Launched with the purple iPhone 12, and Apple’s random serial number

The purple iPhone 12 at Apple's "Spring Festival Gala" conference is not just a simple change of color.

Regardless of the sales, popularity, and seasonality brought by the "purple", the newly launched iPhone 12 also hides a trend in Apple products and uses a "random" serial number instead. If the push upgrade of iOS 14.5 is related to our "privacy", then Apple's change is aimed at the "privacy" of iPhone, iPad, and Mac products.

▲ SN code on MacBook Pro. Picture from: Macrumors

The reason why "random" is quoted is that, strictly speaking, this new and disordered serial number is random and meaningless to us at this stage. As for Apple, it may not necessarily be Randomly, maybe it's just an encryption algorithm that hides the production information.

In fact, Apple has long wanted to enable "random" serial numbers in 2020, most likely when the iPhone 12 series was released, but the original plan was affected by the epidemic, and it was delayed until March of this year.

Before the release and launch of the purple iPhone 12, Apple sent an internal email to the Apple Care department to remind it to prepare for the transition of serial number changes. At the same time, it also stated that the new serial number would "eliminate" manufacturing information.

Changing the serial number naming rules will actually have a lot of impact on different foundries, sales channels, and inventory systems. The "random" serial number policy is not unexpected, and will gradually be extended to iPad, Mac and even accessories.

What is the purpose of such a costly change by Apple, and what impact will it have on us?

The "secret" hidden in the serial number of Apple products

Broadly speaking, the "serial number" on the iPhone refers to the IMEI code and Serial No. (hereinafter referred to as the SN code).

The IMEI code is the abbreviation of the International Mobile Equipment Identity. It is more commonly heard as "mobile phone serial code", "mobile phone serial number", etc., which are unique. It is suitable for satellite phones of GSM, WCDMA, and LTE standards. It can be simply understood as "the ID card of the mobile phone industry."

The SN code, translated into a serial number, which is often referred to as "serial number", is also the protagonist of Apple's change of "rules". Unlike the IMEI code, the SN code is for all products and refers to the unique identifier assigned to the product, which is also unique. But it is not just a string of numbers, but basically consists of a string of strings (including numbers, letters or symbols).

The SN code on Apple products can be queried in "Settings", SIM card slot, iTunes (Visit) and packaging. The official website has more detailed query methods, so I won't go into details here.

▲ Picture from: alphr.com

In the past, the SN code of iPhone or Apple products contained a series of "manufacturing information". A simple query and comparison can confirm its origin, production line, year, production week, iPhone model, color, and capacity. .

  • The first character indicates the place of origin;
  • The second and third digits represent the production line;
  • The fourth digit represents the year of production;
  • The fifth digit represents the number of production weeks;
  • Six to eight digits are the unique identification code of the product, which belongs to Apple’s internal logo;
  • The ninth and tenth digits represent the iPhone model, and the last two digits record iPhone color and capacity information.

Take this "old age" iPhone X in my hand as an example. Its SN code is F**VLD1CJCLF, with a total of 10 digits. It can be read from it that it comes from Zhengzhou Foxconn (F) and was produced in the 17th week of the second half of 2017 (approximately October 21-27) (VL), D1C refers to the product identifier of iPhone X, and JC refers to iPhone X The model number, and LF is the color and memory information.

▲ iPhone X. Picture from: cnet

The "random" serial number used by the latest purple iPhone 12 will be 8 to 14 digits in length. It is also a string of mixed letters and numbers, such as T2KGWCD7RN. According to previous experience, this string of characters is meaningless and comes from No foundry is known.

The plaintext suddenly became a "password".

What are the consequences after it is made public

As the SN code of the iPhone is unique, one code is one device, and the SN code can be used to check the warranty status of the device on the official website. It is precisely because of the function of this layer that the SN code of the iPhone is also a relatively private information, which is not suitable for public sharing.

In the early days, the SN code of iPhone or the SN code of Apple products could be queried through Apple's system to find the Apple ID, and then some methods were used to crack the password to achieve the purpose of account theft. Only after iOS 10, Apple blocked this loophole, and the SN code can only view the "warranty status" at present.

▲ Picture from: ifixit

In addition, regarding Apple's SN code, there are still rumors in the world that the SN code will be used for "black production." Use software to overwrite the normal SN code on the phone in question, and then "cheat" Apple to replace the phone after sales. After success, the original SN code will be cancelled by Apple, which will affect the original owner's warranty and normal use.

From the current point of view, the credibility of this kind of "black production" is actually not high. If the software is modified, it is easy to be detected. Reset it or compare it with the SN code on the fuselage. To deceive Apple for after-sales replacement, there is something "fantasy". The SN code is a simple detection tool, but it is not the only warranty certificate. Apple will not only use the SN code for after-sales warranty.

Regarding the impact of the SN code leak, there have been a lot of discussions in the Apple Chinese community, but the results are all "It doesn't matter", "It doesn't matter", "Does not affect" and so on. Apple's SN code (serial number) is printed on the outside of the product packaging, which is almost "open and transparent". (The SN code of the purple iPhone 12 disclosed above was disclosed when a YouTuber opened the box.)

On the contrary, in the discussion posts of this question, many respondents have been emphasizing the need to protect Apple ID and enable two-factor authentication. After all, Apple ID is the most important encryption pass in the Apple ecosystem.

Is the new serial number really "random"?

For Apple, the SN code of the product can be used for product quality control, production capacity, production line management, and corresponding inventory management. In the global factory environment, iPhone parts often come from different factories around the world. Through a string of characters rich in hardware production information, it is easy to connect its parts suppliers in series, which facilitates rapid traceability and management.

If a completely "random" SN code is used, products of different production lines, production cycles, and foundries are easily confused. A large, disorderly, and meaningless bunch of strings will undoubtedly be difficult for inventory management and distribution channels. It is a "disaster". Even Apple, which has extensive experience in supply chain, inventory management, and product quality management, is still a huge challenge.

In addition, the current database of Apple’s entire after-sales system will also have a great impact, especially for the two policies of Apple Care and "Trade-in". The influx of disordered SN codes may require re-matching and corresponding work. The task is arduous.

Perhaps, for the SN code, for "random", Apple has other ideas?

The "random" serial number used by Apple on the purple iPhone 12 is actually more like an encrypted string. Each serial number is encrypted before it leaves the factory and finally presented to the world.

In this way, this seemingly meaningless string of 8 to 14 digits will only make sense to Apple. Add a layer of decryption algorithm to the original supply and after-sales system to seamlessly switch. And this set of algorithms can be constantly changed, and different foundries can also use different algorithms to avoid algorithm leakage.

What is the purpose of "random"?

Since the SN code of the iPhone, or the serial number of Apple products, even if it is leaked, it will not bring any risk (provided that you protect your Apple ID), what is the purpose of laying out a "random" SN code in advance ?

As we all know, Apple’s products, taking the iPhone as an example, have many internal components from different supply chains. This also causes the same model of iPhone to be equipped with components of different “brands”, such as mixed screens and mixed basebands. class.

▲ iPhone 12 family. Picture from: GSMArena

And the manufacturing information that can be clearly shown on the serial number can in turn infer which components are used in which foundry and which production cycle, so that it can be "selected" at the sales end.

Recently, it has been rumored that BOE BOE is very likely to become the supplier of the iPhone 13 screen. Given that BOE’s technical reserves still have a certain gap compared with Samsung, after mixed use, it is likely to cause a large-scale pre-sales "pick-up" situation, so many Macrumors are enthusiastic. Netizens associate the use of "random" SN codes with the mixed use of BOE and Samsung screens.

I think this is a bit of over interpretation and malicious speculation. Apple has its own detection standards and can be mixed, indicating that the screens supplied by these two manufacturers have reached Apple's standards and can provide the same experience. If you encounter screen problems, it is actually more reliable to find an Apple after-sales service.

▲ BOE is very likely to supply LTPO screens for iPhone 13. Picture from: The Verge

The use of random SN codes to hide hardware information and manufacturing information is actually to put an end to the "scalper" malicious hype, raising the price, scarcity, etc. of a certain supplier's components, causing market chaos and profiting from it.

In addition, Apple's SN code, or the SN code of many consumer products, can roughly estimate the "yield."

▲ Tesla's VIN code.

For example, before delivery, Tesla will deliver the 17-digit VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) code of the vehicle to the user in advance. It is similar to the serial number of the iPhone and will include the manufacturer, age, model, and engine of the vehicle. Code and assembly location and other information. The last 6-digit VIN code is actually the serial number of the model, which may be related to the output.

▲ In 1943, the German Leopard tank was loaded and transported to the front line.

Earlier, there was a famous statistical problem of " German tanks " during World War II. To put it simply, the Allied forces have been trying to estimate the production speed and production volume of German tanks, so as to know the size of the German cavalry, so as to "know yourself and the enemy." The most fundamental data to complete this estimation model is the serial number of the destroyed Leopard tank, and after a lot of crossover data, the output of the accurate Leopard tank can be obtained.

Returning to Apple, in 2018, Apple stopped publishing specific iPhone sales figures. Since then, many analysts have analyzed iPhone trends and sales can only be estimated by some methods, and the serial number is a good one. Now in 2021, the use of "random" serial numbers may make the lives of these analysts more difficult.

Will it affect us?

Almost not big.

Whether it is a random SN code or a previously informative SN code, for ordinary consumers, it is nothing more than querying the warranty status.

For the second-hand market, many friends said that it may not be easy to distinguish the warranty status of the second mobile phone, whether it is locked (blacked or not), etc. The warranty status can still be checked through the official website. For the time being, there is no corresponding query method for the locked device. You can only wait for Apple to fully roll out the "random" SN code before going to see it.

In addition, the "pick-off" may be temporarily eliminated. After the corresponding information is not included, it is difficult to distinguish iPhones from different production lines and foundries in an inactive state. This can be regarded as a "barrier" and almost made one. "Blind Box".

Apple uses "random" serial numbers on its products. It is aimed at the secondary industry that was born. It better maintains its own product supply system and inventory management. At the same time, it also hides the possibility of estimated output. Very smart approach.

If the 2021 spring conference is used as a node, after that, both for individuals and for iPhones, "privacy" has been strengthened. The former is iOS 14.5, which makes advertising tracking transparent, while the latter may be "random". The implementation of serial numbers reduces product transparency. Both are actually "regulating" market behavior. The former is geared toward the software ecosystem, and the latter is geared toward industry hardware.

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