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Galaxy Note 3 region lock FAQ

Andy Vandervell

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Samsung Galaxy Note 3 region locked

Recent reports suggest Samsung has begun region locking its phones, such as the new Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and the flagship Samsung Galaxy S4. What does mean and how will it affect you? Our guide has the answers and will keep updating it as new information arrives.

Update 13:28 on 01/10

Since our last update, it appears as if there's still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the SIM unlock issue. Despite Samsung's official statement, reports suggest phones may still be locked to a single SIM and unable to use a regional SIM card. See the comments for updates from readers, and please post any information you come across. We're currently seeking a further update from Samsung.

Update 14:43 on 27/09

Samsung has now responded officially to the reports. The short version of the story is the lock only applies before the first activation. Once activated in the home region you can use SIMs from any region when travelling.

Samsung Statement

In order to provide customers with the optimal mobile experience in each region including customer care services, Samsung has incorporated the ‘regional SIM lock’ feature into Galaxy Note 3 devices.

The product is only compatible with a SIM-card issued from a mobile operator within the region identified on the sticker of the product package. When the device is activated with a SIM card issued from the other region, the device may be automatically locked until it is released at the dedicated service center.

Once a device is activated normally, the regional SIM lock is automatically released. Users can enjoy the roaming service as usual and can use other region’s SIM card when travelling.

The regional SIM lock has been applied to the Galaxy Note II and Galaxy S4 devices through a software update in selective markets.

The regional SIM lock does not affect the device’s features and performance. Users can continue to enjoy all the advanced features of our products.

What is a region lock?

In this case, the Galaxy Note 3 region lock means you cannot import phones from other countries. That's because you have to activate phones using a SIM from the country in which the phone was orginally sold.

Does that mean I can't use my phone abroad?

No, you can use your phone abroad and you can even use a local SIM when travelling, but only if you've already activated the phone in your home region.

Do any other phone brands region lock their phones?

So far as we are aware, no. It's normal for phones to be locked to a specific network when bought on a contract from a network provider. It's not typical for phones to be specifically region locked in this way.

Can the Samsung region lock be removed?

It is automatically removed provided you activate the phone first in the region it was bought. If, however, you import a phone and activate with a SIM not from the phone's region, it will be locked and must be unlocked by a dedicated service centre. Samsung makes no guarantees about doing this, however. It might also be possible to remove the lock by loading a custom ROM, but there's no confirmation of this at present.

Why is Samsung doing this?

At first it was perceived by some as a way of protecting network providers. With Samsung's statement, however, it's clear Samsung is only interested in restricting the 'grey market' of imports.

toboev

September 27, 2013, 2:07 pm

"Why is Samsung doing this?"
All of the reasons you suggest amount to one thing - they work directly against the interests of the customer. Once a company embraces that attitude it is on the way down - in the end the customer will come first.

andyvan

September 27, 2013, 2:18 pm

Since Samsung's response, it seems this is really about grey imports. At least, that's my interpretation.

toboev

September 27, 2013, 3:19 pm

That at least is some comfort, and thank you for eliciting their response.

But even the whole 'grey' import thing is just a euphemism for old fashioned protectionism. I know they dress it up as safeguarding the hapless customer from the dangerous allure of a cheaper price, pedalled inevitably by some "grey" ne'er do well merchant who seeks only to rip customers off - with a cheaper price.

What it boils down to is Samsung wants to curry favour with its retail channels by protecting them from foreign competition. AKA Protectionism.

andyvan

September 27, 2013, 3:57 pm

I can't fault your logic there.

MikeX

September 27, 2013, 6:53 pm

Samsung are tasting like a rotten Apple these days!

chris

September 28, 2013, 2:22 am

don't buy Samsung, there are plenty choices out there... Hate being controlled how one uses one's own phone. It has been paid and bought for, not being subsidised by a network or Samsung, by oneself. As long as I concern, Samsung can F off.

kaurisol

September 28, 2013, 12:53 pm

Well that's me no longer buying Samsung until they stop this nonsense...

markc1728

September 28, 2013, 1:54 pm

Before their response it seems Applesque. After their response it seems perfectly reasonable on their part. Trying to stop people buying phones in cheaper markets and selling them in other markets for a profit....reasonable policy. And good website practice to update the original article rather than create a new one. Thanks guys!

Cameron

September 28, 2013, 5:50 pm

The way am reading this is confusing me with all the hate for Samsung because of the region lock. Most people will be getting new phones from the phone networks (O2, Vodafone, EE, 3) so when you get your new Note 3 from them and activate your new sim card then your new Note 3 will be unlocked and be able to tale your new phone on holiday with you, then buy a local sim card when your there.

So whats the problem?

Harry B

September 28, 2013, 8:12 pm

What does Samsung's region lock mean to me? It means I will never again buy a Samsung phone - that's what it means to me.

toboev

September 29, 2013, 9:08 pm

how is that reasonable? Why do we just accept the line that "thou shalt not buy the same product from the same manufacturer in a different region to thine own"?

Was region coding on DVDs a done in the interests of the customer? This is no different, it is just another ploy to give more pricing power to the manufacturer at the expense of the consumer.

toboev

September 29, 2013, 9:14 pm

The problem is that by reducing market competition the price can be maintained at a slightly higher level. Even if you are buying from a UK network, the fact that there is reduced competition from whatever source (so called 'grey' markets in this case) just gives them a little more comfort in their own pricing. You pay for that.

weed

September 30, 2013, 10:48 am

Reports keep coming that lots of people can't use other region SIM even after activating the phone with a regional SIM. Either all these people are lying or Samsung is holding back info. Is a blacklist or whitelist still maintained after initial activation?

andyvan

September 30, 2013, 12:37 pm

Well that's interesting. Difficult to verify without a bit more investigation, though.

Pg

September 30, 2013, 1:11 pm

So you are happy that Samsung makes you pay more for a device that they are happy to sell somewhere else at a cheaper price? It's the same device, there's no difference. Instead, you are paying extra to offset the cheaper price in another region, penalising you.

As far as I'm concerned, no thank you.

toboev

September 30, 2013, 6:19 pm

Would be good if you could bring the Trusted Review truth detector to bear down on this one. Lots of reports eg in Amazon reviews etc about the region lock NOT being released after first activation with a local SIM.

bubblesmoney

September 30, 2013, 6:19 pm

One would expect trusted reviews to actually do some research themselves rather than just print what Samsung tells. Have they even verified whether the unlock works as claimed by Samsung. This could very well have been a paid advertisement by Samsung as there isn't much journalism here. Had this tech author even bothered to cast a cursory eye on XDA forums where many people have confirmed unlock procedure does not work as claimed by Samsung. Official Samsung Mobile twitter channel have replied to me that other Sims will not work. Look for the reply on my twitter channel c called bubblesmoney. Also see loads more reports and links on my amazon reviews which show that the unlock does not work as claimed by Samsung. http://www.amazon.co.uk/review...

bubblesmoney

September 30, 2013, 7:05 pm

See video proof of region lock proving what Samsung states via this post is wrong https://www.youtube.com/watch?...

andyvan

September 30, 2013, 8:30 pm

I have seen similar reports, too. Will keep looking into it.

andyvan

October 1, 2013, 8:51 am

This is an ongoing story we will update once we've gathered all the facts. As you suggest, there's a growing body of evidence that the lock doesn't work as Samsung suggests. When Samsung sent us this statement we had no reason to believe it was lying, and most of the further evidence that has appeared in recent days didn't exist.

bubblesmoney

October 1, 2013, 9:42 am

i will keep updating the links in my amazon review comments for more evidence of the region lock blocking people using their phone during international travel for local sim forcing them to use costly roaming charges.

here are some more links in case you plan on writing an updated article. looks like that are planning on blocking all old phones sold already with the kitkat update (many models including s4, s3, note 3, note3, mini models etc), see links

EU model activated with german sim does not work with thai card http://forum.xda-developers.co...

EU model activated with netherland sim later does not work with thai sim http://forum.xda-developers.co...

forthcoming kikat update will block all existing samsung phones sold already for many models!!!! http://forum.xda-developers.co...

EU model activated with swedish sim does not work with thai sim but later russian unlocking site sells unlock code for 25$ supposedly and it works and later flashed with rooted rom and it works in thailand http://forum.xda-developers.co...

EU model bought and activated in UK later does not work with egypt sim during vacation forcing costly roaming charges http://forum.xda-developers.co...

EU model bought and activated in germany does not work with thai sim in thailand during travel http://forum.xda-developers.co...

reasons for concerns for users why it will be very costly in futurer for any samsung customer that travels on holidays abroad http://forum.xda-developers.co...

andyvan

October 1, 2013, 10:06 am

Well thanks for the all the links! I'm currently seeking some 'official' clarification from Samsung, but we'll be updating this later today.

Bolo

October 1, 2013, 10:42 am

Totaly BS this unlocking via first using regional card is not working.

I make chat today with Samsung Poland and they told me my Samsung S4 will accept only european sim cards and is not possible to deactiavate this lock.

http://i.imgur.com/CJn0mpz.jpg

I am today on way to Thailand via Dubai and try prepayd card from Dubai and TrueMove from Tailand on both cards I have question about unlocking code for this sim card. First card was used Orange Poland card in this S4 phone.

Guest

October 1, 2013, 10:43 am

I have third hand experience of this. One of my friends, a British
citizen, bought a Note 3 from the Samsung Store at the launch event in
London last week. He activated the phone with the guy in the store (who
made no mention of this region lock) using his UK Three sim card and
everything was fine. I saw the phone and it looked lovely and worked
perfectly.

Then on Saturday, he travelled to Hong Kong on business, as he often
does, and put his HK sim card in the phone. It wouldn't work and
required a password. He messaged me yesterday to tell me about it and up
to that point was completely unaware that the device was region locked
and isn't the sort of chap to go out of his way to look up news about
Android devices anyway; he just wants a phone that works as a business
device 'out of the box' (his words).

Now the issue is, he is out in HK for a month with a brick in his
suitcase that he can't use and no way for his clients and colleagues in
HK to contact him unless he either buys a local phone and puts his sim
in it, or pays for the extortionate roaming charges from the UK. To say
he is annoyed would be an understatement. He will be returning the
device to the store when he gets back to the country and claim that the
device was sold under false pretences (i'm sure he can work out exactly
what to say).

He had a few Samsung devices, which is why he went for the Note 3,
but now he wants to divest himself of all of them following the news
that this region lock will be rolled out to more than just the Note 3 in
an update.

This has also stopped me from buying one too as I was going to
replace my old SGS2 with it as, like him, I frequently travel abroad for
protracted period on business. I hope Samsung burn for this.

bubblesmoney

October 1, 2013, 10:46 am

video proof of region lock not being unlocked even after 'activation with local sim in country the phone is bought in https://www.youtube.com/watch?...

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