There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle over the past few weeks regarding a new regional lock policy enforced by Samsung on its newest SIM-free smartphones. The first handset to ‘benefit’ from this policy has been the Galaxy Note 3, but we heard that it would soon apply to other newly bought Samsung devices.
There have been many things said and written about this so far, but most of those only confused people. Thankfully today Samsung (through its German lawyers) has decided to finally once and for all clarify the situation.
Normally when you buy a SIM-free and unlocked smartphone, regardless of where you buy it from, you can just pop in any SIM card from any carrier in the world and it will work. This isn’t the case for the Galaxy Note 3, and it won’t be the case for other Samsung devices in the near future either (the whole regional lock thing seems to be tied to Samsung’s version of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, and the Galaxy Note 3 is the first device to run that from the factory floor).
If, for example, you purchase a Galaxy Note 3 from one of the countries that Samsung includes in its definition of the ‘Europe’ region (see below for which these are), then the first SIM card you insert into your brand new device has to be from one of the carriers in this region. It doesn’t have to be a carrier from the specific country the phone was bought from, but it needs to be a carrier from one of the countries in the region.
Furthermore, it’s not enough to just insert the SIM and power up the phone. You have to use that SIM card for voice calls for at least five minutes (it’s irrelevant whether you’re the party who’s calling or not). We’re talking regular ‘ol carrier-routed voice calls here obviously, not Skype or Viber or anything like that.
After having used that SIM card for this purpose, the regional lock will be deactivated. And from that point on, you can use any SIM card from any carrier in the world with your smartphone.
This additional step is now required by Samsung in order to curb grey market imports, it’s been reported. Whether or not this will have any effect on those remains to be seen. Oh, and if for some reason you find yourself with a European Galaxy Note 3 in another part of the world and can’t use a European SIM card to deactivate the regional lock, you can head over to a Samsung care center, where you can get it removed. It’s still unclear whether this is going to cost you money, though, or if you’ll have to prove where you purchased your phone from.
The countries in the Europe region according to Samsung are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania , Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the UK, Switzerland, Croatia, Albania, Andorra, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino, Serbia, and the Vatican.