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

by: Bogdan PetrovanSeptember 26, 2013

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:

[quote qtext=”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.)” qperson=”” qsource=”” qposition=”center”]

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

  • mobilemann

    i bought mine unlocked, from at&t and specifically asked their agent about this. I really hope it’s actually unlocked for when i go to Europe in november.

    • Luc Feenstra

      Was there a sticker on your box?

      • mobilemann

        It’s on pre-order. att ships next week.

        • Luc Feenstra

          Ah right, my bad. Not looking too good for the American version either though as they have started showing up with stickers as well. Make sure to check before you open the box..

          • mobilemann

            Yeah, I’ll be pissed off about that though just because I’m paying the unlocked price

          • mobilemann

            This bothered me enough to actually call AT&T, i asked them what i was getting considering i was paying the unlocked price. They promised me over the phone it would be unlocked and it wouldn’t further my contract.

            here’s hoping it wasn’t just to get me off the phone.

    • Q.

      I thought you were an iBoy, what happened? I remember having an argument with you a few months ago.

      • mobilemann

        you probably just saw me correcting some kid mouthing off about what he doesn’t know about:D

        I still use ipads, (it’s still further down the road in terms of mature apps) but i haven’t used iphones in a while. But even when arguing with you i was on my SG3 (i747). I rock CM10.2. I’m not a fan of anything, apart from technology:D

        I try to tell people, but if they see you say anything besides “hurr durr apple blows” you get labeled here.

        also, if i just used apple products i wouldn’t comment here lol.

        (i also own a gs2, gnex, sg3, touchpad, a100, n7, as well as a 4s, 5, ipad mini)

  • Blowntoaster

    wonder if this is a carrier/network thing…which it can’t be if other phones are unlocked/able…

    Hope the ones coming my way are unlocked, or I’ll pass on a Note 3.
    I hate restrictions.

  • SamerKurdi

    That’s just B.S. I frequently travel to the US from the Middle East and slot in an AT&T sim card when I’m there. This is just annoying, unnecessary. I might have to look into that phablet version of the HTC One that I heard is coming after all.

    • mobilemann

      i just spoke with at&t on the phone, and they told me mine (paid full price though) was completely unlocked.

  • Dimitar Gospodinov

    this is so [email protected] GAAAAY…I can’t beleve this is actually happening…

  • cAdvent

    Fuck me, gonna have to return the phone… And fuck Samsung for not making this known before.

    • Luc Feenstra

      Same, returned mine already.

    • Deano

      .. and mine :( Samsung’s about to hear the wrath of a lot of angry people and they’ve just face-palmed their (previously) loyal business customers. Makes no sense, and I’m so pissed.

    • Roberto Tomás

      it does suck, but I think you’re screwed anyway with 4g lte. just switching sims won’t help if you are travelling from the us to a good part of europe (although maybe a part is compatible). it won’t help if you are travelling to asia. the underlying physical antennas are already region locked, or very nearly. it basically doesnt matter.

      • Frank

        You seem not to remember that LTE is not the only freq.

      • jrb

        are you suggesting it can’t swap to 3g or lesser networks? Really?

        • Roberto Tomás

          if you have a plan in a foreign country, and that plan has a 4g/3g network (not all of them do, outside of the usa), then iPhones probably can swap.
          Motorola I know is explicitly region locked — but this is in software and you can root the phone and get around it. the word is still out about how Samsung implemented it.

  • TreeFella

    Is this just a 4G spectrum thing?

    • Jacob

      I don’t think so. If couldn’t work on 4G it should fall back to 3G. That shouldn’t be a reason not to work.

    • Roberto Tomás

      I think it is. There are half a dozen different iPhones, each of which are region locked variations of the same phone. And Asia as a whole, and a good part of europe, use a different standard than the US.

      • Frank

        The iPhones are not region locked, be informed before talking.
        You can use them with whatever SIM you want, it’s just about the LTE freq available in a certain country that wouldn’t match the onse the phone supports, that’s it, you can still use the iphone on 3G.

        • Roberto Tomás

          there is a link up above directly to apple’s site about LTE, which specifically shows different region locked iPhones.

  • EvenInTheDarkestHour

    A curious restriction to place on a device aimed at the well healed and businessperson, both having a propensity for travel…

  • APai

    WHY ? samsung WHY ?

  • Dan

    What about the Asian/SKorean version? *crosses fingers*

    • Roberto Tomás

      that region uses td-lte, and wouldn’t be compatible anyway.

      • Frank

        Once again LTE is not the only freq, you can use 3G, which would leave you able to use any SIM.

        • Roberto Tomás

          4G LTE doesn’t fall back to 3G, 3G LTE and 3G LTE-A fall back to 3G. 4G LTE falls back to 4G.

          Besides who wants to use 3G, it’s slow like dialup.

          • weed

            Please stop, it’s hard to read your stupid wild claims, it’s all BS.

  • Q.

    This is very disappointing Samsung. The question is why do this?

  • derek

    Very consumer unfriendly. Phones 4u and carphone warehouse selling sim free but regionally locked.

    Apparently if you take your “unlocked” phone into a Samsung service centre and pay a fee they might regionally unlock it. What a hassle! No idea what fee is as Samsung rep could not tell me.

    Same happening with GS4 now apparently.

    • Luc Feenstra

      You sure about this unlocking at a Samsung service centre? They told me it couldn’t be unlocked :/

      • derek

        I was just in a Carphone Warehouse shop with a visiting Samsung training rep in it who knew nothing about regional locking. He double-checked with his tech team and received email back suggesting to get regional unlock that I would have to go to proper Samsung service centre with sim-free phone to get it regionally unlocked for a fee. Samsung rep suggested I go to main Oxford Street branch where in basement is such a service centre which might be able to do it!

  • Ruz

    Its foolish to do that since there are millions of people who travel abroad frequently and they would like to use the local sim in that region and not be forced to use home sim.. this is really unfair trade practice and bad decision by Samsung

  • gamercritics

    I’m surprised samsung started to use region lock.

    do they follow handheld&console gaming trend ?

    • The least samsung could have done was warn us before.

  • Bozo

    This is totally f-ing backwards in the 21st century. Epic fail Samsung.

    • This is the sign – end of the world.

      • Peter Yang

        No joke. Samsung is my favorite Android brand. This does feel end-of-the-world to me.

  • I bet carriers worldwide are lining Samsung’s pockets with cash in exchange for doing this. Basically what this means is that you can’t use a local SIM when you travel. You’re forced to keep your home SIM card in and pay your home carrier ridiculous international roaming rates, or buy an “international plan” from your home carrier that still rapes you, but just uses KY jelly before it does.

    I think carriers are becoming savvy to people who travel abroad and just buy local prepaid SIMs for use while they’re traveling. They realize they’re missing out on a big potential revenue stream.

    • Roberto Tomás

      it would be suicide for samsung to do this with their phones if no other provider was also affected the same way. the fact that it is locked probably has very limited impact.

  • This sucks for consumers, especially those who have long-term trips/stays in other countries. What a dumb move by Samsung, especially when it is very easy to SIM-swap on iPhone.

  • Random

    I have pre-ordered and received the phone at home already,
    but am in office and not seen it yet. I read your posts and have made a
    pre-emptive call to Samsung to clarify. Spoken with Samsung UK on 0330 726 7864.
    I have bought it supposedly unlocked from phones 4 u.

    The gentleman went away to check with colleagues and called
    me back, initially to explain that the phone would work in the UK with any
    network. I explained my concern is not UK or Europe it is further afield, as my
    work often could mean travel to US or Asia and staying for long periods, such
    as a month or more.

    He tried to explain that this is the any phone you buy will
    be locked for international sims, but I assured him this is not the case. I
    understand the differences in the bands used in different nations, but this
    phone is multi band and also has specification to work almost anywhere in the
    world. The fact that it is regionally blocked sim-wise is a decision not based
    on technological restrictions, but maybe commercial or political.

    He said you can use your UK sim-card anywhere under roaming.
    I said, well imagine my roaming bill if I were to spend a month in the US or
    Asia! He agreed it would be ridiculous.

    “If it is the case that it is regionally restricted and
    purposefully crippled by Samsung, I shall return the phone immediately when I
    get home. This is a major mistake you have made.”

    He went away again, and returned to confirm that he had made
    a mistake. Apparently, if I have bought the phone unlocked, then it will in
    fact work with sim-cards from most countries in the world (i.e. outside
    European area).

    I will wait to see when I return home to the delivered
    package. I have been waiting for this phone for a while. Will be very
    disappointed if I see this sticker on the side of the box.

    Will keep you updated.

    • Luc Feenstra

      99% sure you will be disappointed when you get home.. Let us know though!

    • Jacob

      “He tried to explain that this is the any phone you buy will
      be locked”
      He really said that? He thinks he can fool you that easy?

      • Luc Feenstra

        Retailers are all absolutely clueless. None of them know about the regional lock. I have already contacted a few retailers in the Netherlands and told them to add information about this lock on their websites ( a few have done this since). All the others are telling me it should work even though they have the stickers on their devices and samsung in different EU countries are all contradicting each other..

    • mobilemann

      I have also pre-ordered a Gnote 3 (from AT&T in the US, although this worried me a lot as i am going to the UK for a solid month in november.)

      I paid the full unlocked price and an at&t rep told me it should be sim unlocked and compatible. Here’s hoping they weren’t lying to us.

      Weird that the sticker thing would start, now. Typical.

  • This is definitely NOT A GOOD NEWS.

  • Bye Samsung.

    I have loved Samsung and was excited to buy GN3, until now. Fuck them for region locks, and fuck them for efuse.

    • mobilemann

      so do you think this new account you made (or name change) was needed now that you know it’s not really that bad?

  • Ho Ku

    iPhones are region locked too. I think it is a requirement specific to LTE, LTE-A, TD-LTE.


    edit: Motorola apparently are also region locked, but only in software.

    • APai

      hardware incompatibility is different from region lock right ?

    • Frank

      iPhone can work with different SIMs from different continents, you just can’t access to all the LTE bands, but you can still use it on 3G.

      • Roberto Tomás

        read the source link in that comment before calling BS. 4G LTE doesn’t fall back to 3G (3G LTE and 3G LTE-A do).

  • Alan Shearer

    Region locking is pointless and anti consumer in entertainment media, to do it on phone hardware? Bad samsung, Bad!

    • Roberto Tomás

      I kinda agree, but this isn’t samsung’s fault. there are different regions — having an unlocked US phone won’t help you in Spain or India, for example, where they use a different LTE.

      • Alan Shearer

        Ok, so you get 3g in those places with multiband radios, at least until they develope multiband lte radios.

        Point is in the 21st century, with the mass travel and communications, region locking is an old practice that needs to go bye bye. In any medium.

        • Roberto Tomás

          I agree with that too, but again that isn’t Samsung’s fault. Read the article again, see if you don’t see how the 4g network itself is regionally based now.

          • Alan Shearer

            sure it is, they chose to region lock it, they did not have to.

  • Jacob

    If European and American telecompanies have forced Samsung to do this, I think Samsung should openly tell it’s customers about it.

  • Groud Frank

    Samsung is resembling Apple more and more as every quarter in a year goes buy. The reason I don’t buy Apple products is because I don’t want to feel imprisoned. Although this restriction is not as big of a restriction that Apple’s products do there is a principle that has been violated. I am swearing off Samsung phones until they stop this nonsense.

  • If this is an LTE related issue then no problem with me.

  • Cycad007

    I never liked you, Samsung. But way to screw over your fans and customers! I truly hope they buy a Asus, HTC, LG, Sony or Motorola phone instead.

  • Frank

    This is a loser move.
    Samsung is losing lots of customers, like me. I live across America and Europe, so I can’t buy it. Shame on you Samsung!

  • lil bit

    Wow, this is like a nightmare, can’t believe it. Locked phone at unlocked price, hope other manufacturers will not follow, insane restriction, not buying any Samsung device again if this is their new policy. And keeping it secret, that’s the ultimate arrogance, disgusting Samsung.

    • This is one good reason to keep competition alive. I hope Nokia and Blackberry will someday stand on its own feet again.

      Attention Samsung; This is a real show of arrogance. I’ve been waiting for this note3 so patiently for the last 6 months or so only to end up with this frustrating news. So disappointing.

  • TechGuy

    Would also like to hear from Samsung on how to get proper unlock.

  • Roberto Tomás

    “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.” — this appears to mean that there is some sort of verification that occurs by providers which ensures that the phone is region locked before 4g will work, regardless of the phone. that means that no phone can get around the problem.

    • weed

      Idiot. I’m using my European Xperia Z with Asian SIM and LTE. There is no such restriction, you are making it up

  • AUSSIE44

    I also heard a rumor that the Bootloader is locked so no rooting…. Samsung has just lost my business and I really wanted a Note3… Bummer

    • Roberto Tomás

      if that is true I would actually care…

  • Andrew T Roach

    Samsung prioritizing carriers over customers with the regional lock. Hey nobody can accuse Samsung from stealing this one from Apple right?

  • Angel Angelov

    I’m beginning to think that Samsung are trying to do everything they can to make their customers to Not use their products anymore! First the KNOX fiasco with the new ROM Updates of the Galaxy S4 and now this! Me for instance (after being a loyal fan with Galaxy S, S2, S3 and S4) will be getting an LG G2 !

  • Wozn2

    Wow! Amazing own goal, but what is the justification?

  • goodwinod

    I cancelled my order. What to get now?

    • mobilemann

      FYI, i’ve spoken to both samsung USA on this and AT&T. I paid full price and they both promise that it will be fully unlocked when i get it.

      I’ll respond again if it’s not true, but it’s not coming till Oct. 1

  • ack

    Update: Looks like the lock is for first-time activation to prevent grey market sales, and works normally after that.

  • Luc Feenstra

    Hey guys,

    Have a read through the following article that explains exactly what this region lock means and gives answers to most of the questions that have been asked over the past few days:

  • Peter Yang

    Unacceptable! I feel betray by Samsung. Either Samsung remove the stupid region lock, or I’ll go with LG or Sony from now on

  • gaga
  • Cemran Kırkpınar

    No chance of returning..Busted… F u Samsung for not informing customers.. I will let eeeeverybody know this statement around me…This is a disaster…