Earlier today, we reported that the “unlocked” version of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 isn’t actually that free of restrictions.
Specifically, the device is apparently region locked, which, according to the warning stickers on the retail packaging, means the Note 3 will only work with SIMs from carriers in the region it was bought from. So far, we’ve seen stickers for devices sold in the US and Europe, but it’s possible that the region locking applies to Galaxy Note 3 units sold in other parts of the world.
Unsurprisingly, the news caused quite a stir among readers, and it’s not hard to understand why – limiting a device’s functionality based on location can be inconvenient for travelers, but also for those who acquire phones from abroad.
AllAboutSamsung.de asked Samsung for comment on the matter. Here are the essential points from Samsung’s official statement (original in German):
- Samsung does lock some devices based on the region where they were purchased from. These devices are, besides the Note 3: Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy S4, and Galaxy S4 Mini.
- The region lock only affects units manufactured after the end of July 2013, that ship with the warning sticker on the box. Devices that have already been delivered, like those sitting in warehouses or in stores are not region locked.
- If a user takes a new phone that hasn’t been yet activated to a country outside the home region, the user can unlock the phone at a local Samsung service partner for free.
If we understand the situation correctly, in order to be able to use a phone outside the home region, users will have to register it first with a carrier from the home region. Samsung Switzerland seems to confirm this on their Facebook page.
For instance, if you purchase a Note 3 in the UK and activate it there first, you’ll be able to use it with US SIM cards without problems. However, if you buy a phone from the UK, travel to the US, and activate it there for the first time, you will have to take it to a Samsung service center to unlock it.
It’s not clear for now what unlocking implies or what happens if you travel to multiple regions. Can you unlock the phone multiple times or just once?
From the sound of it, the region lock is software-based, which means intrepid users might find a way around it.
Samsung’s reasons for locking its entire flagship lineup are unclear for now. We can speculate that it might have something to do with curbing the activity of the so-called “grey market” importers, which are companies that buy devices from one region and sell them to another, profiting from the differences that exist between retail prices around the world. Back in February, we heard an unconfirmed rumor that Samsung might be attempting to do this.
We are waiting for a statement from Samsung US and we’ll update the post with the official info as soon as we get it.