Galaxy Note 3 region lock is an issue after all, Android 4.4 update may lock older Galaxy handsets

October 2, 2013

Galaxy Note 3

Remember that Galaxy Note 3 SIM card region lock issue that we talked about a few days ago, and which we though at one point that it has a simple fix, even if the whole thing isn’t clearly explained by Samsung?

It turns out that the Galaxy Note 3 region lock is posing serious problems to various Galaxy Note 3 buyers, and the scarce explanations Samsung gave in the past few days are still not clear enough.

Must See: Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Review

Region lock – how we thought it works

In the past few days we found out that once a customer purchases an unlocked Galaxy Note 3 handset (that means paying full price for the device, not getting a subsidized on-contract deal), he or she has to activate it with a SIM card from the region the device was purchased in before being able to activate it with a SIM card from a different region.

For example, in order to use an unlocked Galaxy Note 3 from the UK (therefore Europe) in the USA (North America), a buyer should turn on the Galaxy Note 3 in the UK with a SIM card from a local mobile operator inside before going to the USA and using a SIM card from AT&T or T-Mobile.

If this activation is not performed in this order and instead a U.S. SIM card is used first, the phone gets locked, meaning it can only be used with a SIM card from its original region, in this case Europe. In such a case, the handset has to be unlocked either by Samsung and its partners, or by the user with help of unlocked codes purchased online in order for the U.S. SIM card to work – the UK SIM will work fine with the handset.

But it looks like that’s not happening…

An xda-developer forum thread with over 800 entries has been actively discussing the Galaxy Note 3 region lock, with plenty of disgruntled Galaxy Note 3 buyers detailing their experience. We’ll note that the phone only started selling on September 25 in Europe, so we’re just looking at about a week of sales for the region.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Region Locked 2013 -2

It looks like several models purchased in European countries and activated the right way, as mentioned above will not work when a non-EU SIM card is inserted. Phones purchased from Germany, Netherlands, Sweden or UK and activated in those countries have failed to work with a local SIM card in Africa or Asia (Egypt and Thailand are among the markets mentioned by buyers).

Furthermore, UK retailer Clove appears to still have trouble explaining to its buyers what’s happening, and missing out on potential Galaxy Note 3 sales in the process, as Samsung has apparently failed to properly instruct the retailer on how to deal with the matter.

Finally, a check on Amazon UK for the Galaxy Note 3 brings up quite a few negative reviews talking about the region lock problem.

Samsung customer support causes more confusion

In addition to posting on forums or writing reviews, many customers affected by the issue have been in contact with Samsung customer support centers to fix their issues, but it looks like the responses offered by the company are not always on the same page.

For example, an email from Samsung Customer Support posted on Clove’s blog reads the following – in short, reiterates the way region locking should work (what we explained above):

I am very sorry to hear that you may not purchase a Note 3 due to the regional lock. In this e-mail, I will explain to you the reason for this.
The reason for the regional lock is to ensure that devices aren’t being imported between regions illegally. However, this does not mean that you cannot use another SIM card in the phone while abroad.

For instance, if you purchase a Note 3 in the UK and put a foreign SIM card in it, then it will lock and will need to be sent to a service centre to get unlocked. However, if you put a UK SIM card into the Note 3 first, then it will recognise that it is a UK SIM card in a UK model and wont lock. Then, if you go abroad, you can still use a foreign SIM card in it.

We have seen a steady rise in complaints about people purchasing phones and tablets online and in local retail outlets that aren’t based to their specific region. What this means is that if we receive a call from someone who has a phone that originated in Asia, we have to send them to Samsung Asia as they have different parts for their models.

This then leads to the customer having to pay a lot of money to get their device repaired. With the regional lock, we hope to stop this from happening.

I hope this information has been of benefit to you and that you understand the regional lock a bit better now. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused and we value and appreciate our customers thought and comments on the matter.

As you can see – and assuming this email is genuine – Samsung also offers an explanation for its actions: it’s trying to put a stop to illegal imports. However, we’ll note that unless someone’s stealing trucks filled with Galaxy Note 3 units directly from Samsung in order to sell them in other markets, which would be illegal of course, the company is really in no position to stop a customer who’s willing to pay around $700 or more for an unlocked Galaxy Note 3 to buy it from where it’s cheapest for him or her. At the end of the day, Samsung would cash in on the sale for the price it’s willing to sell the device for in that particular region.

note 3 europe region lock

Then again, Samsung UK had a similar statement, as posted by Clove on its blog:

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 centre.

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.

That said, we’ll move to a different response from Samsung given to an UK customer via telephone that basically says that Galaxy Note 3 devices sold in a region are meant to work with carriers from that region alone. Therefore, activating the phone in the region it was purchased and then using it with a SIM card from a different region would not be possible. Interestingly, Samsung did not confirm the following details in writing to the customer that posted it on xda-developers:

I spoke yet again to the Samsung UK customer service team (+44 330 726 7864) this afternoon (at 5:40pm GMT) as I had not received the email I had been promised this morning with a statement on the region lock. A different rep spoke to me and had the following news to report to me:

- the Samsung UK telephone staff have had problems sending out emails today and therefore have not sent out the statement to me – which was fine by me as these things happen.

- the SIM limitation sticker really is meant to mean what it says – the N9005 is not meant to be compatible with SIMs issued by operators outside the European region – I believe at least some owners are using the Note 3 with SIMs issued by operators outside the EU but the rep was adamant that the Note 3 was not intended by Samsung to be used with SIMs issued by operators outside of the European region, even following first activation.

- the European region Note 3s are only meant to be compatible with SIMs issued by operators from the European region, and this applies equally after activation – I asked repeatedly her to confirm this which she did each time. I tried practical examples too and it got worse: So if I go to Australia I must use a European region SIM in my Note 3 even if I buy the Note 3 SIM-free for £620? Yes according to the rep. So I asked if I go to Florida on vacation, I have no choice but to use a European region SIM in my Note 3? Yes again according to rep.

- it makes no difference if here in the UK I buy the Note 3 from Carphone Warehouse, Phones 4U, EE or Clove.

- I could buy another phone if I wanted to use a SIM from an operator outside the EU in my mobile – the rep volunteered this to me as it never occurred to me that they might seriously suggest such a policy.

No matter which Samsung rep is right, it’s clear from what buyers are saying that Samsung’s region lock doesn’t work as intended. If it’s supposed to block SIMs from a second region after a right activation, that this doesn’t always happen. If it’s supposed to block SIMs from a second region after a wrong activation, well, this doesn’t always happen either, at least according to existing reports.

Android 4.4 to extend region lock to other handsets

As we heard before, the region lock will not be a Galaxy Note 3-only thing. Other Galaxy devices, especially flagship models, will get a similar treatment.

From the looks of it, that won’t be restricted to new units that were manufactured after July 2013, but also to existing unlocked Galaxy handsets – including old Galaxy Note 2 and Galaxy S3 models for example – once they’re updated to Android 4.4.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs Galaxy S4 viewing angles AA

The same UK customer rep that told a customer that European Galaxy Note 3 models are meant to be used in Europe alone said that once the KitKat update arrives, it will region lock a bunch of devices:

[...] the rollout of Kitkat is to extend the regional lock to existing SGS3s and Note 2s – I asked if my existing unlocked SGS3 bought unlocked over a year ago is to be subject to the same regional lock if I upgrade. Yes according to rep. So I would not be able to use a SIM from outside the European region in it when travelling? Yes according to the rep.

However, it’ll be a while until the Android 4.4 update will be available to Galaxy devices, so there’s plenty of time for Samsung to clarify this mess.

Meanwhile, other Galaxy devices have been spotted the same sticker seen above according to more xda-developers forum members, including Galaxy S4 models sold in Latin America and Europe – and yes, the region lock issue is affecting those buyers as well.

Wrap up

Samsung is yet to come out with crystal clear explanations for this new region lock gimmick. Whether it’s meant to work one way or another, it obviously doesn’t do so, otherwise there wouldn’t already be so many complaints from customers, especially on a site like xda-developers, where there are plenty of Android-savvy users to be found.

And while this particular issue will only affect those people that buy unlocked devices and travel frequently to other regions, where they prefer to rely on local SIM cards to avoid costly roaming charges, it’s still a serious issue, it’s not Samsung’s place to decide how and where its devices should be purchased and used. After all, buyers choose unlocked devices for a reason, and discovering that they’re not truly unlocked is certainly not something they expect after paying a lot of money for such top devices.

Finally, this could be more than just your run of the mill PR issue for Samsung, as the whole matter may have some serious legal implications as well.

We’ll keep tabs on this particular Galaxy Note 3 problem and report back once we have more details about it. Meanwhile, let us know whether you’ve been affected by it or not, and whether you have been helped by Samsung in case you were affected by the region lock.

Comments

  • simpleas

    Lol next week… .. it’s not an issue!… week after, it’s an issue! either way, samsung will freely unlock it for you.. no big deal. also most of us do not travel outside the country, and when I do, i rent a phone.

    • TechGuy

      Most of us do not need our cars airbag to protect us in the unlikely event of us being involved in a crash in a foreign country but we expect it to do what it’s supposed to do if and when we need it.

      • simpleas

        um… lol wtf ru talking about? does all the sensational talk make you feel better? all im saying is, if you need it unlocked… get it unlocked from samsung…. for free…

        • nosimpleas

          I’ll just walk down to the corner Samsung store so they can unlock me for free on a whim. Good luck with that simpleas…

        • larsonjs

          are you kidding or don’t you read articles? You have to send it back to where it came from to get it unlocked! Pay attention.

        • Sid

          OMG! Samsung is so nice!!

      • davedooter

        Don’t buy the phone from another region and you’ll be fine. It’s only the dumbasses that just had to buy the phone a week early from another country that are having issues.

        Get the phone from your area, put in your sim card. Done. You can now use any sim card.

        I wasn’t aware there was a procedure to get the airbags to deploy properly when I buy a car from my local lot.

    • larsonjs

      Well for those of us who do travel it is a big deal. I probably buy 4 to 5 simms a year in differing countries so my data stays consistent on my Note 2. THIS IS WHY I PAID EXTRA FOR AN UNLOCKED PHONE!

      • Clive Richards

        The intention is to stamp out grey imports – your phone should unlock once it is activated with the correct sim – that will happen a few days after you put it in providing you leave it switched on. Also I am fairly sure that if that doesn’t work Samsung will unlock the phone for other regions providing you have purchased it in the region where you are asking them to unlock it. But if you buy a phone from ebay trader which is a grey import from singapore or hong kong then it is going to get locked when you put a UK sim in – and in those circumstances they would expect you to get it unlocked in the counrty of origin.
        Personally I dont agree with the idea trying to block grey imports but I also think it is not aimed at the vast majority of users who buy their phone in the country of origin -after all you need to do that if you want a warranty!

  • http://www.androidrootz.com/ Anuj Patel

    Samsung you need to stop this! First the locked bootloaders now this, I don’t understand how this is going to help the company!?

    • PolarBear

      They are preparing their devices to be upgraded to Tizen OS. For Example: Samsung Galaxy S4 next upgrade after Android 4.4 = Tizen OS.

      • Clive Richards

        They risk losing a lot of customers if they make this the only option – I chose Android first and then Samsung – if Samsung phones were no longer android they wouldn’t figure in my selection. Tizen “might” be viable one day if widely adopted by many manufacturers but to go it alone outside of Android would be making the same mistake that Nokia made – users will go the platform with the most free apps and that means iOS and Android – even windows cant match them

    • George

      +1
      Like they don’t make enough money already!
      I’ve been Samsung all the way baby and I’ve bought S, S3, S4, but looks like I’ll go for Sony or LG if this shit continues until next year!

    • Fantastico

      Locked bootoaders, too many updated versions of the S4 since its release, and now region locking. Not to mention benchmark cheating in the S4 and Note 3. Samsung really knows how to burn its customers.

  • TechGuy

    Excellent reporting. Samsung really needs to sort this out.

    • MasterMuffin

      The link is in sources as always :)

  • SNAKE3Y3Z

    I was planning to buy mine in the Middle East this weekend. I travel a lot and it is a big issue for me as I have several sim cards from across the globe.

  • Gilles LeBlanc

    So use a VPN and redirect your traffic to the handsets locked location and unlock it anywhere you want.

    • TechGuy

      You don’t understand the problem. The phone cannot connect to a mobile phone network “out of region”. VPN is only for data and wifi would work anyway. It’s mobile phone calls and data that are the problem when wifi is not available and even VOIP is not an option.

      • Gilles LeBlanc

        I stand corrected, I’ll admit I didn’t fully read the article.

      • John Mortimer

        Just unlock your phone big deal

  • http://perksofastudent.blogspot.com/?m=0 Renz Carl Supnet

    According to evidence by documentary, the unlock method works. Many claim that it doesn’t. I don’t understand why they don’t document it in any way. I just read forum discussions and comments. Hopefully this gets resolved soon.

    • TechGuy

      Try reading the XDA forum again – The unlocking method advised by Samsung patently does not work.

    • Clive Richards

      I dont think samsung want you to know how long the correct sim has to be in the device before it “activates” and unlocks – if they gave out this information then it would make it easy for the grey importers. However they do need to make sure that if you take it to a registered samsung dealer, in the country of origin, that the dealer will unlock it free of charge – I imagine this would need to be with some proof of purchase. Hopefully they will issue clearer instructions soon which help genuine users but do not provide an easy route for the grey market importers who are are their target.

  • Alan Shearer

    If you lock it, either before or after, why is it advertised as unlocked? advertise it as unlocked until used. fasle advertising, i hear a lawsuit coming? (soon as the jsutice system is restored due to federal government playground fighting over a bill.

    • TechGuy

      Can’t believe that Samsung have messed this up.Almost as unbelievable as the total stupidity of the US government system caused by entrenched partisan views with no consideration for the less priviledged and vulnerable. If only the politicians weren’t paid during a “shutdown”.

      • Blowntoaster

        that’ll make them quickly get their shirts together and get to the point, they should not pay them rather than the average government employee just doing his job and contributing to society.

      • Alan Shearer

        but, but, the presidents salary is considered essential……..

  • Joshua Hill

    The Australian version allegedly has no lock. Probably because Australia has laws stopping companies from stifling grey market imports. Probably because international companies excessively mark up their products in Australia. Pity this doesn’t help non-Australians as importing an Australian Note 3 would have to be the most expensive way to obtain one given the ridiculous mark up.

    • Ben Edwards

      Funny that you mention Aussie laws based around stifling grey market imports, as that’s exactly what the local car market did to Jap imports years back.

      • Joshua Hill

        Australia now has one of the most open markets in the world and it’s Australian exporters who are now being discriminated against even by nations like the U.S.A. which Australia supposedly has a free trade agreement with.

        • Ben Edwards

          Oh I wasn’t having a go or anything (and I’m certainly no expert on current Australian laws or international agreements), just thought it ironic how the times have changed. I can completely relate to international companies putting ridiculous mark ups on products though, we get shafted in NZ too.

          • Joshua Hill

            I don’t understand anything about capitalism but I vaguely have an idea why companies sometimes behave the way they do. Wasn’t having a go back either and didn’t think you were so it’s all good :)

          • Ben Edwards

            Heh. I don’t think there’s many people who do understand how capitalism works!

      • Rainer Koschnick

        Is it really too difficult to write “Japanese” or do you enjoy using ethnic slurs?

        • Ben Edwards

          How is “Jap import” a racial slur, you overly-sensitive internet crusader? I suppose calling Australians “Aussies” or New Zealanders “Kiwis” is out in your books too huh? God forbid someone should shorten a country name.

          • Rainer Koschnick
          • Ben Edwards

            So you come here with your accusatory tone, link me to a Wikipedia article as your best defence and then don’t even read it properly? “although English-speaking countries differ in the degree to which they consider the term offensive.” I’m going to assume you’re American, in which case it makes sense.

          • Rainer Koschnick

            No need to thank me even though I took the time to educate you. With this being the internet and all where people from all over the world readand post–mostly American, mind you–I just thought you’d like to know.

            If I came here talking about “Abbos” how would that make you feel? And no, I’m not American.

          • Ben Edwards

            No actually, you’re right. I wasn’t aware it was a slur, and I do apologise to any Japanese readers that I may have offended.

            I couldn’t care less if you were talking about Abbos or anything else for that matter. What you say is up to you.

          • Joshua Hill

            Don’t worry about him mate. He’s obviously a tool, and yes that was a slur.

          • Ben Edwards

            Now that’s a far better attitude. Mistake recognised and initial post edited to reflect that.

          • Joshua Hill

            You’re no racist but you are a troll.

          • Joshua Hill

            If you were really just here to inform people, you would have been more polite about it yourself instead of questioning @disqus_M3prNZapgr:disqus as to whether he ‘enjoy[ed] using ethnic slurs’. Instead you were being entirely hypocritical and doing exactly what you were trying to correct Ben from doing. SLURS ALL ROUND!

        • Joshua Hill

          In Australia especially when referring to the 90′s Japanese turbo car imports, Jap import is not a racial slur. I am a Caucasian Australian so I would love a Japanese Australian to confirm this but I think @rainerkoschnick:disqus over reacted a little.

  • PopeJamal

    *Looks at his LG G2*
    *Smiles and laughs*

    • Max

      *Looks at his still perfectly adequate Samsung Galaxy S2*
      *Rolls on the floor laughing*

    • Clive Richards

      if Samsung get away with this and android builds the possibility into 4.4 then other manufacturers will follow suit they would all like to kill off grey imports and make people who travel buy two or more phones.

  • terminator

    My Note 2 is my mobile Office. I paid fully for it. And I unlocked it legally from Tmobile. Samsung should be ready for a BIG Lawsuit if they dare lock my phone, on my money, and prevent me from doing my job when I’m on the roaf, on a phone where the TOS never said crap about region locking when I bought it!
    Aaaaaaaaaand…. this will end Samsung’s Android dominance. Too bad they’re being so stupid. This is exactly what Apple did- they felt that they were all that and could do as they pleased. And they’re falling. Now that there’s good competition, this is a shot in the foot for them.

    • Siralf

      Amen to every single word brother.

      • knobulike

        hallelujah sister!

      • knobulike

        hallelujah sister!

    • Abdel Aziz Farhi

      You’re about to pay a lot body.

    • hello123

      If TMO gives u an unlock code for GN3, i think it should work in other countries.

      • terminator

        I’m not talking about the tmobile code. I know that. I’m a traveler.
        My point is, when 4.4 is rolled out, and Samsung decides to lock it?

  • Jshdajhd Sdjhskadhqw

    By doing this they are just killing Android!

    • APai

      nope. android market is just too vast for these weasels to try and dominate in this way. it’s a good time for others to sweep them off.

  • Ben Edwards

    This is an unbelievably stupid move on Samsungs behalf, almost as stupid as suggesting you buy another phone for use with another SIM…I can’t see this rolling out to more devices though, as soon as the backlash hits the Note 3 sales they’ll figure it’s a daft idea and drop it.

    • Ben Edwards

      And if they don’t drop it, it’ll be curtains for Samsung as king of the Android hill.

  • APai

    middle finger to samsung. screw samsung this is a blatant anti consumer move..

  • Jacksky

    I will never buy another Samsung again if they really do this.

    • MasterMuffin

      But this confirms that their older models like S3 are getting 4.4!

      • Kettzy

        Reportedly, S3 will also get 5.0 update but don’t know how long it will take taking into consideration that they’re continuously delaying the update for S3 and note 2 after 4.1.2.
        They were supposed to provide the 4.3 update for S3 along with S4 but they’ve again pushed it to December.
        If this is how they’re going to treat us, they should start worrying about their future products. This treatment will push customers away. If we are trusting them with so much hard earned money into their product, they should respect our feelings for those products as well.
        Very disappointed by Samsung lately.

        • MasterMuffin

          If they’re taking bugs out, that’s dissappointing?

          • Kettzy

            They had a ready to launch build for 4.2.2 but at the 11th hour, they decided skip it completely.
            I’m a big samsung fan myself and use S3 but I really have not been happy with the kind of service I’m getting. Even I’ve paid almost the same sum as some late bloomers who may have bought S4 lately. So, even I deserve a quick service when it comes to updating the phone’s software and if these firms think that we as a buyer should buy each and every product that they launch as their latest one, just to get the updates on time, they’re absolutely wrong. This goes out to each of the firm that produces and launches new products every 6 months or even every year.

          • MasterMuffin

            You’re getting 4.3, I still don’t get why you’re so mad

          • Kettzy

            And after knowing that I’m gonna have to wait another 3 months for that. Obviously I’ll be mad, especially when I’ll be getting an old update almost 2½ months after the latest version releases. As simple as that.

          • MasterMuffin

            Get a Nexus if you can’t stand waiting for updates. Samsung is a company. What kind of a company would it be if it started first making updates and updating old models and then later update their current flagship. Priorities

          • Kettzy

            Exactly, that’s what I’m gonna go for as my new phone. Though, I still hope for Nexus 6 to be manufactured by Samsung as they’re always best with the hardware that truly outruns any other manufactured device in terms of product life.

          • MasterMuffin

            Isn’t Nexus’ hardware decided by Google?

          • Kettzy

            So what? Can’t they decide to go for Samsung to make the hardware for them as they’ve already done with Galaxy Nexus? What kind of question is that?

          • MasterMuffin

            Any manufacturer can buy the Snapdragon 800 or 3Gb of RAM or a good HD screen etc. so it doesn’t matter who does it, Google just chooses their partner and tells what hardware they want

  • Blowntoaster

    WTF Samsung…just a week ago you said it would work anywhere, provided you registered the device in the right region…

    I would take what those Samsung reps said with a grain of salt though…

    The past has proven that SOME Salesmen often don’t have a clue about what they are selling and sometimes even how it works.(Not saying they all are like this, some are very good) I’ve been told on more than one occasion that the Note 2 runs on Symbian!!!, Android 2.4!! ( which probably doesn’t even exist)…I eat, sleep and live Android (for two to three hours a day :) )

    but back to the point…

    It would be great if Samsung HQ could issue a press release where this is clearly explained in detail, and what effect it will have on the user.

    What manufacturer would be stupid enough to do this, knowing that they will be pissing off and scaring away consumers, especially in one of their biggest markets (Europe) where people travel between regions quite often, and where this seems to be the biggest pain in the arse?

    C’mon Samsung, sort this out. I’ve been using your devices for a long time, and wouldn’t want to move to a different manufacturer. I’ve been patiently waiting to get a Note 2/3 for a while now, but after this I’m not so sure anymore.

    Maybe it’s time to consider a Sony Xperia Z1 or that Nexus 5 that is coming out soon.

  • Miguel Bleau

    Gerkyranjit bought his in UK and inserted his sim card from India after activating it in the UK and it worked.

    I wonder why

  • Cristi13

    Hey at least their phones will get 4.4 :D

  • Johnathan Katz

    Besides international travelers who is this really affecting?

    • toboev

      You, and me.
      Why has Samsung done this – to reduce price competition between regions. Why does Samsung want to reduce price competition – so that they can maintain higher retail prices. What does that mean for me, a buyer who never travels abroad – you also get to pay the higher price.
      And don’t forget, your second hand resale price also goes down, so having already been shafted on your purchase price, now you are kicked on your resale value. Nice.

  • Bone

    What if this is a Google thing that’s coming with 4.4 to all devices?

    • http://annunakimaster.blogspot.com/ AnnunakiEnvoy

      This is also my suspicion. This is a google thing. And this came up with android 4.3. Very logical, the article said all future devices with 4.4 kitkat are going to have this shit system.

      Note 3 maybe the first device confronted with this problem and it is loaded with android 4.3.

      • skzion

        This might be the ONLY thing that would lead me to iCrap or back to Microsoft.

        • Abdel Aziz Farhi

          Me 2. There is no way i’m gonna buy a phone which is 600$+ just to find out that i’m gonna need to pay more or wait for dev-teams to make a fix each time i update my phone so i can use it with my sim card. That’s literally a scam.

  • sam

    Why is Samsung being so stupid.
    I wonder if we the consumer can take them to court for this uncompetitive activity.

  • Paul Allen

    Sounds like Samsung is (intentionally or not) showing the rest of the world how it feels to be a Verizon Wireless customer. That one customer service response was ridiculous. They really expect you to buy a separate phone for each region of the globe you visit? Really, Samsung?

  • Onweel2

    Thank you a lot for this article. Thank you for questioning this topic. Your website is a few website that can earn my trust back.

    Hope you would not let this topic go away.

    Thank you again.

    • http://annunakimaster.blogspot.com/ AnnunakiEnvoy

      This is a very important subject matter. I also hope it is taken up to the root. Now, I have a theory – THIS IS AN ANDROID THING COMING WITH 4.3 AND LATER ANDROID VERSIONS.

      • angelxy

        Glad I’m not the only conspiracy theorist…there may be truth to it…if it’s true, then I’m going windows phone, if MS does it then I’m going back to school and developing my own operating system…

  • hoggleboggle

    this whole debacle reeks of a decision made by the legal department at Samsung without any discussion with the PR department. Whilst I have been able to insert a US based AT&T simcard into my Note 3 without it locking it would be interesting to see if that is an exception or the rule. This will cost Samsung dearly I hope and teach them to kick their PR dpeartment up the Arse and sort it out pronto.

  • Bolo

    They can do what they want with Samsung products, I want only know exactly what I buy and where I can use it. If I don’t like this steps I will go to different brand.
    No I am I Thailand on my 2weeks trip and my new S4 phone is not working with regional cards, yesterday I go to shop and buy old Note2 from Thailand markt that I don’t need pay roaming charges to my Vodafone EU provider.

  • Ruz

    This is really discouraging ” if i am buying an unlocked version of the phone after paying the full price then why should i bother about region lock?” this is really pathetic and not tolerable.. There r many who gift these phones to others across the oceans..

  • ack

    Samsung needs to be taught a lesson. Do not tell people how and where to use a phone.

  • xPnoyStar

    Im glad that I bought the Sony Xperia Z :)

  • skzion

    This locking will prevent me from buying the N3–or any Samsung phone. I was strongly inclined toward the N3. I presume that a region locked US phone would not work in Europe or Asia.

    While I don’t travel internationally all that often, I do expect to benefit from having such a high-end phone when I am farthest away from home.

    Of course, by rooting I’m sure one can remove this restriction, but I don’t like needing to do this one bit.

  • Michael

    Wow, reading this was like a voyeuristic trip through Inferno.

    Gonna stick with my terrible, restrictive iPhone, lol.

  • Abdel Aziz Farhi

    One more reason my next phone won’t be a Samsung. They’re pushing it too far.

  • Prince Ram

    I’ll sell off my Samsung devices before the the region lock, and I will NEVER buy SAMSUNG Anymore !!

    • Clive Richards

      and if all the competition follow them?

  • Wozn2

    I’m calling it – we’ve had peak Samsung.

    Too much fail going on over at the big S these days.

  • Vinnie

    According to Samsung Mobile Singapore FB reply, Note 3 is not Region Locked in Singapore as the local authority does not allow “locking” of devices. But this comes at higher price (32GB model @ S$1,048.00)!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • toboev

      With a bit of luck maybe the EU authorities will take the same stance. They have already showed their teeth when it comes to abusive roaming charges within the EU. Why should they not afford their citizens the same protection from abusive practices by Samsung.

  • Paul K Deuster

    Goodbye Samsung, you have got a nice time on the top.

  • larsonjs

    If this is true Samsung has lost one customer. I was going to upgrade my Note 2 to the Note 3, but not after reading this. I do exactly what the article is talking about. I travel all over the world and put a local simm in. It saves me a pile of money and works wonderfully. I cannot for the life of me understand what Samsung’s motive is. It seems to me that they are only making their devices less attractive. How does it hurt anyone if I purchase a simm in a local country to use while I am travelling there? I will have to avoid upgrading my Note 2 as I do not want that feature installed on my phone! Samsung – I thought you were smarter than this.

    • toboev

      Two possible reasons.
      1) Unlikely, but possibly, Samsung has negotiated with some/all carriers for a slice of their lucrative roaming fees generated on region locked Samsungs.
      2) Most likely, Samsung is following the same logic as was applied to region coding DVDs. By killing the “grey” market Samsung reduce price competition and can maintain higher prices on average.

      • Clive Richards

        it is likely to come to many phones after the release of 4.4 – it is Google that should be attacked for making it possible in the first place – if the rumours are true they are going to be able to apply it retrospectively to phones already in circulation if they are updated to 4.4 – I doubt that Sony, HTC or others are any safer in the long term.

  • Andrew Bricknell

    hmm I was about to buy a note 3 , i’m starting to have second thoughts now. they start doing this and they will lose sales, not a very bright idea.

  • Ldmelo

    I hope samsung doesn’t forget that we can choose to buy android phones from other companies. And there are lots of great phones popping up out there… From Sony, lg, htc,…

  • BullHorn

    THANKS FOR POSTING! I can’t believe nobody else is covering this. We must keep rating this phone 1 out of 5 on every retail website and completely destroy their sales until they take their head out of their ***.

  • Felipe F.

    If i buy a unlocked galaxy note 3 in USA and bring it to Brazil will works fine?

  • Baz Hemmons

    Tech geeks (of which I’m clearly one) can be so hillarious – all the comments on here predicting end of Samsung. You do realise they sold 30 million Note 2s? I seriously doubt there are half a million of us who read these sites and are angry about this whole debacle, but even if there were, that still leaves all those other consumers out there who don’t have the slightest clue that there’s even a problem, and will still pick up the Note 3 however much the tech press and it’s readers bitch & moan. So Samsung sells 29.5 million Note 3s? I’m sure Samsung will be crying all the way to the bank.

    • toboev

      They would have difficulty NOT noticing the issue if they buy on Amazon, where this otherwise fantastic phone is scoring an average 2 stars in the UK, and not much more in the USA. Compare with previous Note releases where they have scored a solid 5 stars.
      Even if not everybody buys from Amazon, many look there for user opinions before purchase elsewhere.
      And the region-lock issue is mentioned in many review sites online.
      Sure, many people will buy in still blissful ignorance, but no company is immune to its customers in the long run. Just look at the once mighty Nokia, and RIM. When customers do find out the truth, maybe long after they have bought the phone, they will be hacked off. So the more people Samsung deceives now the more trouble they store up for the future. People who buy a top-of-the line phone are not your average Jo/e, by definition.

  • havenolimit

    Sorry , but im new to this…if the phone is region lock and carrier lock….could it be unlocked ? What is the typical cost ? The sales rep in Canada told me that it could be done for about $30. Is this true and will it solve the whole region as well as the carrier locking issu?

  • The Pedro

    I have owned Samsung Galaxy, Galaxy Nexus, and now the S3. When the S4 was released I decided to wait for the Note 3 which now I will obviously not be buying. Above all, this looks like an appleish greedy attitude whereby loyal consumers pay for shady commercial practices carried out by others. This practice earned Samsung milions of customers over apple but i guess one can never make enough money and throw it all away behaving like the competition. I’m gutted and disappointed and that’s it for samsung in my pocket.

  • stuuk

    They are turning into apple. They want to control us. FuCk them im now buying a g2

    • Clive Richards

      actually it is google that are turning into Apple – they are the ones building this possibility into android and if it sticks other manufacturers will use it as well. Personally I think Samsung may be testing the water with a model that is not a flagship main stream one like the S4

  • croussou
    • Clive Richards

      I agree but only if you want to root the device. Rooting runs the risk of invalidating your samsung warranty which as a 2 year warranty is worth having. I have rooted my last two samsungs but dont think I will root my note 3 until I have had it for a year or so

  • Mody

    I just buy galaxy note 3 and then read this article, i buy it in uk but i will go back home which is in middle east
    so i need advices, should i return it to the store because its still packed

    • toboev

      Some people are reporting on XDA forums that after about 10 days use in the phone’s home region using a home region SIM that their phone then (and not until then) did unlock.
      http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2457964&page=103

      However the picture is far from clear, not helped by Samsung’s deafening silence punctuated only by conflicting statements to customers on an individual basis.
      I would use it for a few days in the UK with a UK sim, and then before you go to M.E. try your M.E. sim. If the phone asks for an unlock code then return to the shop and demand your money back – you bought a SIM free phone that turned out to be SIM locked to one region.

  • Guest

    Just to add my experience here. Fire others.

    I just returned to Sydney with a note 3 I bought from Dublin and I can confirm my phone works with Telstra and Vodafone SIMs.

    When I bought the phone it was locked to Meteor and I was told by samsung staff in the Dublin store that I had to make at least one call on the phone before returning to Australia or it would be locked.

    I made a call on Meteor in Dublin and I also went to a shop and got an unlock code from a shop so I could use my o2 SIM.

    Upon returning to Australia I put my telstra SIM in and it works fine. I also put a Vodafone SIM and that also works.

    The model number is SM-N9005.

    Hope this info helps others.

  • לירן פרידמן

    Hi all, I talked with samsumg customer service on their site chat and I asked him specificlly if there if such thing as region lock. He said that there is no such thing and that I can buy the note 3 from where ever I want. I even took picture of the chat content in my phone and I woild like to share it withh you. Where can I send it to you ? I don’t beleive him but I wanted you all to see it…

    • Clive Richards

      clearly the rep is thinking about network locking rather than region locking (which is all there has been until now) – He cant really answer the question because of the third party dealer. The question to have asked would be “if I bought a phone direct from Samsung in the US, could I activate it with an Israeli sim card back home”. Samsung will only answer in respect of their own direct sales and I am fairly sure if you tried to buy from them using their US online store they would not let you but refer you to your own regional store instead.

  • Not1Not2Not3

    i live in the USA and i don’t plan on leaving any time soon so this doesn’t affect me. Bring on the S5 Sammy!!!

  • Sid

    Rumor has it that Samsung’s motto is ‘BE EVIL’

  • RAYMOND DJ

    I I Purchased the note 3 sm- N9005 Unlocked From Amazon ‘com in the Usa. I actived the device with a Sim from Puerto Rico and it is working just fine. The box did not Come with the Sim label limitation. So I guess if YOU buy the European Sim model from a Usa retail store unlocked ‘You Can activate for the first time with a Usa sim card.

  • Boudman

    So what happens to my unlocked phone that I bought in one country and now live in another country when 4.4 comes out. Chances are I won’t have any access to a SIM card from my original country. Will my phone now be Locked ? Or will it matter where you get the download from ?

  • Andrew Smith

    Region locking is the fastest way to drive me away from Samsung. Their high end stuff is almost commodity now so making it less appealing will just swing the market.

  • hello123

    I think this is how it works.
    Devices from Hong Kong and other surrounding countries in the region sell them for less. Thus, what i think Samsung is doing, is to prevent people from other regions to buy the device from that region. I would think that if you buy the phone in HK and activate it in HK first. Then, go back to your home country, US or UK or wherever, to use it is fine. It has to register in that region first. Please correct me if i am wrong

    • Deborah Reagan

      That’s what they said, but it isn’t true, at least for a phone from The Netherlands.

      • Clive Richards

        I have read reports that activation doesn’t occur as soon as you put the correct region sim card in – you need to leave the card in the device and the device switched on for several days before the lock gets released – its claimed that what they are trying to do is to ensure phones bought in a region are MAINLY used in that region. If the unlock happened immediately then all a grey importer would need to do would be insert a correct region sim for a few minutes and take it out. Most grey importers deal in small numbers so that would be no hardship but to have to leave a sim in and phone switched on for days with nothing to actually tell you it is unlocked until you try another sim would be too much hassle. The majority of main stream users are also probably not clued up enough to buying local sims when they go on holiday and some countries (Thailand for example) now require you to register a sim with a Thai address – easily got around I know but it shows that even the mobile phone companies want to make it difficult because they make a tidy profit out mobile use abroad – especially from people who use them without considering the roaming charges. I wouldn’t be surprised if the mobile biggest customers – the networks, haven’t pressured google and Samsung for this change. Now who do Samsung listen to – the tiny minority of users who buy their phones outright or the big networks who distribute millions of them?

  • Joshua Yook

    Canadian NOTE 3 and various other Countries do not come with this sticker.

    Tested and after only SIM unlocking, it is confirmed to be REGION UNLOCKED as well out of the box.

    Region locking seems to only be affecting various European models and all of the U.S.A

    • Clive Richards

      This is true AT THE MOMENT – I bought a grey market one sourced in the middle east and there was no lock on it – I decided however that the loss of the 2 year samsung warranty was a good enough reason to buy a local one instead and returned the grey market one under the distance selling regs in 7 days. I suspect however this will get introduced everywhere eventually. If you buy a phone sourced in the middle east then expect to send it back there for warranty repairs – the european network will not touch it.

  • Deborah Reagan

    Just received a Galaxy Note II GT-N7100 as an insurance replacement from a Dutch phone insurance company (my old Nexus S finally died). I activated it with my Dutch Vodafone SIM card while in NL. Everything was great. I return to China (I currently live in Beijing) and surprise, surprise, the China Unicom SIM isn’t recognized by the phone. I works just fine in an ancient backup phone. I’m about to travel to the USA next month. This just sucks and ensures that the next phone I purchase is not a Samsung. I really don’t want to root my brand new phone and install some grey market app but I’m not seeing many other choices. If I buy another phone in China I will likely end up with a fake with limited functions (no GPS for one thing) or buy it in the USA and have to hassle with unlocks.

    • Clive Richards

      I think if you take the phone to a service centre in the netherlands with an address and proof of purchase (dont mention that you live in China) they should unlock it FoC – it is worth trying anyway.

  • knobulike

    Yeah but this bit might be true “However, if you put a UK SIM card into the Note 3 first, then it will recognise that it is a UK SIM card in a UK model and wont lock. Then, if you go abroad, you can still use a foreign SIM card in it.” No?

    • Clive Richards

      providing it has been in the device for “some time” with the device left on. There is not a fixed time for this to happen so it might be an issue if you were travellng within a few days of purchase. I think that registering the sim is not just registering it with the service provider – presumably the phone registers itself in another way after an indefinite time period.

  • sarasoftball14

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  • Clive Richards

    it is high time that companies be legally required to provide phones that will work in any region and which have warranty rights everywhere in the world – people move!
    The argument about different parts MAY have some truth but frankly if they are I suspect it is simply to avoid having world wide warranties – If you buy something outright it should be yours to do with as you wish including using different sims and rooting. They should not be allowed to get away with refusing to repair rooted phones unless they can prove that it is rooting which has caused the problem – others have said it they are becoming another Apple and one of those in the world is more than enough thank you!

  • Clive Richards

    If I am not mistaken wouldn’t advertising a phone as “unlocked” would be illegal under UK consumer law if there is any kind of restriction by region or anything else. If they introduce this as an upgrade to existing devices then aren’t they breaking the law in retrospect.

  • moni

    ok i want to use the phone in australia and india. nd m gona buy it online. which is better n9000 or n9005 ?