How to Tell if a Number Is a Cell Phone or a Landline

Use these free phone validators and reverse lookup services

Ever wonder if the number you’re about to dial will connect you to a cell phone or a landline? Some countries assign cell phones with unique prefixes, but in North America, a prefix can designate a cell number or a landline.

When you factor in the fact that we can transfer cell phone numbers to new phone services, it becomes nearly impossible to tell if a number is a landline or cell phone number. However, there are some ways to figure it out.

Person using a smartphone with a house with a landline
Evan Polenghi / Lifewire 

Phone Number Validator

One of the easiest ways to check if a phone number is from a mobile or landline is to use a phone number validator. These tools are routinely used to check if a phone number is valid. Plus, some phone number validators will send a live ping to the number to ensure that the number is in service.

Besides confirming that a number is real, the phone number validator also provides additional details, including whether the number is for a wireless (mobile) or landline service.

The phone number validator performs this task by querying the LRN (Location Routing Number) database. Every phone company makes use of an LRN database that instructs the telephone company how to route a call and which switches to use to send the call to the proper destination. The LRN database also includes information that distinguishes the line type (mobile or landline) and which LEC (Local Exchange Carrier) owns the number.

Phone number validators usually offer their services for a fee, selling lookups in large batches to those who need to verify large quantities of phone numbers. Luckily, many of these services offer a limited version of their validators that allow you to check a single number at a time for free. Some of the best-known free phone validators include TextMagic, Phone Validator, and Validito:

Reverse Phone Number Lookup

If you prefer not to use a phone number validator, try using a free reverse lookup service. Once a special service provided only by the phone companies, reverse lookups are now available from many websites. This is where the phone number is used to look up information such as the name and address of the owner of the phone number.

Most reverse lookup websites include information about the number type (cell or landline) as part of a free package of information and then charge to reveal additional data. Since you’re only looking to discover whether the number is for a mobile phone or an old-fashioned landline, a free service like Whitepages or Spokeo is sufficient.

Google also makes use of its standard search service to return basic information about a phone number entered. It can be hit or miss, but it will usually provide the information without you having to click through search results.

Use a Caller ID App

The last suggestion is to use a caller ID app on your smartphone. Most caller ID apps for iPhone or Android phones will include the phone number type as part of the information displayed for any incoming call. In addition, some caller ID apps allow you to enter a phone number manually, so you’re not limited to looking up numbers that have called you. Some of our favorite caller ID apps for smartphones include TrueCaller and CIA APP.

  • Is a cell phone or landline better in a hurricane?

    A landline is the most dependable form of communication during bad weather. Cell towers and internet connections often lose power during storms. If you lose power, a landline will still work.

  • Can 911 operators tell if a call is from a landline or cell phone?

    Yes. The caller's address automatically displays on the 911 dispatch screen if it's a landline call. However, if the call is from a cellphone, the dispatcher's PC must request the cellphone's location. The data exchange can take up to a few minutes, and sometimes no location shows.  

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