Difference between IMEI and ICCID numbers

Mobile devices such as cell phones, dongles and SIM-enabled tablets have many identification numbers needed for different things. While knowing all those numbers is not mandatory for everyone, having an idea about them does help avoid unnecessary confusion. IMEI and ICCID are two such numbers, and this post aims to simplify them once and for all.

IMEI is the identifier for the phone

IMEI or International Mobile Equipment Identity is a number assigned to every cellular device, no matter if it’s a cell phone, 3G/4G dongle, Mobile Broadband router or an IoT device. It is a fifteen (15) digit number unique to each device, so no two devices can have the same IMEI number. IMEI number is assigned to cellular devices by the device manufacturer, and this number cannot be modified by anyone other than the device manufacturer. The IMEI number stays with the device for as long as the device exists. Changing the IMEI number is called ‘unblocking’ and is a criminal offence under UK laws. IMEI number is assigned to the SIM compartment for each cellular device, so if you have a dual-SIM phone, the phone will have two IMEI numbers, one for each SIM compartment. IMEI number is not for the SIM card but the compartment inside the phone where the SIM is placed. The easiest and quickest way to find the IMEI number is by typing *#06# in your phone’s dial pad. Typing this code opens up a new screen on the phone displaying the IMEI number. Now it may not be easy for everyone to memorise this code, so there are also other ways of locating the IMEI number. Generally, you go into your phone settings and find the “About” or “About Phone” or other similar options. In an iPhone, you can go to “Settings”, then “General”, then “About” to find the IMEI number. In Android phones, it depends on the phone manufacturer but usually, if you go to “Settings” and “About Phone”, you should be able to locate your IMEI number. For more visual help, please look at this dedicated post on how to find the IMEI number. If you want to learn more, you can also check out our detailed post on IMEI numbers.

checking imei number
The code to find the IMEI number.

ICCID is the identifier for the SIM

ICCID stands for Integrated Circuit Card Identifier, and it is an identification number for your SIM that is unique to the chip of your SIM card. Have a look at the picture below that shows what a chip looks like. A SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) is essentially a circuit board, and the ICCID is the identification number for that circuit-board. ICCID is not your phone number but just a permanent ID that is assigned to the SIM card. The SIM card does not have to be a physical/plastic SIM, but it can also be an eSIM (embedded SIM). ICCID number is usually a 19 or 20 digit number stored in a SIM and printed on the back of the physical SIM cards for easy viewing. To read the ICCID number directly from the SIM on an iPhone, you generally go to “Settings”, then “General”, then “About”. On Andriod phones, it may depend on the phone manufacturer, but if you go to “Settings”, then “About Phone”, you should be able to locate it there. Since ICCID is unique to each SIM, if you have a dual-SIM phone, you will need to find the ICCID number for each SIM individually.

SIM card
The shiny golden/bronze chip on your SIM card

Conclusion

IMEI stands for International Mobile Equipment Identity, and it is a unique 15 digit number assigned to every SIM-enabled cellular device. IMEI number is created for each SIM compartment in a device, meaning a dual-SIM phone will have two IMEI numbers. ICCID stands for Integrated Circuit Card Identifier, and it is usually a 19 or 20 digit number that is unique to each SIM card.

Here are some helpful downloads

Thank you for reading this post, I hope it helped you in developing a better understanding of cellular networks. Sometimes, we need some extra support especially when preparing for a new job, or studying a new topic, or maybe just buying a new phone. Whatever you are trying to do, here are some downloads that can help you:

Students & fresh graduates: If you are just starting, the complexity of the cellular industry can be a bit overwhelming. But don’t worry, I have created this FREE ebook so you can familiarise yourself with the basics like 3G, 4G etc. As a next step, check out the latest edition of the same ebook with more details on 4G & 5G networks with diagrams. You can then read Mobile Networks Made Easy which explains the network nodes e.g. BTS, MSC, GGSN etc.

Professionals: If you are an experienced professional but new to mobile communications, it may seem hard to compete with someone who has a decade of experience in the cellular industry. But not everyone who works in this industry is always up to date on the bigger picture and the challenges considering how quickly the industry evolves. The bigger picture comes from experience which is why I’ve carefully put together a few slides to get you started in no time. So if work in sales, marketing, product, project or any other area of business where you need a high-level view, Introduction to Mobile Communications can give you a quick start. Also, here are some templates to help you prepare your own slides on product overview and product roadmap.

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