How to Check IMEI

How to check your phones ESN and IMEI Numbers

If you want to sell or trade-in your old device, or you’re looking to buy a used phone, you’ll want to first perform an ESN or IMEI check to determine the device’s status. Knowing the phone’s status helps make sure you get a device that’s ready for use or sell for the highest possible value. 

Locating your phone’s ESN or IMEI number, then using an ESN/IMEI checker to determine your phone’s status is a great way to ensure you know everything you need to know about the device. Protect yourself against purchasing an unusable phone, or getting less money (or no money!) from selling or trading in a bad status phone. 

So how do you find your phone ESN and IMEI number and use an ESN/IMEI checker? Let us walk you through it! 

What is the difference between an ESN and an IMEI?

The Global Systems for Mobiles (GSM), and the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) are the two major mobile service provider technologies used by manufacturers of smartphones worldwide. When a new phone is made, it’s assigned a unique identification number. Phones supported by CDMA use an ESN number, and GSM supported devices use an IMEI number. The IMEI is associated with specific mobile devices, and GSM uses SIM cards to identify the phone owner. Instead, the ESN is associated with both the device and the owner. Most ESN/IMEI checkers are able to determine the status of a phone whether it has an ESN or an IMEI. 

What are ESN and IMEI numbers?

An ESN is an Electronic Serial Number associated with your phone. The ESN number can help consumers identify if the device is ready to activate with a new carrier. A ‘clean’ ESN means that the phone doesn’t have any payments due on its past contract, it hasn’t been reported or stolen, and it’s ready to be used by a new owner. Carriers can use the ESN to blacklist a phone, making it impossible for a new buyer to make calls or send messages with that device. 

Your International Mobile Equipment Identity, or IMEI number, will show the status of your phone with its current carrier. It’s a unique 15 digit number assigned to each new device and helps make sure that stolen or lost devices aren’t used by others. If you’re looking at a used device, checking the IMEI allows you to determine if the phone has been reported to its carrier as lost or stolen. It can also tell you additional details about your phone including the model and year number of the device. 

When a device comes back with a bad ESN or IMEI number from an ESN/IMEI check, it can be for a number of reasons:

  • The phone has been reported lost by a previous owner
  • The phone owner has a past balance that was not paid to the phone’s carrier
  • The phone was reported as stolen
  • The device is still active on another account
  • An insurance claim has been made against this device

If you buy a phone with a bad ESN or IMEI number for any of the reasons above, your phone cannot be activated on a new network until the issues have been resolved. If you try to sell a used phone with a bad ESN or IMEI number you’re likely to get significantly less money for it, or if the phone was reported lost or stolen it won’t be accepted at all. 

Find your phone’s ESN or IMEI number

With all that in mind, it’s important to know how to perform an ESN or IMEI check! The method will vary depending on which major mobile service provider technology your device was manufactured with. 

How to find your IMEI number on an iPhone

To perform your IMEI check on any iPhone, follow these steps:

  1. Navigate to Settings
  2. Click General
  3. Select About
  4. Scroll down to IMEI 

On some devices, you’ll also be able to find the IMEI number on your physical device. On iPhones, you can find it on the SIM card tray or the back housing of the iPhone. iPhone 4, 6, and above you’ll find the number on the SIM card tray. iPhone 5 and 6 will have the number located on the back housing.

Another way to find your IMEI number on an iPhone is to dial * # 06 # and the IMEI or ESN will show up on the phone screen. 

Finding your ESN/IMEI on an HTC/LG device

  1. Click your Settings app
  2. Select About phone
  3. Click Status or Phone Identity 
  4. Scroll down to the IMEI or ESN number

You can also remove the device’s battery, and find the number on a label affixed to the back of the device. 

Locating your ESN/IMEI number on a Samsung

  1. Navigate to Settings
  2. Click More
  3. Select About Phone or About Device
  4. Select Status
  5. Scroll to IMEI or ESN 

Determining your ESN/IMEI number on a Motorola 

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Navigate to About phone 
  3. Click Status
  4. Scroll to find your ESN or IMEI

You can also remove the device’s battery, and find the number on a label affixed to the back of the device. 

How to use an ESN or IMEI checker

Once you’ve located your number, use an ESN or IMEI checker to determine the status of the device. The most reliable ESN/IMEI checkers are run by the main cellular device carriers, Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, or T-mobile. To use the carrier for an ESN/IMEI check, use the following phone numbers or follow the directions on their online portals here:

Verizon: Call 1 (800) 922-0204 or use Verizon’s IMEI check page

AT&T: Call 1 (800) 331-0500 or use AT&T’s IMEI check page

T-Mobile: Call 1 (800) 937-8997 or use T-Mobile’s verification page here

Sprint: Call 1 (888) 211-4727 or use Sprint’s online IMEI checker

What to do once you’ve run an ESN or IMEI checker

If the ESN or IMEI checker that you run returns a clean status, that means your phone is good to go! If you’re checking a device that you’d like to buy, this means you can purchase it and activate it with your carrier without running into any issues. If you are selling a device this IMEI check gives you the green light to sell! 

If your ESN/IMEI check returns a bad status, there a few steps you can take:

Sell your device

You can still sell a phone with a bad ESN or IMEI check. Some online stores will buy phones that owners still owe money on. Or, they may buy a phone back just for its parts. However, you’ll want to make sure that the location you’re selling to knows your device has a bad status, and that they’ll still accept it. 

Pay off your bills

When your phone comes back with a bad status because you aren’t up to date on payment, you do have the option to pay off your bill. Once you’re up to date with your payments, get in touch with your carrier and see if they’re able to help you update your phone’s status to reflect your payment.

Report your found phone

If you reported your own phone as lost, and then found it but didn’t remember to let your carrier know it was located you may still have a phone with a lost status. This can result in a negative result when running an ESM/IMEI checker. In this case, you’ll want to get in touch with your carrier. They’ll ask you questions in order to verify your identity, then can reset your phone status. 

Use a service to reset your ESN/IMEI number

Some companies will unblock your phone if it’s returned a bad status on an ESN/IMEI checker. They’ll charge a fee, the amount of which is dependent on the company and your phone model. However, depending on the issue with your phone, the phone may be blocked again if the root problem hasn’t been resolved. 

Choose not to purchase

If you are looking to purchase a used phone, and that phone has a bad ESN/IMEI you may want to keep looking for a phone that doesn’t have that issue. Running an ESN/IMEI checker on potential phones protects you from buying an unusable device. 

Use the phone on WiFi

You can still use a bad status phone on WiFi, even if it’s not approved for use with a carrier. Though you won’t be able to send traditional texts or make calls, you can still use the device for some functions on WiFi. Apps can allow you to send messages, browse the internet, and more. If you’re looking to sell your device to a buyback company, we have the perfect solution for you! Gizmogo buys your used phone back for cash, and supports the environment at the same time.