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
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?