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How to ship cell phones and tablets (with contained lithium ion batteries)

  • Name
    Brennan Zelener

There's a correct way to ship cellphones, tablets, and laptops in bulk. We've seen what can happen when a wholesaler ships their devices without the proper markings -- it can lead to cancellation of a shipping account. We reviewed the IATA rules for shipping devices which contain lithium ion batteries and took a certification course. Read through for a synopsis that can save you time and money.

As a device wholesaler there are a few rules to follow to ensure that you're in compliance when shipping inventory to your customers. For the full details on all lithium ion battery shipments, you can (and should) read the guidance document from the IATA, or take a look at UPS' guide sheet. If you're a small to medium device wholesaler shipping 5-250lbs of phones per shipment, read on for what you need:

Shipping Ground

If you're shipping via a Ground-only service in the USA like UPS Ground or FedEx Ground, you'll need a Lithium Ion Battery Handling sticker on any box that has more than two batteries inside. You've probably seen this label before. Here's what it looks like: UN 3481 is the classification for "lithium ion batteries contained in equipment". This should cover a vast majority, if not all of your device shipments.

You can buy these labels customized with your own phone number here.

Shipping Air

For air shipments you'll need the same handling sticker as for Ground. This is all you'll need as long as there are less than 5kg of Lithium Ion Battery cells in the package.

If your shipment contains over 5kg/11lbs of batteries (batteries only, not including the device weight), you'll need a Cargo Aircraft Only sticker. Since it's not practical to calculate the weight of each battery in every device being shipped, we recommend using an estimate of 25% for phones and 40% for tablets - the idea being that each phone's battery is 25% of the phone's weight. At 25%, you can ship up to 20kgs/44lbs of phones without needing a Cargo Aircraft Only sticker.

Having a Cargo Aircraft Only sticker allows you to ship up to 35kgs/77lbs of batteries. Which, at 25% would be 140kgs/308lbs of phones. If you're shipping more than that in one package, please do your research at

You can buy these Cargo Aircraft Only stickers here.

Getting Certified

There are a number of online classes and certification programs available in different formats. I took this class from HazMax and liked their slideshow-style format which allows you to move through the material at your own pace.

If you're here because you've had any issues shipping your devices, taking a certification course is a good way to show your shipping carrier that you are committed to following regulations.

The stickers and guidelines above should suit most device wholesalers that are shipping in small to medium quantities. We recommend that you research further to make sure you are following the laws and regulations for your shipments. Visit for more details.

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