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.


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

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11 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: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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11 months ago
Please emojify my serial number !!

/s
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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11 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)
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11 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: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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11 months ago
Anything to reduce fraud is appreciated.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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11 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)

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