The Samsung Galaxy S5, going on sale today around the world, is region-locked, just like the Note 3. But Samsung made a small change to the way users can unlock it, as the sticker on the device package indicates.
A little background: Samsung first imposed a region-lock on the Galaxy Note 3, in a bid to curb the activity of grey market importers. Region-locking means that, in order to use a device anywhere in the world, you must first use it in the region you bought it from. For instance, if you bought a phone from Europe and you take it to North America, you won’t be able to use it unless you activated it with aa European SIM first. If you have a region-locked device, you can take it to Samsung to unlock it or you can use a specialized online service for a small fee.
The biggest problem was that Samsung was not open about the restriction, and many users only found out about it when they opened their Note 3 boxes. In other words, when it was already too late. Needless to say, the backfire was vicious.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 is region-locked too, but now you will have to actually make phone calls for five minutes in order to use it. Before, you could simply pop a SIM in, activate the phone, and be done with it. Now it seems you actually need a working subscription or pre-paid SIM for the activation. Here’s the text of the warning sticker found on Galaxy S5 boxes shipping in Europe:
European Model: This product should be activated with a SIM card issued from a mobile operator within Europe (as defined EU/EEA, Switzerland and the following Non-EEA countries Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (F.Y.R.O.M), Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino, Serbia and Vatican City.) To use SIM cards from other regions, a cumulative call over five minutes must first be made with the SIM card from European operators.
Why this change? Samsung probably found that importers were able to easily bypass the restriction and decided to make their job a little harder. Unfortunately, it also makes life a little harder for regular users buying the device for themselves or for a loved one while travelling in a different region.
What can you do if you got yourself a region-locked Galaxy S5? First, try Samsung support. They should be able to help you quickly and for free. Some websites that offer SIM unlocking will also offer region-unlocking, but it usually costs at least $25. If you can wait, the development community might find a way around the lock over the next few weeks. But the best solution is to simply avoid ending up with a region-locked device.