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