What is the difference between an IMEI and a Serial Number

I’m often asked by customers: what is the difference between an IMEI number and a serial number? So I thought it would be worth doing a really quick blog on the subject. As in some cases, such as iPhone unlocking the distinction can be quite important.


Your IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) is a 15-17 digit number which is permanently linked to your device, it is used by mobile networks to identify and authenticate your device. It is not linked to your sim card which carries information about your telephone number and account.

When is your IMEI important?

  • If the device is lost or stolen you can provide the IMEI to your network provider so that they can block/blacklist the device. This prevents the device from connecting to the network and therefore it will no longer be able to make or receive calls even with a new sim card.
  • If you wish to unlock your iPhone so that it can be used on any network you need the IMEI. It’s important that you check the IMEI is correct and that you are using the IMEI and not the serial number as the IMEI is the only thing which can be used to unlock an iPhone, the advantage of this system is that if you want to unlock your iPhone all you have to do is submit your IMEI to an unlocking provider such as ourselves.
  • It can also be used by apple to identify the device, check specification, check warranty status and repair history.

Serial Number

Conversely, your iPhones serial number is only used by apple and cannot be used to block or unlock the device. The serial number is both physically printed on the device and stored permanently on the iPhone logic board.

The serial number can be used to identify the device within their database from this they can check your specification, generation, capacity, date and location of manufacture, warranty info, repair history and much more.

If you would like to know how to find your IMEI or Serial number on your iPhone, Apple has created a handy little guide: https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT204073

Did this article help you? let us know in the comments.

All of our articles are based on common questions we on team illPod are asked on a regular basis, so if you have a question let us know and we will do our best to answer it and maybe write a blog on the subject.