Samsung is now locking all new devices to a region, making life hard

This story has been updated.

A topic of note has beentrending the last two days, and we've been seeing it brought up atmultiple locales, including several tips from our readers. It has gotto do with a new policy that Samsung has been employing, apparentlysince the end of July 2013, which basically dictates that allSamsung-branded devices from that date on will come locked to arespective region.

So how did it all start? Well, forstarters, the lucky few owners of the new Galaxy Note 3 noticed arather interesting sticker on the packaging that their phablet camein. Those point towards the respective region in which you can expectyour Samsung device to work, and you can probably guess that thisspells trouble for the South Korean giant and its customer servicedivision. In fact, the whole ordeal is kind of ironic, seeing as it'sthe Note 3 that brought this to all up – the phablet that Samsunghas been trying real hard to market to businesspeople – the very groupof people most likely to travel abroad, who will now have to payhefty roaming bills.

Samsung's Germany arm has alreadycommented on the new policy, confirming that this is indeed the caseand that, at this point, the new rules cover all new Galaxy SII,Galaxy SIII, Galaxy S4, Galaxy S4 Mini and Note 3 devices producedafter the end of July. Moreover, while the geographic regionsthemselves are pretty big (e.g. the American model includes theNorth, South and Central Americas, along with the Caribbean), Samsungwon't provide any sensible workaround for those of us who have/like to travel. The only “option”, rightnow, is to never activate the phone with a SIM from the region thedevice was intended for and go to an authorized Samsung servicepartner that will be able to unlock it for use in a different region.As you can probably guess, the number of scenarios where this will beof any use is negligible at best, not to mention that you'll have to cough up anadditional service fee.

Probably worst of all, as of thiswriting, even the Android gurus over at the XDA boards are currentlyunsure whether this will be crackable, since the way Samsung has goneabout it makes the overriding of the traditional carrier lock a child'splay in comparison.

UPDATE 2: When we first published this piece we came under fire once Samsung issued a statement that, at the time, was thought to bring the matter to a close for 99% of the use-case scenarios we, or anybody else for that matter, could come up with. Immediately after updating this post with Samsung's statement, however, we started receiving e-mails from different users, claiming that despite the efforts of Sammy's PR division to sweep this under the rug, the statement was, and we're being lenient here, somewhat untrue. Specifically, while some Note 3 owners were able to lift the region restrictions after activating it with a local SIM, it didn't necessarily work with any other SIM, as the statement lead us to believe. We've been since following the story rather closely and waited it out to make sure that the refutation of Samsung's refutation is, indeed, true. 

Unfortunately, we've come across troves of unhappy Note 3 owners who found out that the region lock on their devices is, similarly, not removed by first activating it with a local SIM. A hack, therefore, has been spawned by the XDA boards' very own Chainfire, called RegionLock Away, which has been reported to be mostly functional as of this writing. The app requires root and you can down it off Google's Play Store for $2.79, if you wish to support the developer. Alternatively, you can download the app for free, though you'll have to sideload it on your own. READ the instructions provided in the source link below before modding your device.

We'll continue trailing this as it continues to unfold, and we're looking to hear more feedback on the matter from those of you lucky enough to already have the otherwise great Galaxy Note 3, and Samsung of course. We sincerely hope we're missing out on something, or that at least in the future, Samsung's statement will be valid in full.

UPDATE: Samsung has come out with a statement on what was shaping up to be a pretty controversial topic, and a kind of a PR mess for the South Korea-based electronics giant. According to the new information, the entire ordeal is not as severe as we first thought. Essentially, new Samsung devices with a regional lock will work just like before, so long as the first SIM card that is used to activate the device is from the region that the device is locked into. That means that if you get an American Galaxy Note 3, you'll have to activate it with an American SIM card first. Past that, you can use any SIM card you wish and roam freely. By the way, it would appear that at this point, only European/American models will come with a regional lock -- Asian Galaxy Note 3 units seem to be exempt from the new policy. Samsung's full statement can be viewed right below:

source: RegionLock AwayXDA-Developers, Samsung Germany via AndroidPolice



1. woodshop20

Posts: 459; Member since: Sep 14, 2013

Man, Samsung, why u go all Apple on us?

3. RaKithAPeiRiZ

Posts: 1488; Member since: Dec 29, 2011

Because they can ....

86. james004

Posts: 486; Member since: May 15, 2013

i hope the developers have an answer to this.

100. Long1

Posts: 399; Member since: May 18, 2013

NOTE 3 IS NOT LOCKED. The iMedia mislead you. Make your research. Ones you put your SIM card inside it unlocks , YOU CAN USE ANY OTHER REGION SIMs

119. Chaseism

Posts: 82; Member since: May 08, 2013

All sources cited were Samsung/Android sites. Looks like DroidMedia misled...not anything with Apple...

112. AKumar47

Posts: 48; Member since: Sep 11, 2013

apple said so, haha!


Posts: 269; Member since: Sep 09, 2013

You can use an unlocked iphone with any sim card anywhere

77. ghaniosman

Posts: 78; Member since: Jun 06, 2013

an official statement has already been posted by samsung switzerland that the first time it has to be used by that region (sim/carriers) then its unlocked completely... just to avoid (illegal) sales from one region to other..

101. Long1

Posts: 399; Member since: May 18, 2013

You can use NOTE 3 with any sim card anywhere, too. This was organized iMedia lie. All other tech iSites at least made Updates on the articles, but PArena didn't yet. Shame on you PA. :(

103. chandra7894

Posts: 11; Member since: Sep 27, 2013

why are you supporting samsung blindly. why to get the region locked sims after paying phone at full price. Suppose u travel in different region and hard reset ur phone. Android was all about open sysem and samsung will def get lesser sales for this

109. Dorothy69

Posts: 498; Member since: May 21, 2013

Yeah but, then you're stuck on just wi-fi for data and your voice reception will be crappy at best. But, as long as those 4.01 inches make you happy - je vous en prie.

7. No_Nonsense unregistered

So much of freedom.

14. Arslan25

Posts: 23; Member since: Sep 07, 2013

as if you travel to different continents daily :D

16. Sniggly

Posts: 7305; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

This isn't necessarily the case, but it does limit the potential customer pool if you choose to resell the phone.

38. RaKithAPeiRiZ

Posts: 1488; Member since: Dec 29, 2011

" they may take away FM radio ,but they will never take away our Freeeeedoooom

66. Shatter

Posts: 2036; Member since: May 29, 2013

Nobody stays on top for very long because they get old and something better cones out.

62. SGSatlantis

Posts: 227; Member since: Jul 20, 2011

What if you live in Istanbul?

96. xfire99

Posts: 1206; Member since: Mar 14, 2012

Read again, its Samsung devices and not Google Android OS. Besides, is easy to unlock anyway. Still bad move by Samsung to decide thiw way.

102. Long1

Posts: 399; Member since: May 18, 2013

The iMedia mislead you. Make your research. Ones you put your SIM card inside it unlocks , YOU CAN USE ANY OTHER REGION SIMs. You can use NOTE 3 with any sim card anywhere!!!!!!! BAD MOVE BY PhoneARENA and the other iMedia, but that's what they are for. LOL

104. Onweel2

Posts: 10; Member since: Sep 28, 2013

Sorry sir. Are you real ? Are you reading my post before you post ? why you have to spam it ? Did you try it yourself yet ?

48. syedej123

Posts: 71; Member since: Jan 08, 2013

DEAR SAMSUNG HATERS..GET THE FACTS BEFORE COMMENTING. . While Samsung’s wordings aren’t very clear, it seems that the Galaxy Note 3 will actually be usable everywhere, but not before it is activated with a SIM from the region it was bought in. Once you activate it/use it with a local SIM, you’ll be able to visit other regions/travel abroad and use it with SIM cards from that particular region without issues. This is likely to reduce grey imports by retailers and those who want to make a quick buck by importing the device and selling it at higher prices, as the retailer would have to open the box to activate it before selling it, which would make it less attractive to a buyer. This is a smart MOVE from GIANT COMPANY like Samsung.

65. deathgod

Posts: 122; Member since: Nov 23, 2011

Not for those that buy their phones from the US or UK because they're either not availble in their country or the prices are too high like mine.

72. jellmoo

Posts: 2620; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

So, if I want to import a Samsung device I need to make sure to first start it up with a SIM card from that region, which I naturally have tons of laying around, and this is somehow a good thing? I realize that this is hardly the end of the world, but it can be bloody inconvenient.

131. KRONeage

Posts: 144; Member since: Apr 17, 2011

No...... this is meant to soothe carrier's in Eu and America's that were afraid phones sold in those regions, wouldn't just fly east or west out of their regions to be activated on carriers elsewhere first. Smart move.... since these two markets still depend on subsidised contracts! Meaning with International Models... scalpers could swoop in and pick up phones meant for specific carriers in those Regions and sell them in other markets. This just requires them to be activated in the market they are sold in. And if they are International phones in the first place. So why would you even need to IMPORT a Samsung Phone that's the same as the one sold in your Region?

133. toboev

Posts: 5; Member since: Oct 02, 2013

" So why would you even need to IMPORT a Samsung Phone that's the same as the one sold in your Region?" Because the one sold in your region is more expensive, that would be my reason for wanting to buy cheaper elsewhere. It is called free market competition, and it is a good thing. Samsung are trying to prevent that, not because the so called "grey" market is a bad thing from which the customer needs protection, but because Samsung wants to be the one doing the importing and taking that extra profit for themselves. The only difference is that when Samsung imports a phone and sells it they don't call it "grey", when someone else does they do call it "grey", like it was something dreadful and bad.

144. jellmoo

Posts: 2620; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Except there are often differences between regional models. For example, one region may get a Snapdragon processor whilst another gets an Exynos. One region may use an Amoled screen, whilst another uses a TFT screen. Etc... Personal preferences exist, and this way of doing business makes it harder for people to get the product they want. Like I said, not the end of the world, but bloody inconvenient.

98. GordonFrohman

Posts: 1; Member since: Sep 28, 2013

Unlike gsmarena, I'm wondering why phonearena didn't update the article with the facts that you have posted above. I bet most of readers that read this article will still believe Galaxy Note 3 is region-locked.

99. Onweel2

Posts: 10; Member since: Sep 28, 2013

Maybe because the problem is not solved. No website or blog show officail statement from samsung yet. and please read my story Hi (sorry for my English) I buy the note 3 from studenmobile . nl it is Netherland webshop for phone. And the phone is come without contact to any Provider here.and i live in Nederland I use the Dutch sim card (Vadafone, Tele2, T-mobile) for calling chatting internet. what ever that the phone can use already for 2-3 day. This is enough for Activation ? it is anough for Regitered ? Now I should can now just put Thai sim card in it already ? But it not working it still need a code for unlock the sim. I try all the Thai Sim card i have.... AIS, True Companay, DTAC. None of it working. I also call to Samsung support in Netherland. Samsung Service - en Informatielijn I get 3 different answer. First one She only say just follow what the box say if you have problem with it just change the phone within 7 day. Second one say.. I just go to the any simlock free shop for ask for helping. But the phone will only working a about 14 Day in Thailand if i make it a simlock free and use Thai Simcard. Or if i want to use longer i have to ask from Thai provider. Third one. She not even know what I'm talking about. I mean she not know about this model. When i say Galaxy note 3,she not know., SN-N9005 she not know. I have to told her the serial number and many thing before she know that this model is available. From the all answer I get. It seem like they not aware this problem yet in Nederland. Or they not being train yet what they have to do. Or they being trail only say do what the box say if you do not want it just return and buy something else. If someone also from NL whom have this phone. Do you have a same problem ? And please do not say your phone working fine when you have a Eu phone and put USA sim card in. or other way around. USA and EU sim card is not locking. Thank you for reading

127. vanessaem

Posts: 1; Member since: Oct 01, 2013

@syedej123...Wow, your explanation was clearer than Samsung's. Thanks! :-)

129. toboev

Posts: 5; Member since: Oct 02, 2013

@syedej123 " those who want to make a quick buck by importing the device and selling it at higher prices" Um, that would be Samsung. That is why they are doing this. It isn't to stop phones being imported to any region and sold "at higher prices", it is to stop the other guys doing it so that Samsung can do it themselves. It is called protectionism, it is done to maintain prices higher than they would otherwise be if market forces operated freely.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.