The "simple fix" for the regional SIM lock on the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 may not be as simple as we originally thought, as many early adopters now report having trouble with foreign SIM cards even if they activate their Note 3 handset correctly.
Concern quickly followed the Sept. 25 international release of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 as many customers discovered certain models of the Note 3 donned stickers indicating that handsets are region locked, or only compatible with SIM cards issued from mobile carriers within their designated regions. The European model and the American model of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 have specifically been singled out as region locked.
Later several Samsung divisions released statements explaining what the region locks were and how they were supposed to work. In an attempt to combat illegal “grey market” importing, in which vendors purchase devices from one region and sell them to another region to profit from the difference between retail prices in different areas around the world, Samsung implemented a region lock on the Galaxy Note 3.
Regional SIM Lock Is An Ongoing Problem
Customers have been instructed that they need only activate their Galaxy Note 3 handsets with a SIM card from their region and then the Note 3 will be unlocked and able to work with SIM cards from other regions. For example, a Galaxy Note 3 handset bought in the U.K. would need to be activated with a U.K. SIM before it could be powered by a U.S. SIM card by a local carrier like T-Mobile. However many Galaxy Note 3 owners in the U.K. especially report that they have had issues with SIM cards from local carriers in Africa or Asia, with Egypt and Thailand being singled out as areas where the Galaxy Note 3 European model has not functioned even after a proper activation.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 discussions at the XDA Developer Forum and Amazon UK are overrun with complaints, while Galaxy Note 3 sales appear to be suffering for the UK retailer Clove. Meanwhile, the customer service team for Samsung UK appears to have been of little help to frustrated Galaxy Note 3 owners, and have even reportedly suggested purchasing to one patron that he purchases a different phone without a SIM lock.
Regional SIM Lock To Continue With Android 4.4?
As many Samsung Galaxy Note 3 owners grapple with the region lock issue, it is notable that certain other Galaxy handsets have also implemented the region lock. According to a statement by Samsung Germany a number of Galaxy devices produced after end of July 2013 have been locked according to their geographical region, including the Samsung Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3, Galaxy S2, Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy S4 Mini. Some Galaxy S4 models have reportedly been found in Latin America and Europe with the telltale region lock sticker. Currently, devices manufactured before the end of July 2013 are not region locked; however, that may not last long.
One XDA Developer Forum user reports having spoken to a Samsung representative who says that older Galaxy handsets that are currently not region locked will soon be locked once Android 4.4 KitKat is released and begins rolling out onto handsets such as the Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3 and their Mini models as well as the Galaxy Note 2. As Android 4.4 KitKat is currently official only in name and has not yet been unveiled, this news now goes under rumors about the operating system; Samsung has not commented on the claim.
Usually, such a claim might not be elicit much concern; considering the current fragmentation of Android operating systems, not every Samsung handset on the market will be updated to the latest operating system. However, Google has notably suggested that Android 4.4 may be implemented to close the fragmentation gaps in system line, which could be a hint that more Samsung handsets will update to Android 4.4 KitKat.
Do you think these ongoing issues with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 region lock will be a problem in the long run? Let us know in the comments below.
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Fionna Agomuoh is a Technology Reporter for the International Business Times, a vegan foodie, and a lover of Electric Dance Music.