How to Tell If a Number Is a Cell Phone

Use these free phone validators and reverse lookup services

Smartphone and desk telephone
Was that call made from a landline or cell phone?.  CCO

Ever wonder if the number you’re about to dial will connect you to a cell phone or a landline? In some countries, cell phones are assigned unique prefixes, but in North America any prefix will do, making it difficult to tell a cell number from a landline number. Add in the ability to port phone numbers to new phone services, and it’s impossible to tell if it’s a landline or cell phone just by looking at the number.

Of course, the phone company has to know; after all, it needs to route the phone call to the appropriate destination. Sending a cell number through a landline exchange isn’t going to make a connection. Likewise, that landline number being directed to a cell service is just going to slow the communication system down.

Phone Number Validator

One of the easiest ways to check if a phone number is for a mobile or landline is to use a phone number validator. These tools are routinely used to check if a phone number entered is valid. Some phone number validators will send a live “ping” to the number to ensure the number is actually 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 cell) 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 telco how to actually route a call, and which switches to use to send the call to the proper destination. The LRN database includes information that distinguishes the line type (mobile or landline), as well as 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:

Reverse Phone Number Lookup

There’s more than one way to find out if a phone number belongs to a mobile phone or a landline. If phone number validators aren’t your cup of tea, you can try a reverse lookup. Once a special service provided only by the phone companies, a reverse lookup, where the phone number is used to look up information such as the name and address of the holder of the phone number, is now available from many websites.

Most of the reverse lookup websites include information about the number type (cell or landline) as part of the basic 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, the free service is sufficient.

Some well-known reverse lookup websites include:

The last entry above makes use of Google’s standard search service to return basic information about a phone number entered. It’s a bit hit or miss, but will usually provide the information without having to click through search results.

Use an App

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

Some of our favorite caller ID apps for smartphones include:

  • Truecaller: Available for Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone.
  • CIA APP: Available for Android and iPhone.
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