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

Posted: , by Chris P.

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

This story has been updated.

A topic of note has been trending the last two days, and we've been seeing it brought up at multiple locales, including several tips from our readers. It has got to do with a new policy that Samsung has been employing, apparently since the end of July 2013, which basically dictates that all Samsung-branded devices from that date on will come locked to a respective region.

So how did it all start? Well, for starters, the lucky few owners of the new Galaxy Note 3 noticed a rather interesting sticker on the packaging that their phablet came in. Those point towards the respective region in which you can expect your Samsung device to work, and you can probably guess that this spells trouble for the South Korean giant and its customer service division. In fact, the whole ordeal is kind of ironic, seeing as it's the Note 3 that brought this to all up – the phablet that Samsung has been trying real hard to market to businesspeople – the very group of people most likely to travel abroad, who will now have to pay hefty roaming bills.

Samsung's Germany arm has already commented on the new policy, confirming that this is indeed the case and that, at this point, the new rules cover all new Galaxy SII, Galaxy SIII, Galaxy S4, Galaxy S4 Mini and Note 3 devices produced after the end of July. Moreover, while the geographic regions themselves are pretty big (e.g. the American model includes the North, South and Central Americas, along with the Caribbean), Samsung won't provide any sensible workaround for those of us who have/like to travel. The only “option”, right now, is to never activate the phone with a SIM from the region the device was intended for and go to an authorized Samsung service partner 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 be of any use is negligible at best, not to mention that you'll have to cough up an additional service fee.

Probably worst of all, as of this writing, even the Android gurus over at the XDA boards are currently unsure whether this will be crackable, since the way Samsung has gone about it makes the overriding of the traditional carrier lock a child's play 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:

+- Press Release

source: RegionLock AwayXDA-Developers, Samsung Germany via AndroidPolice

  • Options

posted on 27 Sep 2013, 03:02 57

1. woodshop20 (Posts: 459; Member since: 14 Sep 2013)

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

posted on 27 Sep 2013, 03:08 11

3. RaKithAPeiRiZ (Posts: 1488; Member since: 29 Dec 2011)

Because they can ....

posted on 27 Sep 2013, 16:48

86. james004 (Posts: 486; Member since: 15 May 2013)

i hope the developers have an answer to this.

posted on 28 Sep 2013, 20:03 4

100. Long1 (banned) (Posts: 399; Member since: 18 May 2013)


The iMedia mislead you. Make your research.
Ones you put your SIM card inside it unlocks , YOU CAN USE ANY OTHER REGION SIMs

posted on 30 Sep 2013, 15:29 2

119. Chaseism (Posts: 82; Member since: 08 May 2013)

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

posted on 30 Sep 2013, 09:15

112. AKumar47 (Posts: 48; Member since: 11 Sep 2013)

apple said so, haha!

posted on 27 Sep 2013, 03:09 26

4. THE.DARK.KNIGHT (banned) (Posts: 269; Member since: 09 Sep 2013)

You can use an unlocked iphone with any sim card anywhere

posted on 27 Sep 2013, 13:15 4

77. ghaniosman (Posts: 78; Member since: 06 Jun 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..

posted on 28 Sep 2013, 20:07 1

101. Long1 (banned) (Posts: 399; Member since: 18 May 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. :(

posted on 29 Sep 2013, 01:42 3

103. chandra7894 (Posts: 11; Member since: 27 Sep 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

posted on 30 Sep 2013, 08:40 3

109. Dorothy69 (banned) (Posts: 498; Member since: 21 May 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.

posted on 27 Sep 2013, 03:11 12

7. No_Nonsense (unregistered)

So much of freedom.

posted on 27 Sep 2013, 03:59 9

14. Arslan25 (Posts: 23; Member since: 07 Sep 2013)

as if you travel to different continents daily :D

posted on 27 Sep 2013, 04:06 11

16. Sniggly (Posts: 7305; Member since: 05 Dec 2009)

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

posted on 27 Sep 2013, 05:32 9

38. RaKithAPeiRiZ (Posts: 1488; Member since: 29 Dec 2011)

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

posted on 27 Sep 2013, 09:48 1

66. Shatter (Posts: 2036; Member since: 29 May 2013)

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

posted on 27 Sep 2013, 08:54 1

62. SGSatlantis (Posts: 226; Member since: 20 Jul 2011)

What if you live in Istanbul?

posted on 28 Sep 2013, 03:11

96. xfire99 (Posts: 939; Member since: 14 Mar 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.

posted on 28 Sep 2013, 20:10 1

102. Long1 (banned) (Posts: 399; Member since: 18 May 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

posted on 29 Sep 2013, 05:24 2

104. Onweel2 (Posts: 10; Member since: 28 Sep 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 ?

posted on 27 Sep 2013, 05:59 31

48. syedej123 (banned) (Posts: 71; Member since: 08 Jan 2013)


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.

posted on 27 Sep 2013, 09:32 3

65. deathgod (Posts: 122; Member since: 23 Nov 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.

posted on 27 Sep 2013, 12:32 1

72. jellmoo (Posts: 2035; Member since: 31 Oct 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.

posted on 06 Oct 2013, 05:03

131. KRONeage (Posts: 144; Member since: 17 Apr 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?

posted on 06 Oct 2013, 07:46

133. toboev (Posts: 5; Member since: 02 Oct 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.

posted on 07 Oct 2013, 08:51

144. jellmoo (Posts: 2035; Member since: 31 Oct 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.

posted on 28 Sep 2013, 09:17 1

98. GordonFrohman (Posts: 1; Member since: 28 Sep 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.

posted on 28 Sep 2013, 16:44 1

99. Onweel2 (Posts: 10; Member since: 28 Sep 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

posted on 01 Oct 2013, 07:32

127. vanessaem (Posts: 1; Member since: 01 Oct 2013)

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

posted on 02 Oct 2013, 02:32

129. toboev (Posts: 5; Member since: 02 Oct 2013)

" 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.

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