possession of but had not been activated in over a year, had been reactivated, had downloaded the most recent android operating system, and then was no longer considered active. Nevertheless a second device became active in my location history and was clearly operating using wifi. My google account was ravaged — despite every attempt to employ two – step authentication, etc. Finally I had to shut down the account entirely.

    The phone in question has been at my mother’s home for the entire time, off, and uncharged. When I used my device manager to locate it, as it was showing as an active device, it said device location unknown. Some weeks later when I did the same thing, it located the device at my own address!

    I think I understand what happened – I think someone broke into my Google account and found the meid (google stores the numbers of all devices ever connected with your account in your dashboard, BTW. There’s an option to delete the info, which I now recommend) and, by means of it, accessed play store to download current OS software. The device was specifically listed as not having a wireless carrier and, indeed, the patterns I saw in my location history suggested this person was setting up in WiFi hotspots.

    So, why? If the person was going to use WiFi, not hijack my wireless, why not use their own device? How *can* you make use of an imei number from a different device on your own. I simply don’t get it.

    I will add that my dashboard also showed a current ISP based locally, which was unfamiliar to me. They are one of those service providers who provide “customized solutions” to “individual business (sic) needs.”. (I swear the doublespeak in the hacking universe astounds me). When I called their tech support and innocently asked about why I was showing service from them and by the way I was experiencing this issue could there be a connection the tech wanted off the phone so fast he almost hung up on me. When I subsequently visited their website all but the home page were blocked. Hmmm?

    I am completely at a loss as to how to figure out how someone could use an Meid number not their own, to say nothing of why.

    Sorry this is so long. Whatever you have to offer would be appreciated.


    1. Using and abusing a device identifier

      Hi E.F.

      That is a very interesting situation that you have there. Let me begin by telling you a little story too.

      When I was still in the warranty business and was helping people fix their cell phones for a living (a very modest living, and now I help people with their phones for free as a hobby) I would look up the information for more than 25 IMEI numbers a day. Over the course of about 3 years there were a few (less than 5) instances where I ran a person’s IMEI number and the system pulled up information for multiple phone numbers (which isn’t uncommon) but also two separate phones (both being different models from one another and even different manufactures). This should not happen as each cell phone is supposed to have a unique device identifier. I believe that one of the two were typically older units and inactive BUT I have seen two different Android smartphones which had the same IMEI/MEID before.

      Why this is happening to you… I am not sure. To have your Google account hijacked while at around the same time noticing that your old MEID is being used by someone else sounds like too much to be a coincidence. Why they would try to use your MEID/IMEI doesn’t make much sense either (unless they were trying to piggyback on your service provider (which you said they were not doing as they were using a Wi-Fi for a data connection instead).

      Here is a big word of warning… some wireless carriers MAY allow a person to verify their wireless account using the account owners name and the IMEI number associated with that persons account… If I was you I would contact my wireless provider and request that your account only be accessible by password.

      You shouldn’t have reason to panic as the active MEID/IMEI number associated with your wireless service provider should be the phone that you are using right now BUT if your Gmail was compromised then the person who took it has your Name (probably full name), they likely have your mother’s name (hello contact list), possibly your address (or mothers address) because of the device manager or even detailed contact information, and they have an old MEID number that WAS associated with your account. They might have more than enough information to call into your wireless carrier pretend to be you (or your parents if you are all on a single account) and try to get in to your account to cause mischief.

      Your wireless carrier isn’t a bank or anything but still… Identity theft is identity theft and it happens every day.

      Now fixing, repairing, editing or changing an IMEI number isn’t usually the easiest task either and like you said… why not use their own phones IMEI if they are only using the phone to access data through Wi-Fi… Why would they choose to use your Gmail account on that phone instead of a new Google account? After all it’s not that difficult to make a new Gmail account.

      The only good reason I can come up with to try and change an IMEI number on a cell phone would be to try to get service back to the phone. If the phone was lost or stolen and the device identifier was black listed then you could TRY to changes the IMEI number in order to TRY to circumvent the phone from being blocked BUT now we are opening a whole new can of worms and legality issues (which I don’t really want to get into).

      These little scenarios are all hypothetical of course and situations like these usually end up being the result of an innocent or unintentional mistake, an uncontrollable circumstance, or a simple misunderstanding. Heck maybe your mom lent your old phone to a friend, relative, or neighbor. Since you are no longer using it she might be letting someone else barrow it… who coincidently updated the software, messed with your Google account (making it look as though it was hacked) and is now using it to stream videos and or music over a Wi-Fi connection. Simply choosing to use the phone as a portable media device…

      Now I am sure that the last scenario is less likely but still… there are so many “what ifs” and “maybes” and so many possible scenarios with different circumstances; it wouldn’t be possible for me to cover them all. Usually these types of things are not so complicated and I just hope that this post helps to somewhat answer your questions as it is definitely a unique situation that you have there.

      Just try to keep your guard up as best as you can, don’t ever share your passwords and remember that knowledge is power and many thieves aren’t stupid. They are often cleaver, crafty, resourceful, and most of all cold blooded. Keep rolling with the punches my friend, thank you for visiting my website and if you have any more questions for me then don’t hesitate to ask.

  7. Question about smart phones
    I have a weird question. We were renting to a tenant who died and was a hoarder. We have come across 6 smartphones that he ordered through Ebay and can’t figure out what his plans were for them? Any insight would be great. Also how can you tell or can you tell if a cell phone is unlocked?

    One of the phones has a clean ESN other than that really do not know what I’m doing. Thinking of selling on Ebay.

    Thanks Julie

    1. Hard to tell

      Hi Julie,

      It’s hard to tell what the person’s plans were for them… they might just be prepaid cell phones. The person ran out of minutes and just bought another prepaid cell phone at a cheaper price… some phones are really cheap that you can use in a pinch or use as a phone that you don’t intend to use for very long. Some phones can be thrown away (or hopefully recycled) after the person is done using them.

      Were the phones you found still in their boxes (unopened)? Are they branded with a manufacture or even better a wireless carrier (this could indicate if they are unlocked or not)? Can you remove the batteries from the phones? Is the information printed on the batteries in English (could help indicate the quality of the phones or point to a cheap knockoff)? Did the phone(s) come with any SIM cards? If so are they branded? Are they smartphones or basic cell phones? Do they turn on? Do you know if they are newer phones (recently released) or older models?

      You have a lot of things to consider for this particular situation my friend but whatever you decide to do with those phones use caution before doing so… you don’t want to accidently cell a bunch of stolen phones on eBay and not only receive some bad reviews and tarnish your eBay account but possibly face other unwanted ramifications later.

      Just something to think about… if you still have questions or would like some more advice then leave a reply to this comment and post answers to all those questions (where applicable) that were mentioned above and I will see what I can do to try and help. Otherwise I hope that helps, thanks for visiting the site, and I hope that cleaning up that particular domicile is quick and doesn’t cost too much. Sorry to hear that your former tenant passed away but I wish you luck and I hope that you can quickly locate a good long term and responsible tenant to be the future resident.

      1. THANK YOU
        Thank you for taking the time to help me. They are all Samsung Galaxies 3 and 4 with different carriers. I started trying to research when I came upon your great site. I only knew how to use my smartphone to call my Mom and check FB!! The first one is a Samsung Galaxy 3 by Sprint and it has a clean ESN. I’m trying to educate myself cuz I would never want to intentionally sell something for what it wasn’t. Julie

  8. Locked phones
    Hey there hope you had a great Christmas!! One last question. Are all phones considered locked and how can a layperson tell. Thanks again!! Julie

    1. Locked vs. Unlocked Cell Phones

      That’s a good question Julie.

      Most smartphones are going to be locked. Unlocked cell phones are not carrier specific meaning that they can potentially connect to and use just about any wireless service provider (with some limitations; such as the technology used for such services but we’ll talk about this in a second).

      Locked cell phones on the other hand are usually sold by the wireless carrier to be used solely on their network. You often get these at discounted prices and the carrier makes up the difference by charging you over time for the service they provide. That’s one of the reasons why contracts exist and why unlocked phones are so much more expensive then locked phones.

      The interesting thing is that a carrier should have the power to unlock a cell phone from their own network. Afterwards you can use that unlocked (previously locked) cell phone on another carrier’s network but, as mentioned above, it’s going to depend on what technology that carrier uses for its service.

      So just for fun let’s look at a real life example. Let’s say that you bought a cell phone from AT&T, you’ve had it for a couple of years and it works fine but then you move to a different home and the location of that home doesn’t have very good signal strength as there are no AT&T towers near that home to provide the type of service you had before.

      You talk to one of your new neighbors and she points to a cell phone tower disguised as a tree down the road and she says that her T-Mobile phone and her sons Verizon phone work great in that area. You love your current cell phone and don’t want to part with it, and you know it works fine it’s just the location that’s the problem. Why should you have to buy another phone? Well, you might not have to.

      You could call AT&T explain the situation and ask them nicely if they could unlock your locked cell phone for you. They agree, unlock it and you get to keep your same cell phone. Now you have to look for another service provider BUT there is a catch. You have to choose a service provider that uses that same technology that AT&T uses for their service. You know that Verizon and T-Mobile have good service in the area but which one should you choose? Well there is really only one option of the two for your cell phone and that is to use T-Mobile. Why? Because Verizon uses CDMA technology while AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM technology. Your cell phone should work on T-Mobiles network but it won’t work on Verizon’s.

      As far as telling a locked phone apart from an unlocked phone… I suppose that the best way that a “layperson” can tell would be to look for a carrier brand somewhere on the phone. Since most carriers lock their phone if you have a cell phone that has a label showing AT&T or Sprint or Verizon or T-Mobile or Boost Mobile etc. then chances are very high that particular cell phone is locked for that specific wireless carrier. This isn’t a guaranteed way to tell an unlocked phone from a locked phone as a wireless carrier may not brand their phone(s) but it’s a pretty common practice. The majority of cell phones that you come across are going to be locked.

    Ok, I have a phone I’m trying to connect through a different wireless network (purchased from sprint, I’m trying to switch with my phone to cricket wireless). Cricket asked for my IMEI number to see if my phone is compatible. While looking for the number I noticed my phone has a MEID AND an IMEI number. What the heck? I’ve looked and I can’t find anything pertaining to a phone having both. Is this normal? Please help.

    1. Yeah, it’s uncommon but still normal

      Hi Jessica,

      The majority of phones in the USA have only one device identifier but a phone, especially an unlocked or duel SIM phone, can have both an IMEI number and an MIED number. This makes your phone more versatile as it can most likely utilize the technology for CDMA wireless service as well as the GSM wireless service technology.

      I hope that answers your question Jessica. If you have any more questions or concerns then just let me know.

  10. General comment
    What a great article and written so the layman can understand. I have saved it, not so much for its content, but to go back if I have a question/problem with another device. I do not think this will help me since my cellphone has been deactivated by my prior carrier and they will not unlock my type of phone (LG Optimus F3) — only iphones and one other that I can’t remember. Anyway, if I power up the old phone it says no sim card (since one is in the phone, I gather they have deactivated the sim #). So now I have to buy a new phone and as you said in the article “expensive.” If you have any suggestions to avoid the purchase route, I would be grateful and willing to try them.

    1. Some things to consider

      Thank you for taking the time to post such a nice comment Anita.

      As far as getting a working cell phone. If you have already called your previous carrier and you cannot unlock your phone to be used on another wireless carrier’s service then you might need to look into purchasing a different device.

      Try looking into an affordable prepaid phone. It probably won’t be packed with all of the latest and greatest features bells and whistles but it should allow you to at least have a new phone. After you have saved up enough money you can invest in a more feature rich phone to use and can keep your prepaid as a backup device.

      I hope that helps Anita. Don’t forget to review the sites guide on what to look for and consider when choosing a good smartphone. I think you will find it helpful in making your final decision.

      Thanks for visiting the site and if you have any more questions or need any more help than just let me know.

      1. Thank you.

        Thank you.  I have already gotten a cheapie.  Went with PureTalk and took their flip phone.  No bells and whistles, just phone and text.  It is very small and takes getting used to but it will do in the meantime.

        1. You’re welcome

          Oh that’s good Anita. Glad to hear it. Thank you for taking the time to visit the site again and for posting a follow up.

          Remember that any phone is usually better than no phone at all, so try to enjoy it my friend.

  11. Imei call tracking
    Hi James
    Can you clarify… if my friend and I switched sims and made calls last year… is it possible to track those specific calls to each handset? Would the switch then have been logged… as each phone and sim was already activated? Would these records be traceable?

    1. Absolutely

      Hi El,

      The simple answer to your question is YES. Those calls can be tracked and when you swapped the SIM card and turned on the phone with that different SIM card for the first time that phones device identifier was also recorded. They can look up to see when you swapped the SIM card and first powered on that phone to the second. But the phone that you use has little to do with tracking calls. It’s all about the SIM cards. The service provider who issued the SIM card can track the calls which utilized that SIM card via its telephone number.

      Now will a phone company divulge that information? Probably not, but they could input the telephone number which received or made the call and if they needed to they could look up to the second when a call was made, how long it lasted and of course when it ended.

  12. IMEI versus MEID
    How can I get my phone to work with a IMEI carrier if I only have an MEID number?

    1. You will not likely be able to…

      IMEI numbers are currently utilized by phones that use the GSM type of technology while MEID numbers usually reside on phones that utilized the CDMA technology… the two are not compatible and you will not be able to use a phone intended for a CDMA wireless carrier on a GSM wireless carrier.

      Imagine your cell phone is an apple peeler and the CDMA carrier that sold you the peeler provides apples while all a GMS carrier can provide is oranges. Both are fruit of course but if you tried to use your apple peeler to peel that orange… it just isn’t going to work. Probably not the best analogy I suppose but as the saying goes, comparing these two wireless technologies is kind of like comparing apples to oranges.

      So if you have a smartphone with an MEID number and you wish to change your service provider you’re going to have to choose a wireless provider that uses the DCMA technology type to provide service to their customers.

  13. Stolen phone and MEID question
    Some sites I’ve found say that you can check the IMEI numbers and to enter them. But I’m needing to check a MEID number an when I enter it, it tells me it’s invalid number.
    How to do convert the MEID number into a imei number?

    And next question… my phone was stolen and I know who took it. If by chance they are able to hack the phone and change the MEID number on it to a different number, when I go to check the MEID number that was on it from the start will it come back that the number has been changed? Or will it not be able to tell me if it’s been changed or not?

    Ps. Please email me the response…

  14. IMEI and S/N numbres
    When I asked for the IMEI number, it came up with 2 separate numbers which were almost identical to each other.
    Which number is the one to be used to report a lost cell phone??

    1. Phones which contain multiple device identifiers

      Hello Dayanand Shetty,

      Some phones, especially those that can accept two types of Sim cards (often a Sim card which will allow the phone to operate on a wireless provider’s network which utilizes the GSM technology and a Sim card which will allow the phone to communicate on a wireless network which uses the CDMA mobile network technology) may and often will have two separate IMEI numbers or phone identifiers in order to communicate with said network types.

      The IMEI number that you will need in order to report a lost cell phone will depend on which wireless network or wireless carrier you are using that phone for. You should be able to call your wireless carrier and they will be able to take care of you without too much of a hassle. Chances are they already have your phones device identifier on record and they might not even need you to read or even confirm the number for them before they deactivate or blacklist that specific device.

  15. Robert P McCulloch

    Finding a stolen phones MAC address
    I know my next door neighbor stole my phone, but can’t prove it. (They were the only one to come into my apartment the day it disappeared.) I decided to take over their wifi routed to see if my phone is connected to their network. Sure enough there is 12 devices connected to their network. I can tell by the MAC address of the phone that 2 of the devices are Samsung’s. But I have not been able to determine the model number of the devices based on the MAC addresses.
    Does anyone know if that is possible and if so how to do it? Half the people in my apartment complex have had their phones stolen over the last month. If they have the same model phones hooked up to their network, we’re all going to get together pay them a very unfriendly visit!
    Thank you!

    1. Locating a stolen or missing cell phone

      Hi Robert,

      Sorry to hear about your cell phone. Out of curiosity what type of cell phone is it? If it’s an Android cell phone you could try locating it with the Primary Google account associated with that device. Check out this article on how to find a missing cell phone. If you’re lucky you might just be able to discover its exact location using the Google Dashboard.

      Good luck my friend.

  16. kylie bartlett

    If you have more than 15 numbers as your imei
    If you have more than 15 numbers as your imei code does this mean your phone is hacked?

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