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International Galaxy Note 3 Devices are SIM Locked to Specific Regions (Updated)

sim locked galaxy note 3

We have a bit of bad news to share for those of you who are interested in both buying an international Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and taking it on trips abroad. As you can see on the sticker above, which is blasted on the box of our Note 3 variant (unboxing), Samsung has gone ahead and made our device in particular only capable of running on networks in the Americas (North, South, Central, and the Caribbean). The same goes for the European variant, which has been locked to the EU and a handful of other countries. So what does that mean? 

Well, if you have the “American Model,” travel to Europe, and then toss in a local SIM card from a European wireless carrier, your phone won’t work. On the flip side, if you live in Europe and own the “European Model,” you can’t come to the U.S. and toss in a SIM card from say AT&T or T-Mobile or Straight Talk and expect to receive service. No sir, Samsung has decided against those shenanigans. Instead, you’ll have to keep your country’s SIM card inserted, and essentially absorb the international roaming fees that your carrier will likely force upon you.

What we don’t know is why they decided to do this. Did they make a deal with wireless carriers in each region to keep you spending boatloads of cash on roaming fees? Well, we probably won’t ever know that, but if that is the case – then…(insert expletive directed at Samsung and the carriers of the world).

The only issue we have to worry about now is whether or not the U.S. carrier models are the same way. Most devices sold from Verizon or AT&T these days have global capabilities that allow you to travel abroad and find a local SIM card to save you from roaming charges. But if Samsung is locking international devices that are supposed to be fully unlocked, we don’t know what to expect. I would hope not or this is going to get even nastier.

Oh, and if you thought this was all a screw-up, Samsung Germany has issued the following statement:

SIM card usage in current Samsung products

Some current Samsung products are now provided with a local SIM card lock. This means that devices purchased in the European Union, with SIM cards of mobile operators from Germany and from the European Union and the European Economic Area (the “European region”) work as usual.

Users of these Samsung devices can continue to use these together with their SIM card of a mobile operator from the European region via roaming service to appropriate roaming charges to their wireless service provider around the world. If purchased in the European Union and not yet been put into use to be activated for the first time abroad, users can unlock their device for the region free from local Samsung service partners.

The regional SIM card lock only affects the following Samsung models that are produced from the end of July 2013, and provided with a corresponding sticker:

Samsung GALAXY S III, II, GALAXY Note, GALAXY S4, S4 GALAXY mini and the GALAXY Note 3

Devices that have been delivered by Samsung and are in camps or even at retail are not affected.

Specifically, there is a functionality of the devices with SIM cards of mobile operators from the following countries:

Countries of the European Economic Area (EEA): 
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands , Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK, Switzerland, Croatia

- Non-EU/EEA: 
Albania, Andorra, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino, Serbia, Vatican City

Update:  As it turns out, the situation sort of goes like this – phones are only regionally SIM locked upon initial activation. In other words, if you have the “American” version of the phone, as long as you initially activate the phone using a SIM card from within the “American” region, your phone will then be fully unlocked. You can then take it abroad, use local SIMs whenever you’d like. The only time you would run into an issue would be if you bought an “American” version and then tried to first activate it in Europe. Make sense?

 Via:  GigaOM | Clove UK | AllAboutSamsung

  • rotema

    Q
    I bought a Note 3 in the USA ,in NYC ,Verizon when I used my Europian SIM in the US it works ,now when i”m in Europe its says – Insert Verizion sim – any ideas what to do ?

  • ganaramz

    i bought a note 3 from t-mobile. it was activated in the shop with an “appropriate” SIM. it worked just fine. i am in Ghana now and i cannot use my local SIM card. where did i go wrong?

  • Shūji Kiritani

    I’m in Canada and this sticker in no where to be found on my SGN3 box.

  • The Phenom

    This is direct retaitiation for the EU and their decision to kill roaming fees in Europe.

  • radiohead14

    the article title should be updated to add “only during initial activation”.

  • djdsf

    So now I need to get a hold of an asian sim card… great

  • ani

    Good news! This new info is from the Verge:

    “Update: GigaOm has received a new statement from Samsung that clarifies the Note 3′s region locking policy. Though Samsung’s own text and initial statements seemed to confirm that both the European and American models of the Note 3 would be barred from using SIM cards from other regions, Samsung is now saying that this only applies to the very first SIM card used to set up the phone. Insertion of a foreign SIM during the Note 3′s setup process will lock up the device, ostensibly as a way to stop distributors from sending phone models to areas they weren’t meant for. However, if the Note 3 is set up using a local SIM card, it will be able to use any other card from that point forward — foreign ones included. GigaOm reports that this policy is in place on units of the Galaxy S4, Galaxy S4 mini, Galaxy Note II and Galaxy S III that were produced after July as well.”

  • Kristine

    We’ve heard back from a Samsung spokesperson who gave us the following statement:

    “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.”

    So there you have it – Samsung are confirming that as long as you activate it with a SIM from that specific region, you’ll be able to use it as your normally would.

  • Lte_Addict

    what a dumb decision smh, after my s3 suffered from “sudden death” when i needed it the most..from here on out its only nexus phone for me. got a n4 and will be getting the N5 asap. honestly im just tired of samsung, between touchwiz and all of its bloatness, to the many gimmicky features their phones have. it nice to finally have stock android again

  • florious80

    This is going to be Samsung’s undoing. Nevermind that their new phones aren’t so innovative, if they lock phones to the regions, there’s no reason for me (or anyone) to choose this phone over other ones. The unlocked version of S3 is one of the major selling point for me, and probably for a lot of people who travels oversea quite a bit. Why so anti-consumer? Stop export/import sales? Come on. Even Apple is better than this and they are so closed to begin with.

  • http://www.frivjogo.info/ Friv Jogos

    There will be quite a lot of people were surprised by this information, and we assume that’s what it’s always been arranged.

  • Luc Feenstra

    Check this out!

    Have a read through the following article that explains exactly what this region lock means and gives answers to most of the questions that have been asked over the past few days:

    http://ukmobilereview.com/2013/09/galaxy-note-3-sim-restrictions-full-story-unlock/

    • frankie

      thanks Luc this is very helpful and should solve a lot of problems. i too suspected that he should have put the local sim first

    • frankie

      thanks very helpful

      • Luc Feenstra

        No worries, just glad I can use my EU Note 3 in China tomorrow :)

        • frankie

          ok update us what happened lol

  • JoshGroff

    Ok Google Now, remind me not to buy the Note 3.

  • sirmipsalot

    “International, Unlocked”, except not really.

    I mean, I’m on Verizon, but I still have an (actually, not BS) unlocked razr v3 for traveling to other countries – and I actually have a UK SIM that I use when I do. What a load of nonsense.

  • starnovsky

    This is no even funny. Shame on Samsung. It’s not like I was going to buy Note 3 anyway…

  • E A butler

    which Version of the Note3 did you guys get, was it the N9000? I have seen atleast 3 other variants floating around. I spend a lot of time in China, and i usually buy unlocked intl’ versions…..so I’m just curious.

  • kamonatong

    Yeah its a sad day. There’s no way I’m paying tmobile for international rates when traveling. Samsung may have some the best features on their phones but this one missing feature is the veritable deal breaker.

  • matti861

    not to sound ignorant but can somebody explain to me why someone couldnt just unlock the phone and go about their business?

    • Reginald Jefferson

      It’s essentially a region lock. International versions of phones usually are already unlocked but the way this is setup, even if you unlock the phone you can still only use it with sims in your geographical region. It’s similar to how phones like the Razr M/HD were sim unlocked but wouldn’t work with certain carriers (AT&T or T-Mobile). In order to beat out this geo-region lock the phone’s codes would have to be hacked (similar to what I did to get my phone to use AT&T or T-Mo sims w/o having to flash a different radio).

      • Bruce Purvis

        No you don’t. All you have to do is activate in the original region it was made for then any SIM will work.

        Here is a quote from this article. http://ukmobilereview.com/2013/09/galaxy-note-3-sim-restrictions-full-story-unlock/

        In our Note 3 (in the video above), we used a UAE SIM first which applied the lock to the device and meant we needed an unlock code before we could use a non-EU SIM. However, Alex from Android Central has found that once he activated his Galaxy Note 3 with a UK SIM first, he was able to use any global SIM card (he tested with T-Mobile USA).

        Earlier today, we tested this with two other Galaxy Note 3 smartphones, both of which are EU specific and had been activated with a UK SIM card. Our UAE SIM worked in both of these devices with no issues.

        This means:

        If you use a region-specific SIM first, your handset will be unlocked for use with any region SIM card. However, if you’ve tried to activate with a non-region SIM card first, you’re stuck but fear not – hit the jump for our advice.

        • Reginald Jefferson

          Ah okay. Thanks for clearing that up.

        • Philip

          This is not what has been happening in practice on a consistent basis.

  • Goldenpins

    Great. I’ll just get a Nexus 5. I was debating on a Note 3 so i’m a little disappointed. I was planning on using it in the AUS and UK next year.

    • Bruce Purvis

      You still can you just have to activate in the correct region first.

  • http://randomphantasmagoria.com/ Shawn

    I bet carriers worldwide are lining Samsung’s pockets with cash in exchange for doing this. Basically what this means is that you can’t use a local SIM when you travel. You’re forced to keep your home SIM card in and pay your home carrier ridiculous international roaming rates, or buy an “international plan” from your home carrier that still rapes you, but just uses KY jelly before it does.

    I think carriers are becoming savvy to people who travel abroad and just buy local prepaid SIMs for use while they’re traveling. They realize they’re missing out on a big potential revenue stream.

  • http://twitter.com/geoff5093 Geoff Johnson

    Samsung is becoming more and more like Apple, now telling it’s customers what it will and will not be able to do.

    • mehbias

      except apple does it partly to ensure security of their ecosystem and watever reasons…..samsung is just conceited and think they are better than everyone else now….

    • starnovsky

      Apple never pulled crap like that. If phone bought at the full price it’s completely SIM-unlocked.

  • moelsen8

    Scumbags

    • Adrynalyne

      NO WAY. SAMSUNG IS THE BEST!

      • joder

        4GR33D. Fr33n0d3 now!

        • Adrynalyne

          LOL

      • Kanaga Deepan N

        Yes… They are the best scumbags…

      • Nathaniel Webb

        do 5 people have their sarcasm meter turned off?

  • nerdy desi

    How are Verizon models going to fare, since they are supposed to unlock their LTE devices due to the FCC?

  • NemaCystX

    Samsung is becoming more like Apple it seems. Now there telling you what you can do with your device and where you can use it. Ridiculous, even the iPhone has its ability to be used elsewhere after being SIM unlocked

    • http://www.droid-life.com Kellex B

      Except Apple doesn’t even SIM lock their phones, at least to my knowledge.

      • Dregur

        Apple sim locks their sim cards to a network it was bought at least through the iPhone 5 era, not sure about the iPhone 5S. You have to get it unlocked by ATT.

        http://howto.cnet.com/8301-11310_39-57576116-285/how-to-use-an-at-t-iphone-on-t-mobiles-no-contract-network/

        • Reginald Jefferson

          Last I heard, iP5 and up were sim unlocked from the start.

          • Paul Hansen

            Vzw isn’t locked. Att and sprint are I believe. Not positive but I’d venture a guess and say tmo is unlocked as well. I don’t really pay too much attention to apple though so I could be remembering old info.

          • Dregur

            Yeah, Verizon was unlocked, I remember that. Not sure about TMobile my self.

      • Bruce Purvis

        Kellex B. you should update the article.

        Here is a quote from this article. http://ukmobilereview.com/2013/09/galaxy-note-3-sim-restrictions-full-story-unlock/

        In our Note 3 (in the video above), we used a UAE SIM first which applied the lock to the device and meant we needed an unlock code before we could use a non-EU SIM. However, Alex from Android Central has found that once he activated his Galaxy Note 3 with a UK SIM first, he was able to use any global SIM card (he tested with T-Mobile USA).

        Earlier today, we tested this with two other Galaxy Note 3 smartphones, both of which are EU specific and had been activated with a UK SIM card. Our UAE SIM worked in both of these devices with no issues.

        This means:

        If you use a region-specific SIM first, your handset will be unlocked for use with any region SIM card. However, if you’ve tried to activate with a non-region SIM card first, you’re stuck but fear not – hit the jump for our advice.

        • frankie

          true he definitely should unless it bothers him to do so lol

  • Craig

    Samsung needs to reconsider this blatantly stupid act. Personally, I wouldn’t buy a locked phone.

    • Lte_Addict

      yep unlocked phones are probably gonna be the next thing…thats why i stick with nexus phones…truly unlocked and stock android

  • NIGHTSCOUT

    This can be undone.

  • http://thebeeobee.com/ thebeeobee

    Yikes, only 32 bit and also sim locked. Not looking good.

    • Ian

      What exactly are you planning to do with this device that would require anything other than 32 bit?

      • galen

        Pretty sure you and the other ‘up-voters’ just got trolled a little bit.

      • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

        Man he’s been trolling all day with the same 32 bit nonsense all day jsut ignore

  • Digbob

    The original article I read on this said that this only affected initial activation. Once activated in the appropriate region, the device could then be used wherever. It sounds like this is simply a measure to prevent “grey market” importers from selling the devices in markets they were not intended for.

    • Adrynalyne

      It shouldn’t matter if it is a carrier free device. This is just Samsung trying to exert more control. “No! You can’t buy that! You must be THIS.”

    • Bruce Purvis

      Finally someone gets it….

      • batmobil

        Are you sure, because people are reporting what he said does not actually work in practice. After initial unlocking, the phone still locks when switching to another regions SIM. Seems to be a lot of misinformation about this.

  • elias

    Good thing I don’t ever leave the USA. Can’t wait for my Note 3!

    • Barnassey

      Spoken like a true ignorant fool.

      • elias

        No sir! It just doesn’t affect me. Have a good day!

      • steve james

        Wow. Really?

  • Mike Hilal

    This only matters for non-verizon models. Verizon’s are already sim locked. Sigh.

    • Pedro

      No, they aren’t.

      • Mike Hilal

        Try using one overseas w/o asking them to unlock it first, then come back and tell me your experience.

        • Pedro

          Nah, I’d have to buy a VZW phone to answer.
          But, have you tried putting a SIM from AT&T into a recent phone?

          • Mike Hilal

            Depending on the phone (ie, if it has a radio capable), it works. It’s when you leave the region and use a different sim is when issues happen.

          • Pedro

            From the comments by others, it seems you are wrong.
            Europe, South America and Australia/New Zealand users all disagree.

            Did you pay your bill?

          • Mike Hilal

            Bill is, and always has been paid. I had to call them to unlock my Gnex so it would work with an DT sim.

          • BSweetness

            The Verizon Galaxy Nexus doesn’t have a GSM radio, only CDMA and LTE. The SIM slot comes unlocked, but it will only work with the LTE bands that Verizon uses, and it definitely won’t work with GSM networks since the required hardware isn’t there.

            It would seem that you’re really mixed up on all of your information.

        • joder

          I gladly used my Note 2 in New Zealand with a NZ sim and my SGS4 in Argentina with an Argentina sim. No sim locking there.

          You forget all of their new phones must be sim unlocked per their 700 Mhz LTE spectrum agreement.

        • BSweetness

          I’ve used several Verizon LTE phones with GSM capabilities in various countries around the world on several continents (Asia, Europe, North America, South America), and they’ve all worked without any problems. All Verizon LTE devices come SIM unlocked, and that includes for GSM networks if the phone has the required radios.

        • starnovsky

          Tried. Razr Maxx, DNA and S4. All worked fine,

    • landale

      This is definitely not true. I have taken a Verizon SIII to London, Paris, and Amsterdam and used it with local SIM cards with on issues. I have also taken a Verizon S4 to Australia and used it with local SIM cards. In nether case did I need to have it unlocked. I think you are thinking of the early Samsung software releases where there was no APN menu to enter the foreign APN information but I can assure you all Verizon 4G GSM compatible phones are SIM unlocked.

      • BSweetness

        This.

        Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Verizon’s pre-LTE global GSM capable phones required unlocking if you wanted to use a different SIM. But their LTE devices are all SIM unlocked, including for GSM use if the radio supports GSM (which most do). They’re required to be SIM unlocked due to the agreement Verizon made with the FCC when buying some of their LTE spectrum.

    • Pedro

      Hey! Can you show me how you changed yourself from Mike Hilal to Guest after getting schooled by those who know more than you?

      • JoshGroff

        Just give me your name, dob, ssn, and address and I’ll teach you.

        Trust me, I’m a Nigerian prince.

      • BSweetness

        Deleting your comments will do that. It doesn’t actually delete the comment, it just deletes your profile from the comment.

  • Pedro

    Wow. I would NEVER buy a device that I can’t use when and where I want to use it. I guess I can scratch Samsung off the list of future potential devices.

    Oh wait. I only buy Nexus phones. No worries. Works in Murca, Mexico and Scotland.

  • Defenestratus

    Thanks Samsung for deciding for me whether to wait for the Nexus 5 or get your Note 3. Easy decision there.

    • StuckOnVerizonForever

      Yes because people leave the US all the time.

      • http://twitter.com/geoff5093 Geoff Johnson

        Lots of people travel from North American to Europe..

      • Pedro

        Wow. I think I know why you are stuck on Verizon forever.
        You are not so bright.

        Have you heard about International Airports?
        Passports?

      • Goldenpins

        yes they do. People from abroad, other who visit the US and those who have families outside the US they visit.

      • PiRat

        It’s not about whether you use roaming or not, it’s about freedom and Samsung has infringed upon this.

        If you have even a shred of dignity you’ll boycott.

        • 1bad69z28

          Ahhh, How have they (Samsung) infringed upon your Freedom’s LOL!!!

          Ok, Let’s Read This Again

          @PiRat Yes you can…once it has been activated in the original region then if you travel outside that region you can use a different SIM card.

          Here is a quote from this article. http://ukmobilereview.com/2013

          “In our Note 3 (in the video above), we used a UAE SIM first which applied the lock to the device and meant we needed an unlock code before we could use a non-EU SIM. However, Alex from Android Central has found that once he activated his Galaxy Note 3 with a UK SIM first, he was able to use any global SIM card (he tested with T-Mobile USA).

          Earlier today, we tested this with two other Galaxy Note 3 smartphones, both of which are EU specific and had been activated with a UK SIM card. Our UAE SIM worked in both of these devices with no issues.

          So I think this answers your question and if you have a “Shred of Dignity” Read and understand before making such comments.

          Thanks for playing :)

          • PiRat

            I read that on sammobile a few minutes after posting previous comment.

            Maybe not be as bad as before but still not happy with it.

      • 1bad69z28

        Dude, You really need to get out more often :)

    • Miguel Angel Portela

      Yeah, this pretty much tears it. What a gigantic step backwards.

    • techgui

      I don’t see how it’s such a deal breaker if you can use it like any other unlocked phone, once its activated in the specified region

      • Guest

        You can’t use it like any other unlocked phone if you’re a traveler. If you buy a European Samsung Galaxy Note 3, you can’t put a T-Mobile or AT&T SIM in it when you get to the US on travel so you have to pay expensive roaming rates or get a burner phone.

        • Bruce Purvis

          Yes you can…once it has been activated in the original region then if you travel outside that region you can use a different SIM card.

          • 1bad69z28

            As it turns out, the situation sort of goes like this – phones are only regionally SIM locked upon initial activation. In other words, if you have the “American” version of the phone, as long as you initially activate the phone using a SIM card from within the “American” region, your phone will then be fully unlocked. You can then take it abroad, use local SIMs whenever you’d like. The only time you would run into an issue would be if you bought an “American” version and then tried to first activate it in Europe. Make sense?

            “YES YOU CAN”!!!! As Bruce and Kellen have so eloquently pointed out :),

          • batmobil

            No, it doesnt work. Numerous reports from people trying this says they failed to do so. After activation, the phone locks again when getting a SIM card from a different region.

          • 1bad69z28

            @bbamobi, please provide me a link where people are saying this is not true and failed. I know someone that works at Samsung directly directly that also confirmed what Kellen has stated in this post.

          • batmobil

            No, this is theory. People are reporting that it does not work like that, and they are still stuck with the region they activate in.

          • Bruce Purvis

            This is not theory…

            Here is the reply they received straight from Samsung in real life:
            http://ukmobilereview.com/2013/09/samsung-statement-galaxy-note-3-region-locking/

            Please give me a link where it does not work like this…

          • Karl

            Not true. You have been reading the same statement made by one samsung official in Germany. Go to the xda forums and click on the now 73 page thread titled ” sim- restrictions on gn3″. There are multiple reports made by travelers

  • cancerous_it

    Only way to stop these shenanigans, don’t buy it. Everyone needs to give carriers and OEMs the middle finger when they try to pull carp like this.

    • Guest

      But carp is so delicious…

      • Pedro

        Salmon is your friend. Grilled, with a soy/maple glaze… mmmm

        • Mike Hilal

          No grouper?

  • Ray Gray

    Good thing were Merican

    • El_Big_CHRIS

      ‘Mericah!