Buyer beware: Some Samsung Galaxy Note 3s locked down by region


Samsung Galaxy Note 3 region locked SIM

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 users are in a tizzy this afternoon after word got out of some oddly worded labeling slapped on their newly purchased Samsung Galaxy Note 3. According to security stickers placed on the Notes by Samsung, the devices seem to be locked down to their respective regions. Here’s what the label reads:

“European Model: This product is only compatible with a SIM-card issued from a mobile operator within Europe.”

This was further corroborated by users on XDA, who found that their “unlocked” Note 3s purchased from Europe (SM-N9005), and Latin America (SM-N900) were, in fact, locked down and couldn’t be used with SIMs from another region. So what’s going on?

Samsung clarifies

Well, All About Samsung received official word from Samsung who confirmed this information… sort of. While some Note 3s are region SIM locked, they will first need to be activated in the regions they were purchased in order for users to pop in a SIM for use in another country/region. In fact, this issue isn’t even unique to the Galaxy Note 3. Apparently any Samsung device purchased after July 2013 comes with the same sticker. Affected devices include:

  • Samsung Galaxy S2
  • Samsung Galaxy S3
  • Samsung Galaxy S4
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Samsung does mention models “that have been delivered by Samsung and are in camps or even at retail” aren’t region SIM locked.

Buyer beware

Those looking to purchase an unlocked device from another region in order to receive a specific variant — Snapdragon 800 vs Exynos, or SAMOLED vs LCD — may want to wait until the model is available locally first. Really, those are the only people that might be affected by this (or if the phone simply isn’t sold in their country/region).

Keep in mind Asian regions also appear to be unaffected by Samsung’s region lock, so it’s not clear whether or not this will apply to the unlocked versions of the device sold elsewhere. Pretty crazy stuff.


Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

Google takes Glass on its first US tour – Durham, North Carolina is their first stop

Previous article

Speedtest 3.0 now available, features new UI and cats

Next article

You may also like


  1. Damn. Good to know.

  2. Stupid EU laws

    1. I know right? “EU” “hates” the freedom of “technology”, because it goes against their religious/politically conservative agenda.

  3. wrong wrong wrong, don’t spread lies to people who might buy this and take it overseas, get your facts straight, it is not region locked, you can take your phone overseas and swap sim cards in AFTER you’ve put in the proper sim card for the proper, buy a European unlocked note 3, you have to activate it with a euro sim card first, then you can swap in a US one when you go to the states, you just can’t buy it in Europe, and then try to put in a us sim card in, thats when it won’t work, (and why would you even want to do this?) but it will if you activate your version in your region, US in US and Europe in Europe then once its activated there, swap in the sim card when you go overseas (thats what its meant for anyways) this kind of blatant disregard for the facts is what spreads BS around about a perfectly good phone.

    1. Hey, Aceman. I know you’re trying to help but that’s EXACTLY what was already said in this post.

      “While some Note 3s are region SIM locked, they will first need to be activated in the regions they were purchased in order for users to pop in a SIM for use in another country/region.”

      1. well played Chris, well played.

      2. Ha!

      3. and WAY SHORTER!

      4. Perhaps,but,I’m sure he meant the spirit of the sensationalist headlines on the subject.

        I’m not a fan of such tactics myself,………

      5. I guess reading is hard for some people. :-)

      6. The article does not mention what might be motivating this. It seems it is to prevent import, and tax avoidance for the EU/UK. Enforcing such a tactic would give the carriers yet one more aspect to get a cut of: handset sells. Carriers also can be more approximately guaranteed that unapproved, though related devices will not be massively used on this network.

        Or, SAMSUNG is battling some international phone-renditioner resale ring that can shift models around and profit on “distorting” the marketplace.

        Or is there something else?

        And has anyone else been doing anything similar?

    2. you Big Dummy

    3. Oh I dunno maybe because it’s my money and I want to buy whatever he’ll device I want to. Had this been an issue when I bought my international Note 1 then I would have switched to another phone. Where the hell would I get a European sim anyway? Why should I ave to?

      Maybe that certain device has the internal hardware you want who knows button cares this is still BS.

      1. who says you cant buy the device if you want to, where you live buy it, activate it, then swap when you go overseas whats the big deal, besides each model has different processors and capabilities, its not like they’re the same, the non-qualcomm version doesn’t have 4k recording or quick charge 2.0

        1. You’re missing the point. If I live in the US and buy a international version I’m not going to have some random oveseas region sim card lying around to put in it just so I can USE the phone I bought unlocked at full price.

          1. man if you lived in the US why would you buy an international version when that one has the inferior processor, the Snapdragon 800 is the US version anyways, you know, with 4k recording, and Qualcomms imbedded Quick Charge 2.0 technology that can safely charge a 3300 mAh phone in 96 mins (thats an hour and a half!) vs 246 mins on conventional (over 4 hours), the one with the fastest quad core processor out there? sure, the International is no slouch, its rocking 2 differently clocked cpu’s designed for different things by the very company the phone is made by, in this case a 1.9 and 1,3, which is good for those EU out there lol, but I want bleeding edge, and bleeding edge is 4 krait 400’s rocking it with a latest Andrino 330 powering it up baby,… with no 4k recording and no LTE, and no Quick Charge 2.0 the Exynos isn’t worth it when there’s another model that is state of the art, so hence if you live in the US, buy the US, activate here, then go overseas and swap.

  4. What’s this all about, are Samsung doing this so they can price-fix their goods per region, by preventing people from importing from overseas?

  5. I remember Europeans lauding American companies locking their phones to specific carriers. While this seems easier to “unlock” for use elsewhere, it’s still a big phat L O L.

    1. I don’t mind locking. When I need to travel to Europe or elsewhere I’ve got my fave device that’s served me well abroad:

      1. I always recommend people opt for a cheap phone when traveling abroad. If it is lost or stolen, you lose a lackluster phone instead of your high end phone.

        1. Exactly why I’ve been using this baby. Still in good condition. It’s not just my more expensive devices I take care of.

        2. I sadly learnt this first hand -_- …

        3. In that case, why have a high-end phone at all? You can lose it or have it stolen just as easily at home. Travelling is when a smartphone is at its most useful.

          1. You can buy cheap smartphones and still leave your high end smartphone at home. If you’re the owner of a Galaxy Note, go purchase a Galaxy S or S2 and take it overseas. iPhone 5 owner? Buy an iPhone 3GS or 4 and take it overseas.

            And yes you can have it stolen at home just as easily, American Tourists are often the target of foreign country thieves. Why take the risk and have it stolen overseas where you couldn’t track it or anything else? Lose a cheap phone instead of an expensive phone.

          2. You’d buy a “cheap” smartphone to travel as insurance against losing your high-end one??? LOL. Why not just get travel insurance and take your own phone? It’s a lot cheaper and less hassle!

          3. Why get travel insurance? Why deal with the hassle of having to fight an insurance company to get your phones value correct so you can get a replacement phone when you can buy a cheap phone and be done with it?

            It’s called common sense man. Leave your expensive phone at home and take a cheap phone with you. If you can’t comprehend that, then you can’t comprehend anything.

          4. Why NOT get travel insurance? Your phone’s probably covered anyway if you book the travel with a credit card. If your “cheap” smartphone gets stolen you still need to replace it. If your high-end phone gets stolen, you’ll get a check from the insurance and get a cheap upgrade.

          5. Thanks for proving that you lack basic comprehension skills.

          6. LOL

          7. Well first off, the SGS 1 isn’t HSPA+ compatible, so I’d have to battle with dodgy data speeds abroad when calling my friends / relatives back home. Secondly, again travel insurance is there for a reason. I haven’t had a problem before with phone insurance as long as they specifically cover a phone up to a certain value. What is more is you shouldn’t really be travelling without travel insurance anyway due to medical expenses and that usually covers personal belongings.

            Not only that, I am quite sure after you have bought a relatively modern smartphone as a backup, you could almost have replaced your actual smartphone. SGS 2 goes for around £130. Whereas an SGS 4 brand new on Amazon is just over double that. In addition, what will you do with the SGS 2 when you are at home?

          8. The phone suggestions were just that, merely suggestions.

            What do you do with the SGS2 when you’re at home? Keep it as a backup in case you have to ship off your other phone for warranty work or if it is lost/stolen at home. Simple as that. More people keep backup phones than you may realize. Being in the retail phone business I often have customers return for a second phone to keep around as a future backup.

      2. A “mobile telephone” with a “brick” form factor?

  6. Not clear that you can use SIM in local region first and then expect to use SIM outside your local region. Samsung UK are saying phone bought in UK is region locked. So in the case of phone bought in UK, only SIMs from operators based in UK, EU, EEA and certain other local jurisdictions can be used in US, Asia, Australia etc.

    So Samsung want me to buy, for more than £600, an “unlocked”, off-contract phone and then not let me use the SIM from outside EU region while I am on holiday in US or Aus etc. So I need to buy a second smart phone to use outside EU, or travel to HK to try and find a genuine unlocked N9005 which I can use unlocked in any region. Consumer unfriendly!!!

  7. I almost bought one from Amazon today….Screw/freak Samsung….

    1. Opposite ends of the size spectrum, interesting.

      1. Very true. I saw a video and I was sold but good thing I did not buy it. My Sony Xperia ZL is on it’s way over and I’ll be having fun with it on Saturday.

        1. I hope you saw videos on the ZL before ordering it..

    2. Did you read the article? It’s not like it doesn’t work, you just have to jump through a very specific hoop. Not a big deal, hardly even news worthy

      1. Actually, its huge news. Any negative thing like this blown out of proportion will deter possible buyers to lean towards somehing else. I feel this should have been in the owners manual instead of a big sticker. Samsung actually blew this out of proportion themselves. Only people importing devices for Dev purposes or because they want a version their region didn’t get have anything to worry about. Still Samsung should have knew better than put this out like they have. This news has blown up like crazy in the past two days literally days before the us launch possibly causing buyers to choose another handset. Look at all the comments saying they will choose another device. Mines still pre ordered, will be unlocked, rooted, debloated, undervolted and modded to my liking. I’m intelligent enough to overcome obstacles.

    3. I’m glad I bought my Galaxy S4 in June and it didn’t come with this sticker!

      P.S. I bought mine in UK, Europe.

  8. Great news to read the day I get my Note 3…

    I can just picture the Samsung Unlocked presentation at IFA when the Samsung head says that they have more LTE bands in the Note 3 than any one else, which means that it works everywhere. And then they pull a stupid stunt like this.

    WTF, Samsung you better fix this! I didn’t pay a small fortune for my phone to be restricted.

    1. Well, it may have enough LTE bands so that the phone “could work” everywhere, but there is no way to prove this with these restrictions!

      My suspicion: they probably advertised the multiple LTE band stuff, but it was total BS and just shipped the same old region specific LTE configurations like in previous devices and slapped a sticker on your phone so you cannot prove them wrong.

    2. just don’t buy a European handset if you are in America. Problem solved. You can still roam with it no problem or get it unlocked *AFTER* it has registered on the appropriate region’s carrier.

      This is to prevent people buying handsets and importing them. Not sure why, but that’s it. The phone can still be unlocked after it’s registered.

      1. The statement that they say not truth. My phone still being lock.

    3. hahha you rock man! currently I still have my galaxy note 2 from docomo (living in Japan btw) and during that time when GSnote2 came out I had fun taunting iphone4s and iphone 5 users on my company they envy so many things that the gsnote3 can do compared to their iOS devices, then six months later they all using galaxy note 2 already and when the s4 came out they all switch and I was left behind, now they are taunting me …. just cant wait for the note3 to be release here in Japan so that I can have my sweet revenge.

  9. It may just be to prevent reselling the device. If I buy some for a certain price then just ship them over to another country that they are more expensive but selling them as new, this would prevent that.

    1. Why does anyone need to prevent that – isn’t that the free market in action? It’s more likely that this is an attempt to protect selling prices for Samsung, NOT to protect consumers.

      1. Exactly. That is what I meant.

  10. no one complains that all iphones has chasticity locks

    1. True and untrue but if you walk into an Apple Store in the US, and buy an unlocked iPhone, fly to London, put a UK sim in it, the phone will work.

  11. Yea I can careless about a region lock don’t plan on leaving the U.S for a while not a deal breaker for me

    1. EXACTLY. And if you do, SAMSUNG WILL UNLOCK IT… smh

  12. Fuckwits.


    “Samsung” fans, U MAD????

    1. They MAD!!!!

      1. LOL!!!!

  14. time to move to another brand…. why buy samsung when they do some kind of region lock for no good reason other than screw its customers into service center unlocks

  15. Anyone please tell me whether Samsung galaxy note 3 n9005 model(bought outside India) will work in India with 3g connectivity? I am planning to buy one from Dubai…please help…

    1. Just look for sticker on the product packaging. Also if the specific variant is not launched in India like Snapdragon them you cannot unlock it in India. suggest to delay purchase till Samsung takes back this horror policy

  16. I understand this region locking is a big deal but I think there is an even bigger problem with the Note 3 and it’s not being reported. The S-notes on the Note 3 are a different file format and therefore incompatible with every other Note device. I have a Note phone and the tablet, Note 10.1. I had the Note 3 pre-ordered until a student in the UK got on a forum to announce his problem. I looked into it and Samsung has no plans to change it. All the rest save the files as .snb, the Note 3 format is .spd. As Samsung has the capability to sync S-notes between current devices in the app, I’m used to doing that. With the note 3, if you sync through the Samsung account, it will upgrade the format but then the tablet can’t use it. Right now, I can open and edit on whatever device is handy, even email them to other Note users, having a Note 3 would put a stop to that.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *