The plight of the unrecognized IMEI

My parents arrived back from overseas with the international version of the Samsung S20. What we expected to be a simple process of going to ATT and activating the phones turned onto a 2 week long ordeal.

What I’ve learned since is each phone has an IMEI number which is a unique number used to identify a phone. Carriers upon activation, input the phones IMEI number into the system to try and recognize it. At times though, this number may not be recognized by the carrier and will show up as an unknown phone in their system. Since it’s seen as unknown device, call and texting may work but no data will connections are accessible.

After a couple phone calls with the support team trying different configurations I found online in the ATT forums (thanks bingoogle) others that had encountered the same issue. The fix/workaround ended up being using another phone that I owned IMEI number that was 4G compatible and using that in the ATT system instead and after a reboot it started working. If you don’t have a spare phone lying around a purchase of any cheap 4g or 5g phone should get you unblocked… Cheaper than buying a new carrier branded phone.

While I understand the need to track possible compromised or stolen phones, as a consumer it seems strange that just due to an IMEI that is not recognized by the carrier it fails to properly connect. While we were told the phones “may” not be compatible with the ATT network, clearly they are if we fake the IMEI number in the system and they instantly connect.

All in all hope, this may help others in the future to avoid a two weeks of calls and escalations.