You know what is awesome about Android? No amount of lockdowns by device manufacturers and carriers alike is permanent. At some point it is all bypassed and the users have their way. This has happened too soon for the Galaxy Note 3, Samsung’s latest high end device. The Galaxy Note 3 shipped to some markets like Europe with a controversial new feature baked in by Samsung, regional SIM lock. Thanks to XDA Developers Elite member ChainFire, we’re free of Samsung’s regional SIM lock, or something like that.
What is regional SIM lock?
There has been widespread outrage over Samsung’s decision to lock down the Galaxy Note 3 as per regions where it is sold and bought. Many may have misunderstood what regional SIM lock is or even have no idea what it is altogether. Here’s something quick: the regional SIM lock is a measure put in place by Samsung so that phones meant for one market are not smuggled in to another by greedy retailers who in turn make huge profits. In this case all Galaxy Note 3s sold in Europe have the regional SIM lock and this is how it works: if you buy a Galaxy Note 3 in say Europe, you must insert a SIM card for a European carrier to be able to recognize it so that it registers on the network. After that, you are free to use the Galaxy Note 3 outside the market you bought it as you desire, you can make calls and text everywhere and anywhere. Once the device registers on that network then it is possible to swap SIM cards and use any SIM card on the phone regardless of the region or carrier. At least that is the official explanation.
If I lost you somewhere this is it in short: you buy a Galaxy Note 3 in say Germany. Let’s say you bought it from T-Mobile Germany. But then you are a Kenyan and need to use it with your Safaricom line when you get back home. What do you do to avoid the regional lock (officially)? Unbox the device and activate it using a T-Mobile Germany SIM card. Once it registers on the T-Mobile network you’re good to go (literally). You can now fly to Kenya with your Note 3 and slot in a Safaricom SIM card. It should work. Got it?
In the event you leave Germany for Kenya without activating the device then you can simply pop in to your nearest Samsung service centre and they’ll help you sort it out. Or you can buy unlock codes online and unlock it for use here all by yourself. The unlock codes are cheap online but when you are informed I doubt you can get to such levels.
Should you be worried?
Where did the outrage come from? Well, most people think that despite doing as I have described above you still won’t be able to use your local SIM card as the device will only be able to recognize a SIM card for the market it was meant for. For instance in my short example above that will be this way: you won’t be able to use the Note 3 using your Safaricom SIM card, you’ll have to roam in Kenya using a Germany T-Mobile SIM. No one has proven this yet so we’ll have to make do with Samsung’s word that things work as I have tried to show with my example.
There have been no test cases about the regional SIM lock so I won’t judge it based on the complaints that have been raised so far by guys in the forums. Probably we’ll get a clear picture when the Galaxy Note 3 is in the hands of enough folks. Still, the regional lock is only confirmed for the European market. There won’t be any for the Asian market. There is no word about the Americas though I figure out consumers there already have their hands full with their carriers who have all manner of locked bootloaders, network locks and the like. For us in Africa, no word too but I doubt there will be any regional lock. So you can still travel to say the United Kingdom or Germany and buy a local SIM card there, pop it up on your phone and use cellular network provided services at fair rates compared to the high costs that come with roaming.
Also, there is an easy way to detect if your device is locked to the region that it is being sold. There will be a sticker on the sides of the box (see photo below) of the device that clearly states that the device has regional lock so fear not, fret not.
Still, if your Galaxy Note 3 happens to be having the regional lock, there is hope. Just head over to the forums (source link below) and see what ChainFire has in store for you. For now the RegionLock Away app is proven to be working on the Snapdragon 800 variant of the Note 3 (SM-N9005). It could take time before it works for the Exynos 5420 octa-core version (SM-N9000) so patience could be your best friend in the event you have the latter model and want to strip off the Note 3’s regional lock.
Reading about this region lock thing should not scare you away from a device as awesome as the Note 3. It is a move by Samsung to ring in on grey imports which should be helpful to the consumers as those dilute the brand value and also the value of the device (you understand how). Also there is a lot of misinformation like your Note 3 won’t be able to roam and the like. Hear none of that. That ain’t true. Any doubts, questions? I’ll be more than glad to hear from you. Sound off in the comments.
The folks over at UK Mobile Review have been on this case and have confirmed that just like I stated in my example, you need to activate your device with the right SIM card and you’ll be able to use any SIM card in this world. In the case of my example where I picked Germany’s T-Mobile, you can use any SIM card from the EU to unlock and activate the device. After that there are no limits. So guys, you are safe. No need for panic. And in any case there is, you can always turn to the RegionLock Away app which requires some rooting though.