Apple Plans to Switch to Randomized Serial Numbers for Future Products Starting in Late 2020

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. Apple says all serial numbers that exist before the change is made will remain the same.


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.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)

3 weeks ago
Then technically it's not a serial number anymore. Serial numbers are in series.

But whatever. It's irrelevant to the concept.
Rating: 27 Votes
3 weeks ago
Please emojify my serial number !!

/s
Rating: 21 Votes
3 weeks 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.
Rating: 17 Votes
3 weeks 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.
Rating: 15 Votes
3 weeks ago
Anything to reduce fraud is appreciated.
Rating: 12 Votes
3 weeks 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.
Rating: 11 Votes
3 weeks ago
Worked at the Genius Bar from 2007-2014, even back then, we found plenty of shady iPhone customers "playing games" with the serial numbers to try and get warranty swaps.
Rating: 9 Votes
3 weeks ago

Sure, if you're only reading off one device once in a while - but when you're processing machines frequently, as an IT professional often needs to, it just adds more time to each item.

It's also fairly common when I have to enter an office building or other facility where somebody at a security (or "security") desk inventories all entering and exiting laptops by serial number. Owners of laptops with easy-to-find and easy-to-read serial numbers breeze right through both ways. The few brave (foolish?) Mac owners like me have a much, much tougher time. Me: "There's the serial number in teeny, tiny print. See?" No, the security officer doesn't see it. Virtually nobody does, not without a magnifying glass. Of course there's no magnifying glass or it cannot be found, and then "hilarity" ensues at the security desk.

Or I suppose I could power up my Mac (if not already powered up), unlock my Mac, go to the Apple menu, select "About This Mac," and show the security officer the on screen serial number. And I could do all that in the "alien" place with recording cameras everywhere, with some unknown security officer ready to grab my laptop? No thanks.

Come on, Apple! This class of problems is easy to fix. Just make the damn serial number human readable.

And how about including the 5 character device model identifier (e.g. A2346) as part of the serial number, for example:

A2346 XW9 E32 6CHY

and, as I've done above, including spaces to make the serial number easier to read? Humans tend to do better processing "words," as the face of every credit card (including the Apple Card) indicates. Look at the difference here:

A2346XW9E326CHY

It's much easier to read off the serial number when it contains spaces like that. The spaces can be optionally entered but are ignored in Apple serial number input fields and in the check digit algorithm.
Rating: 9 Votes
3 weeks ago
Seems like this is going to create more problems than it solves. The T2 chip job, among others, is security and prevent fraudulent Macs from hitting the market. Serial numbers are a handy way to track date/lot codes - so if they happen to get a bad lot of components (microprocessors, capacitors, bad resistors, etc) that exhibit premature failures over time - you can do a partial recall based on Serial Numbers. The Automotive Industry does this all the time with VINs.

I don't see how randomized Serial Numbers will do anything to either help, or prevent fake Mac's from making it into the marketplace.
Rating: 4 Votes
3 weeks ago


Please emojify my serial number !!

/s

Hey everyone, my Mac's serial number is ?????????????. Quite unique!
Rating: 4 Votes

[ Read All Comments ]