IMEI and MEID: What’s The Difference?

You have probably seen the IMEI or MEID number on your mobile phone and you may be wondering what these numbers mean and what is the difference between these two options.

Find your IMEI, MEID, or ESN number on iOS or Android.
Find your IMEI, MEID, or ESN number on iOS or Android. Photo by Tim Alex on Unsplash.

Here we will take a look at IMEI and MEID to understand what they are and what is their purpose.

What Are They Used For?

These two numbers are usually known as Device Identifiers and they can help mobile phone manufacturers and service providers to recognize specific devices.

Each mobile phone has a Unique Device Identifier. IMEI and MEID are the numbers that can be used to identify a phone so even if there are thousands of phones that share the same brand and model, they will all have their own and unique Device Identifier.

How Do I Find My IMEI/MEID?

There are different methods to find the IMEI/MEID number on your mobile phone. The below are the options that you can try.

  1. In the majority of smartphones, you will be able to locate the IMEI/MEID by going to the phone’s dial pad and typing *#06#. This will display the IMEI on the phone’s screen.
  2. You can also locate the Device Identifier through the Settings, but this depends on the phone model and the operating system’s version that it is running.
  3. Another way to find the IMEI/MEID numbers is checking the battery compartment. The Device Identifier would normally be printed on a label that is attached to the phone and it would normally be located in the same place where the battery, SIM or memory slot can be found.

What Are The Differences Between IMEI, MEID, and ESN?

IMEI and MEID are not the only Device Identifier types. ESN is another number that you may come across, although it is not as common as the other two.

Here is an overview of each of them. The main difference between MEID and IMEI is that the MEID allows hexadecimal digits while IMEI allows only decimal digits.


ESN or Electronic Serial Number is an older technology. Although some phones that require CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) networks for wireless services still use it in the United States, it is slowly being replaced by the MEID. MEID is a longer number than the IMEI and it is used in GSM and UMTS mobile phones.


MEID stands for Mobile Equipment Identifier and it is a 14-digit number that is used to recognize a phone that works with CDMA technology for wireless service. CDMA is a type of technology supported for wireless phone service providers. Usually, CDMA phones don’t use SIM cards.


GSM network mobiles use the International Mobile Station Equipment Identify or IMEI as a Device Identifier. GSM is another popular wireless technology.

In summary, the type of Device Identifier on your phone will depend on the type of technology that it uses. Phones that use CDMA networks have a MEID number, while those that rely on GSM for wireless technology have an IMEI number.

IMEI/MEID Uses For Manufacturers And Mobile Service Providers

While you may not have heard about them before, these numbers are very important and there are many situations in which they will come handy.

Mobile phone service providers can block a specific phone’s IMEI/MEID in case the device is lost or stolen. This means that the phone will not be able to connect to a wireless network and will not have service, which would make it useless.

Mobile service providers also use IMEI numbers to check details like the kind of phone you use, activation date, and phone number. This information can help them to establish if the warranty is still valid. If you want to file a warranty claim, you will probably be asked to provide the MEID, IMEI, ESN, or S/N number of the phone.

Manufacturers can also use the Device Identifier to keep track of common issues that may be affecting a specific phone model. They can use the IMEI/MEID numbers to find out when and where was the phone produced and if the issues are affecting a large number of devices, they can mark specific Device Identifier numbers to add them to a list of known defective batches of phones.

Other Uses

The IMEI and MEID numbers also become relevant when you buy a second-hand phone.

Keep in mind that if the phone’s description states that the ESN, MEID, or IMEI is bad, the phone would not be able to connect to a wireless network and it could not receive or make calls.

If you are only interested in getting a phone for replacement parts, that would not matter, but if you need a working phone, you need to make sure that there are no issues with the Device Identifier.

There are also some applications that offer to track a stolen phone using the Device Identifier and the phone’s GPS features. Although these solutions may not always work as intended and there is no guarantee that they can help you to recover your phone, it is another practical use for the IMEI/MEID numbers.

Additionally, the Device Identifier will help you to avoid issues when you need to send your phone for repair, or when you are returning a faulty phone. In case your phone is returned to you in bad condition, claiming that it was received broken when you know that it was fine when you sent it, you can check the IMEI/MEID to confirm if you received a different phone.

There could be a mix-up, but if you take note of the IMEI/MEID of your phone and you can determine that it doesn’t match the number in the phone that was returned to you, you will be able to clarify the issue.

IMEI/MEID numbers are useful tools to track information about your phone and can help on many occasions, even if they are not something that you may use on a daily basis. In case the manufacturer can determine that there is a fault in a specific phone model or batch, you may be able to file a warranty claim for physical damage (let’s say that the phone’s buttons are not working correctly), if it is a known issue.

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