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#1 +Frank B.

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 20:15

[Update: It Gets Worse] Samsung Has Begun SIM Locking Its Phones Across The World To Home Regions, Putting The Squeeze On Phone Importers?

 

Update: According to many users on XDA, this isn't a typical SIM lock, and uses an MCC-based (Mobile Country Code) lock that will not be disabled using a standard network-based SIM unlock code. The bit doing the locking lives inside the CSC (Consumer Software Customization) package in an MCC whitelist, specifying which country codes the device can be used in based on what regional software variant it is. Modifying the CSC without doing warranty-voiding kind of stuff is also apparently very, very tricky.

 

It's entirely possible a community workaround will emerge, but for now, this basically means that even with a SIM unlock code, phones with this new locking procedure won't function with a SIM that has an MCC outside of the device's home region. This is substantially more burdensome for consumers, and is definitely going to be a pain to deal with.

 

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Images via XDA

 

Samsung Germany issued a statement on the matter, which has provided some information on the practice, though does not elaborate as to why phones are now being geographically SIM-locked. You can see that statement here, though if you don't speak German, Google Translate will be necessary. Here are the takeaways, however.

  • The new policy, at this point, applies to Galaxy S III, S II, Note, S4, S4 Mini, and Note 3 devices produced after the end of July 2013.
  • All regionally locked devices will have a sticker on the box indicating as much.
  • The regional locks cover large geographic areas (eg., a Note 3 purchased in Europe will work throughout the European Economic Area, and multiple non-EU countries / principalities, but not in, say, Africa or Asia).
  • If a phone is purchased in one region but never activated with a SIM in that region, it can be unlocked free of charge outside of that region by a "Samsung service partner" wherever it ends up.

At this point, the two zones we are aware of are the Americas and Europe. The European lock extends to the following regions (meaning, you can use your European region-locked phone in any of these countries):

  • 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

The Americas zone is less clear, but on the box it says "The North, South, and Central Americas and the Caribbean," which should mean pretty much any country encompassed by that statement (but that does not mean US carrier phones will work anywhere in the Americas - they're still carrier locked). Phones purchased in the Americas will not accept a European SIM, or an Asian SIM, and the same is going to be true in reverse for other regions - your Samsung phone is limited to service in the region in which it was purchased.

 

How much of a nuisance is this? Well, if you're tech-savvy enough, it's probably not the end of the world. Phone unlocking services have been around on the web for a long time now, and it seems Samsung's just given them a big boost in business. Most of these services simply require your IMEI and device model number, and of course a bit of your hard-earned cash, and then email you a SIM unlock code to be used when you put in an unauthorized SIM. Enter the code, and the phone is unlocked forever. Update: See update at top - this probably isn't true, it's worse.

 

For the less curious, this will mean more roaming bills to rack up - music to the ears of carriers the world over.

But why has Samsung even engaged in this practice? Is there anything to be gained? Possibly. This may be a shot at phone importers / exporters and the retailers who sell imported devices. The phone import / export business lives and dies on things like favorable currency exchange rates, regional pricing / release date variations, and localized hardware shortages. Samsung is taking in the reins on its supply line here by making it a significantly more difficult process to import phones from, say, Asia, and then sell them in Europe or the US. At the least, a retailer would have to go through every single device it sells and generate a SIM unlock code to include with the shipment or email it to the customer - tedious, to be sure. Edit: Sounds like they won't even be able to do that.

 

Anyway, Samsung makes more money when it has tight control of which devices end up on sale where and for how much, rather than letting exporters buy phones cheaply in one region only to ship them overseas to another where they're in demand and sold at a higher price. This practice also skews logistics figures, and can cause customer confusion in regard to warranties and software support.

 

We'll update this post if we learn more.

 

Source: Android Police




#2 FloatingFatMan

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 20:40

They're gonna hit some legal issues with this one.



#3 +Brando212

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 20:52

yeah they should not be allowed to do this

 

carrier locking in general should be made illegal world wide



#4 Shadrack

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 22:14



yeah they should not be allowed to do this

 

carrier locking in general should be made illegal world wide

 

I agree.  There really should be no reason to ever carrier lock a phone.  Someone buys a phone on contract they are bound by that contract unless they wait-out the contract terms or pay an ETF.  If someone wants to buy a phone on Verizon they are obligated to pay Verizon monthly for service or pay for an ETF.  If they want to pay those and take their phone to another service provider and pay them, what difference does it make to the carrier?  The carrier still gets paid either way!

 

Carriers are going to LOVE this region locking because it means folks who travel will HAVE to pay roaming instead of going the cheap route and buying a pre-pay SIM in the country they are visiting.



#5 Javik

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 22:19

A pretty dickish move but I doubt Samsung did this without some interference on the network's part. In most countries phone unlocking is a multi million pound industry, and a complicated lock like this would justify charging more to have it removed.

 

Still, it doesn't excuse Samsung for caving to the pressure, but it's hard to resist such economic pressure. Hopefully reliable workarounds will be found.



#6 +Nik L

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 22:43

I buy my mobile phones without contact - so no network locks, branding, etc.

 

One reason is so that when I travel, I can buy a SIM and use it abroad.  This stops that.  Cheers Samsung (twats)...



#7 Growled

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 01:07

Samsung doesn't have to copy Apple in everything.



#8 remixedcat

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 01:19

All I gotta say about this:

 

SMH -_-



#9 Ci7

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 04:30

ridiculous 



#10 uMadRabbit

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 04:36

yeah they should not be allowed to do this

 

carrier locking in general should be made illegal world wide

 

I don't actually think so. While this region lock is stupid the carrier lock is justified. Lets say you buy your phone on a 2 year plan like it works here, of course they have every right to lock you down to their network, they bought the phone from Samsung and until your contract is up why should they let you use another network instead? When you buy the phone out right then sure, they shouldn't do it.

 

Also

 

 

 

For the less curious, this will mean more roaming bills to rack up

 

Europe is planing to end all roaming charges in 2015 anyway. Some have already ended, Estonia-Finland, no roaming charges applied anymore, at least not by my network. 



#11 pookie62

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 04:58


Europe is planing to end all roaming charges in 2015 anyway. Some have already ended, Estonia-Finland, no roaming charges applied anymore, at least not by my network. 

 

However, this only applies for intra-Europe.  If an O2 (UK) customer goes to the US, then they will need to pay (high) roaming charges as they are roaming in the US, not part of the EU.  Conversely, an AT&T  customer in Germany will also pay (high) roaming fees since AT&T is not part of the EU. 



#12 uMadRabbit

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 04:59

However, this only applies for intra-Europe.  If an O2 (UK) customer goes to the US, then they will need to pay (high) roaming charges as they are roaming in the US, not part of the EU.  Conversely, an AT&T  customer in Germany will also pay (high) roaming fees since AT&T is not part of the EU. 

 

Well yeah, I tried not to imply that would be worldwide, sorry for the confusion.



#13 FloatingFatMan

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 05:13

I don't actually think so. While this region lock is stupid the carrier lock is justified. Lets say you buy your phone on a 2 year plan like it works here, of course they have every right to lock you down to their network, they bought the phone from Samsung and until your contract is up why should they let you use another network instead? When you buy the phone out right then sure, they shouldn't do it.

 

 

Actually, there's no sensible reason for them locking the device even when you're in a contract, for the simple reason that you're in a contract.  You'll be paying for that device no matter what, and you can't get out of it without paying the ETF, which will cover the device cost anyway.



#14 uMadRabbit

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 05:15

There is. Lets say a phone is cheaper on a network that charges a lot for using their services (texts, calls, data) but there's another network that offers it way cheaper (Pre-paid cards and so on). What stops me to go and get the phone from there on a 2 year contract and then using the other network for my calls etc? Selling just phones ain't really a networks top priority. 



#15 +virtorio

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 05:32

There is. Lets say a phone is cheaper on a network that charges a lot for using their services (texts, calls, data) but there's another network that offers it way cheaper (Pre-paid cards and so on). What stops me to go and get the phone from there on a 2 year contract and then using the other network for my calls etc? Selling just phones ain't really a networks top priority. 

Are you not familiar with how phone contracts work, because it seems like you don't?