PSA: European and American versions of the Galaxy Note 3 are region locked

September 26, 2013
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samsung galaxy note 3 aa 46

[Update 2:20pm] Samsung Germany issued a statement on the issue clarifying how the locking works, and stating that users will be able to unlock their phones.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 went on sale yesterday in 58 countries from around the world, including in Europe and North America. But customers buying the device from abroad may be in for a nasty surprise.

The European and American versions of the Galaxy Note 3 appear to be region locked, meaning that they won’t work with SIMs from outside Europe or the Americas respectively.

In the UK, retailers Clove and Handtec put up the following warning on their websites:

This product is only compatible with a SIM–card issued from a mobile operator within UK/Europe (as defined EU/EEA, Switzerland and the following Non-EEA countries Albania, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (F.Y.R.O.M), Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino, Serbia and Vatican City.)

The same warning is displayed on stickers on the unlocked Galaxy Note 3 boxes sold in Europe.

note 3 europe region lock

American (North, South, and Central Americas and the Caribbean) models come with a similar sticker. Our review unit had this sticker:

SAmsung GAlaxy note 3 sim lock america (1) SAmsung GAlaxy note 3 sim lock america (2)

According to Ausdroid, models sold in Hong Kong don’t have a similar sticker.

What does region locking actually mean?

This restriction means that the Galaxy Note 3 isn’t actually “unlocked”, at least not in the common acceptation of the word. You can’t use an American SIM card on a European Galaxy Note 3, and vice versa. Moreover, if you travel outside Europe or the Americas, you will have to use your home SIM and possibly incur roaming costs, because using a local SIM won’t be an option.

Buying a Galaxy Note 3 from outside your region is also problematic now, as you might not be able to use it on your local networks. For this reason, Clove UK is no longer shipping the Galaxy Note 3 outside the European Union and a few other European countries.

It’s not clear yet if the region lock is achieved through a software or hardware measure. It’s possible that developers will eventually find methods of circumventing the restriction, just like there are methods for beating carrier locks. Also unclear is the reason for having such a limitation in place.

We’ve reached out to Samsung for clarification on the issue and we’ll update this post when we receive an answer.

[Update 2:20pm] Samsung Germany issued a statement on the issue clarifying how the locking works, and stating that users will be able to unlock their phones.

Now Watch: Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Review

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