Apple Plans to Switch to Randomized Serial Numbers for Future Products Starting in 2021 [Updated]

In an internal memo shared with Apple Authorized Service Providers, Apple has indicated that it plans to update its serial number format to a randomized alphanumeric string for future products starting in late 2020 (update: Apple now says 2021). Apple says all serial numbers that exist before the change is made will remain the same.

macos catalina serial number
Apple already uses alphanumeric serial numbers, but it has long been possible to determine the date and location that a product was manufactured based on the current format. Readers would often use serial numbers to glean more information about their devices. The randomized format would likely not be decipherable, or at least hard to, and it could also help to reduce fraud.

The memo was published today and obtained by MacRumors from a reliable source. It is unclear if the change will apply worldwide.

Update: Apple has delayed this change until some point in 2021, according to an internal document viewed by MacRumors.

Top Rated Comments

lunarworks Avatar
32 months ago
Then technically it's not a serial number anymore. Serial numbers are in series.

But whatever. It's irrelevant to the concept.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
madmin Avatar
32 months ago
Please emojify my serial number !!

/s
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BBCWatcher Avatar
32 months ago
I like this idea overall, but Apple really ought to include some sort of check digit ('https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Check_digit') mechanism, and publish the formula they picked, so that it's possible to determine with high confidence whether a supplied Apple serial number could actually really be a genuine Apple serial number. (Only Apple would know for sure, of course.) There are all sorts of real world scenarios when businesses, governments, and other organizations need to take accurate inventories and when somebody transposes a digit or otherwise gets the serial number wrong. It'd be darn helpful if all these organizations could know, right away, when they've collected a serial number in their inventory taking that cannot possibly be a genuine Apple serial number.

Also, Apple ought to eliminate all characters from serial numbers that can be easily mistaken for other characters. This generally includes (as examples):

0, O, D, and (probably) Q
5 and S
1, 7, and I
8 and B
U and V

The choice of typeface can matter a lot here -- for example, to distinguish A from R -- but some easy-to-confuse characters ought to be dropped no matter what the typeface. This'll help even Apple's own support teams over the phone, etc., as they deal with consumers. There are still plenty of characters available to allow plenty of serial numbers for billions of products.

Finally (and now that Jony Ive has left!), don't be afraid to make serial numbers easier to read (in larger type) on devices. Apple has got typographic experts, so spend some effort making serial numbers easier to read within whatever (sometimes lame) aesthetic goals Apple is trying to achieve. IBM ThinkPads were pretty damn stylish, and they had big, easy to read serial numbers in easy to inventory places.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tennisproha Avatar
32 months ago
This would be a switch for the worse. Serial numbers are the only remaining useful tool in determining more info about a product, like chip type used, place or date of manufacture, etc. This makes it harder for consumers to get product information Apple hides.

I have yet to find examples of serial number being used for outright fraud.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Baymowe335 Avatar
32 months ago
Anything to reduce fraud is appreciated.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
guzhogi Avatar
32 months ago
I also wish they'd make the serial numbers bigger and easier to read. I work in IT, and it's a real pain to read the serial numbers off the bottom. Before anyone asks, checking About My Mac / Settings → General → About isn't possible if the device doesn't even start up. Maybe add a barcode version of it so I can use a barcode scanner.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

2022 back to school apple

Apple Launches 2022 Back to School Offer: Up to $150 Gift Card With Mac or iPad

Friday June 24, 2022 5:08 am PDT by
Apple today launched its annual "Back to School" promotion for college/university students in the United States and Canada. This year's promotion offers a free Apple gift card with the purchase of an eligible Mac or iPad, rather than free AirPods like last year. Apple is also offering students 20% off AppleCare+ plans during the promotion. Apple is offering a $150 gift card with the purchase ...
airpods pro 2 1

AirPods Pro 2 Said to Feature Upgraded H1 Chip, Find My, Heart Rate Detection, USB-C and More

Friday June 24, 2022 9:48 am PDT by
The next-generation AirPods Pro could come with a long list of new features that include heart rate detection, the ability to function as a hearing aid, and a USB-C port according to a report from 52Audio. The site claims that it has received new information on the AirPods Pro 2, and it has used that information to provide some renders on what the earbuds might look like. Design wise, there...
m2 mac mini screen feature

Gurman: Apple Planning M2 Pro Mac Mini, New Apple TV With A14 Chip, Revamped HomePod With S8 Chip, and More

Sunday June 26, 2022 6:31 am PDT by
In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter for Bloomberg, Mark Gurman outlined additional M2 Macs on Apple's product roadmap, including new Mac mini models with M2 and M2 Pro chips, new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with M2 Pro and M2 Max chips, and a new Mac Pro tower with M2 Ultra and "M2 Extreme" chips. Following the M2 series of Macs, Gurman said the first M3 series of...
apple ar headset concept 1

Apple Rumored to Announce 'Game-Changer' AR/VR Headset in January 2023

Friday June 24, 2022 2:52 am PDT by
Apple is "likely" to announce its long-rumored mixed-reality headset as soon as January 2023, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has reiterated. Concept render based on purported leaked information by Ian Zelbo In a detailed post on Medium, Kuo explained that Apple's headset will be a "game-changer" for the augmented-reality and virtual-reality market. Describing some of the headset's...
widgets ios 16 feature

Gurman: iPhone 14 Pro to Feature Always-On Display Showing iOS 16's New Lock Screen Widgets

Sunday June 26, 2022 7:36 am PDT by
iPhone 14 Pro models are widely expected to feature always-on displays that allow users to view glanceable information without having to tap to wake the screen. In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter for Bloomberg, Mark Gurman said the feature will include support for iOS 16's new Lock screen widgets for weather, fitness, and more. "Like the Apple Watch, the iPhone 14 Pro will be...