Samsung Galaxy Note 3 owners or prospective owners need not worry too much about the issue of region locking on Note 3 handsets.
Previous reports about European and American models of the Galaxy Note 3 baring stickers detailing their SIM-locked status had many concerned about their ability to travel with a Galaxy Note 3. Many believed that Galaxy Note 3 handsets wouldn’t be compatible with SIM cards outside the region in which their Note 3 was purchased; however, this is not the case.
Several Samsung spokespeople have stated that the region locking essentially only comes into play when a handset is activated with a SIM card from a region different than the region from which the Galaxy Note 3 handset was purchased. For example, if a Galaxy Note 3 is purchased in the U.K. and activated in the U.K. with a SIM card from the U.K., the Note 3 handset will be region unlocked and will then be compatible with SIM cards from around the world.
Most recently, UK Mobile Review tested the SIM-locking capability on various Galaxy Note 3 handsets and in fact discovered that a Note 3 activated in its proper region is then region unlocked and able to power SIM cards from other regions.
However, If a Galaxy Note 3 first activated with a SIM card from outside its purchased region -- for example, if a Galaxy Note 3 is purchased in the U.K. and activated in the U.S. with a SIM card from the U.S. -- that Galaxy Note 3 handset will require an unlocking code in order to then be functional outside its respective region.
How this works is Samsung has an ID code for each country where it sells products. When a designated region-locked handset such as the Galaxy Note 3 is activated, the ID on the handset must match the ID on the SIM card in order for the handset to be region unlocked. If the handset ID does not match the SIM ID, users will not be able to proceed with setting up their device without the unlocking code.
Fortunately, customers have options if their Galaxy Note 3 handset becomes region locked. They can purchase an unlock code for their handset, or they can have their handset unlocked at a Samsung service center for free. UK Mobile Review says it had no trouble unlocking their Galaxy Note 3, which was purchased in the U.K. and activated with a U.A.E SIM card with a region code purchased from puman.ru; however, it is uncertain how easy such websites are to come by, so it is likely best to have Galaxy Note 3 handset unlocked at an official Samsung service center.
Samsung U.K. has now released a statement on the matter.
In order to provide customers with the optimal mobile experience in each region including customer care services, Samsung has incorporated the ‘regional SIM lock’ feature into Galaxy Note 3 devices. The product is only compatible with a SIM card issued from a mobile operator within the region identified on the sticker of the product package. When the device is activated with a SIM card issued from the other region, the device may be automatically locked until it is released at the dedicated service centre.
Once a device is activated normally, the regional SIM lock is automatically released. Users can enjoy the roaming service as usual and can use other region’s SIM card when travelling. The regional SIM lock has been applied to the Galaxy Note II and Galaxy S4 devices through a software update in selective markets. The regional SIM lock does NOT affect the device’s features and performance. Users can continue to enjoy all the advanced features of our products.
The reasoning for this region lock feature on the Galaxy Note 3 and other devices such as the Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3, Galaxy S2, Galaxy Note 2, and Galaxy S4 Mini manufactured after July 2013 is to combat “grey market” importers. Grey market importers refer to vendors who purchase devices from one region, sell them to another and profit from the difference between retail prices in different areas around the world.
However, some have already found a small loophole in Samsung’s region restriction. Alex Dobie, a U.K. writer for Android Central, says he has been able to get a U.S. SIM card from T-Mobile working on a U.K. Galaxy Note 3 handset; however, he notes that the service is roaming. While Nirave Gondhia from UK Mobile reviewed first installed a U.A.E SIM card in a U.K. Galaxy Note 3 handset and was met with a prompt for a region unlocking code. So it seems as some questions get answered, even more pop up. There is been no word from Samsung on this new issue.
Has the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 region lock explanation cleared your mind about purchasing a Note 3? 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.