Getting to know the IMEI of your iPhone is a useful trick - and quite possibly essential, if you're unlocking your iPhone - but it became slightly more difficult a few years ago when Apple stopped printing the number on the back of its phones.

But there are still several different ways to find the IMEI of an iPhone, and in this article we show the 6 simplest and most useful. You'll only need one, of course, so pick the method that's easiest for you.

If you need to track down your device's (similarly useful) UDID, read How to find an iPhone or iPad's UDID.

What's an IMEI, and what is it used for?

Every iPhone has a unique identifier code, known as an IMEI number. The letters stand for International Mobile Station Equipment Identity, and the number is used to identify each mobile phone.

The IMEI number is used by your mobile phone company to match the phone to the networks, so it can figure out who is making calls. It is also used to maintain a blacklist of stolen mobile phones. In the UK a database is publicly maintained by a charity so stolen phones cannot be moved from one network to another.

For our definition of IMEI and other tech terms, have a look at our Apple jargon buster.

Find your IMEI by dialling a code

You can retrieve the iPhone's IMEI number by dialling the code *#06# into the Phone app. Follow these steps:

  1. Open Phone app.
  2. Tap Keypad.
  3. As shown on the picture above, enter *#06# - you don't need to hit the green call button; it'll just register automatically.

The IMEI code will then appear on the screen.

How to find your iPhone's IMEI number: Dial code

Dialling a code is the most commonly described method of finding the IMEI number, but we don't think it's the best because you can't copy the number. Instead of being able to copy and paste the code you have to write it down - and it's long enough, at 15 digits, for this to be annoying.

Look on the back of the iPhone...

How to find your iPhone's IMEI number: Look on the back

The IMEI number used to be written on the back of every iPhone. If you've got an older model (iPhone 6 or earlier), flip the handset over and look for a long number at the end of the text (the bit starting with "Designed by Apple in California") and labelled IMEI. The IMEI text is incredibly small, though, so you may need a magnifying glass. And once again you'll need to write it down manually.

One option is to photograph the code using another iPhone (or iPad). This will enable you to zoom into the text so you can see it more clearly.

Sadly Apple stopped etching the IMEI on the back of its phones when the iPhone 6s came out. If you've got a 6s or 6s Plus, you'll find that only the model number, FCC ID and IC are listed, and later handsets have even less; the iPhone XS, for example, says "Designed by Apple in California" and "Assembled in China" and nothing else.

How to find iPhone IMEI: iPhone XS back

This means you'll need to look somewhere else.

...or on the bottom of the SIM tray

If Apple hasn't etched the IMEI on the back of the phone, you can check the SIM tray.

Get out your SIM removal tool (the metal spike that came with the iPhone), poke it into the little hole on the righthand edge of the iPhone and remove the SIM tray, carefully take out the SIM card and turn the tray over. The IMEI will be written on the underside of the tray, rather small.

How to find your iPhone's IMEI number: SIM tray

Once again, you'll obviously need to write it down laboriously by hand, and again, it's written very small. Let's find a method that's easier on the eyes.

Use iOS Settings

The IMEI number is also located in the iPhone's Settings app. Using Settings is probably the best option because it enables you to copy and paste the number. Follow these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap General > About.
  3. Scroll down to locate the IMEI number (look for a group of numbers headed Primary).
  4. Tap and hold the IMEI number to bring up a Copy bubble.
  5. Tap Copy.

Now you can paste the IMEI code into another app, such as Notes.

How to find iPhone IMEI number: iOS Settings

How to find the IMEI if your phone is lost or stolen

When we first published this article, Kirk McElhearn, an iTunes expert who writes for Macworld in the US, responded by pointing out a final scenario that we missed: what about if you haven't got the iPhone any more, and therefore can't look at the back, can't dial the code and so on? After all, one of the principal situations in which an IMEI is needed is when you're reporting the theft of the device.

Fortunately, as Kirk points out, it's still easy to find the IMEI number of an absent iPhone, provided you've backed it up in iTunes. All you need to do is open iTunes and go to Preferences, then select the Devices tab (second from the right).

You'll see a list of device backups. Hold your cursor over one of the backups that relate to the iPhone that's lost, and you'll see various details including IMEI.

How to find IMEI number if your iPhone has been lost or stolen

Our thanks to Kirk for pointing this out. For a longer description of the method, as well as lots more Mac-related writing, visit Kirk's website.