Samsung region-locks Note 3 to prevent imports, but simple workaround exists

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is a highly anticipated device all over the world, having been already released in some countries too. Singapore customers must wait one more day to get their hands on one. However, as everyone rushes to get their hands on the latest and greatest Note from Samsung, you must note (no pun intended) that Samsung has taken the peculiar step to region lock their device. What does this mean?

If you are a gamer you will definitely have heard this phrase ‘region-locking’ being tossed around more often than not. What it refers to is locking the use of a device’s online and gaming (or in the Note 3’s case, cellular) capabilities when not using it in the region where you bought your device from. The Galaxy Note 3 is employing a similar tactic, but all is not as bad as it seems.

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This region locking will only affect those who look to buy a Note 3 handset from a country in a different region as specified by Samsung. This device will lose it cellular capacity if used with a SIM-card purchased from a different region. This move is mainly targeting consumers from other countries importing sets from a place where the devices are cheaper. This way, Samsung loses a large chunk of their profit. However, as said in the title, there is a simple workaround for this.

All one needs to do is buy a SIM-card (prepaid or postpaid) from the country of purchase and just boot the phone once with that SIM-card inserted. This will deactivate the region-lock permanently, and from then onwards you can use a SIM-card from any country in the world. Thus people who are used to buy local SIM-cards when traveling to a foreign country, fret not. As long as you have switched your phone on with a SIM-card from the country of purchase, there is no fear.

This ‘fact’ that the Note 3 would be permanently region locked first came out in a Wednesday blog post by the British online retailer Clove.

Here’s what Clove said:

“If you travel internationally (outside Europe) and usually insert a local SIM card when in those countries, the Note 3 will NOT be able to use the local network. It will lose all mobile connectivity with the exception of emergency calls.

“For example, if you travel to the USA and insert a SIM card issued in the USA, you will not be able to use the Note 3 for any voice calls, text messages and mobile data connection. It will work via a WiFi connectivity only.”

However what Clove is assuming is that UK customers will not bother inserting a UK SIM-card at all, and try to use a US SIM-card directly. That’s where they are wrong. This region lock is only aimed at people looking to import sets from overseas, and thus those who will use it in the UK beforehand can from then onwards use it in any other country.

Samsung Germany has confirmed that Clove is incorrect. They have reiterated that the region lock is removed after a single use in the country of purchase. They said the following (translated from German):

From the statement, it is not entirely clear, but it also confirmed that after the first unlock the SIM lock is completely removed and then local maps can also be used worldwide. So you activate one of the devices in the intended market, the SIM lock is removed and then you can also use local SIM cards when traveling abroad. If you buy a Galaxy Note, for example, 3 in Germany and enabled it in Germany or another of the countries listed, then it can be also outside Europe, such as the U.S. or Asia use.

Regardless of motives, it is very surprising to see Samsung implement a region-lock. Estimates show that profit margins are not that greatly reduced, unlike those of game consoles. While the PS3 did away with region-locks, the Xbox 360 had stubbornly held on to this philosophy. However, in the face of losing sales, Microsoft decided to do a 180 (pun intended) and removed region locks from their upcoming Xbox One. Moreover, surely Samsung will know about this workaround, and should know that if someone is willing to take the risk of importing a foreign handset, they will have no qualms about spending just a few more dollars to remove the region-lock.

So, at the end of the day, those who will use this device at least once in the country of purchase, fret not. You will not be affected by this at all. On the other hand, if you have pre-ordered a foreign set, or have already purchased it, you should go and find yourself a prepaid card from the region of purchase and boot up your phone with it inside.

Readers of Twenty First Tech, what do you think about this attempt by Samsung to stem the importing of devices? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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