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[UPDATE: Samsung statement] Galaxy Note 3 SIM Restrictions – the full story & how to unlock

[UPDATE: Samsung statement] Galaxy Note 3 SIM Restrictions – the full story & how to unlock

by Nirave27 September 2013

If you’ve been following this story, you’ll have seen that the Galaxy Note 3 comes with certain region-specific SIM restrictions. First we heard from Clove that the EU version would only accept an EU SIM card and after that we heard the same applied to the US region as well.


Yesterday we published the following video and now we’ve got the FULL story for you (from testing on several Note 3 devices):

Locked or Unlocked?

From our testing, we have found out that if you use a region-specific SIM FIRST, you’ll be able to use any SIM card you want after that. That means for us in the EU, we can use any EU SIM to “unlock” the device before using any other SIM card from around the world.


In our Note 3 (in the video above), we used a UAE SIM first which applied the lock to the device and meant we needed an unlock code before we could use a non-EU SIM. However, Alex from Android Central has found that once he activated his Galaxy Note 3 with a UK SIM first, he was able to use any global SIM card (he tested with T-Mobile USA).

Earlier today, we tested this with two other Galaxy Note 3 smartphones, both of which are EU specific and had been activated with a UK SIM card. Our UAE SIM worked in both of these devices with no issues.

This means:

If you use a region-specific SIM first, your handset will be unlocked for use with any region SIM card. However, if you’ve tried to activate with a non-region SIM card first, you’re stuck but fear not – hit the jump for our advice.

Locked? What now?

If your handset is locked (like ours in the video above), you have two options:

  1. Contact your local Samsung service centre as Samsung say they will be able to unlock your device for you (maybe with no charge).
  2. Purchase an unlock code for your handset.

We’ve managed to successfully unlock our Galaxy Note 3 by using a code from which we can verify has unlocked our Galaxy Note 3. The website charges $25 USD to unlock EU Note 3 devices or $15 USD to unlock US AT&T handsets (there’s no unlock code for Verizon or Sprint handsets).

We’re waiting for Samsung to publish an official statement on this but now you know exactly how to make sure your Galaxy Note 3 is open for use with any SIM around the world.

UPDATE: We’ve tested our Note 3 (which we unlocked using a code) and an EU Note 3 that’s been unlocked using an EU SIM and BOTH continue to work after a hard reset.

UPDATE 2: Samsung has now issued us a full statement on the Galaxy Note 3 SIM restrictions.

Special thanks to Luc who has been helping us test this and put us in touch with the service above. Whilst we’ve been testing, Luc has been instrumental in helping us dig into this so thanks Luc!!!

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  • BenMi

    Would you mind checking what happens after a hard reset, please?

    • tiep

      Yes, can you guys please see what happens after a hard reset and post back? Specifically test with an unlocked Note 3 (in-region SIM was first to be used, e.g. Voda), followed by hard reset, followed by out of region SIM (Dubai) BEFORE an in-region SIM. The purpose being to test if a hard reset also resets the region-locking. The scenario being if you are abroad and have to reset your phone you may not have access to a home-region SIM to release the region lock. Thanks.

  • Nirave

    So we’ve tested this now and it still works even after a hard reset. The unlock is hardware coded!

    • Roden Natnat

      Where did you purchase the code to unlock your note 3?

  • frankie

    thanks im sure this will mae a lot of nervous note 3 buyers happy!

  • derek

    Unfortunately, not sure this is quite the end of this yet … at least until we hear from Samsung Global as to terms of its self-imposed region lock. XDA is reporting, even after all your great work and that of XDA community, an instance today of a properly activated EU Note 3 in Sweden that will not then accept a Thai sim card (which is apparently working in a GS3). Samsung should confirm what they intend by their region lock restictions and any whitelists which will continue to apply post initial activation – hopefully they will do this soon, so that I can go and buy a Note 3!

    • John Mortimer

      Its all in the software so I take its a bug in the list of sims

  • manual

    From what Samsung Poland told me it seems that the phone will work with any SIM as long as you stay within your region – e.g. you can use Note 3 with Asian SIM in Europe. What stays unclear to me is if you will or will not be able to use the same SIM when you leave your region. I asked them to further clarify it.

  • Nirave
  • Eu Stilou

    There are still reports on xda-developers that inserting a sim from your region first does NOT unlock the phone to other regions, so this thing isn’t over yet.

    • Joe

      the report says that it happens if the the right area SIM can’t find its native network. (which mean that activation is make with the right SIM card but in a different area)
      It can be easily tested by more people, and then we’ll see if it’s true.

  • Joe

    does the unlock code is specific for a device? I mean, it can;t be used on another device ?

  • RBell6

    The testing performed was incomplete.

    Please report back the results of the following test:

    Test 1: UK/EU Phone residing in the UK/EU
    Insert EU 4G SIM to unlock/activate phone
    Confirm connection and access to 4G service.
    Insert Non-EU 4G SIM eg. the UAE SIM.
    Confirm connection to 4G service, or is the phone just connecting to 3G (ie. the UAE SIM is being recognised as ‘foreign’ and phone is being put into 3G roaming mode)?

    Test 2: UK/EU Phone activated in the UK
    Relocate phone to another region eg. UAE
    Insert local 4G SIM eg. UAE SIM
    Confirm connection to 4G service etc.

    Taken together the two tests confirm the phone has truly been unlocked and supports multiple regions, it is just that I’ve not been able to find a list of Samsung regional models and the differing radio standards they support.

    • Barnassey

      I agree this is the websites accepting this practice rather than calling it out for what it is. Grey market sabotage. The fact you would have to purchase a sim unlock code for a sim-UNLOCKED device is pure bullshit.

    • Sofs

      I have just posted above in this forum. I am gutted to confirm this testing is incomplete and incorrect and I fell for it! Writing from Dubai, UAE now. I purchased the phone last week from Amazon in London, bought a T-mobile sim, used the Note a couple of times and was confident it was gift-ready for my mum in Dubai. Got here today and tried the only two network provider sims in the UAE and both of them are rejected by Samsung. Gutted and gobsmacked! I’m not falling for the unlock chain app either. I have a week to turn this around somehow.

  • Onweel2

    Hi (sorry for my English)

    I buy the note 3 from studenmobile . nl it is Netherland webshop for phone

    I use the Dutch sim card (Vadafone, Tele2, T-mobile) for calling chatting internet.

    As i read a lot of news about this. I should can now just put Thai sim card in it already. But it not working it still ned a clod for unlock the sim.

    I try all the Thai Sim card i have…. AIS, True Companay, DTAC. None of it working.

    I also call to Samsung support in Netherland. Samsung Service – en Informatielijn
    Tel: 0900-SAMSUNG (0900-7267864) (10 c/m)

    I get 3 different answer.
    First one She only say just follow what the box say if you have problem with it just change the phone within 7 day.

    Second one say.. I just go to the any simlock free shop for ask for helping. But the phone will only working a about 14 Day in Thailand if i make it a simlock free and use Thai Simcard. Or if i want to use longer i have to ask from Thai provider.

    Third one. She not even know what I’m talking about. I mean she not know about this model. When i say Galaxy note 3,she not know., SN-N9005 she not know. I have to told her the serial number and many thing before she know that this model is available.

    From the all answer I get. It seem like they not aware this problem yet in Nederland. Or they not being train yet what they have to do. Or they being trail only say do what the box say if you do not want it just return and buy something else.

    I also go to Samsung Service Center (Maastricht) that in the Vadafone shop . First thing i feel is they not welcome me as I am a customer because I did not but the phone from them. What they only say just try to call to where i buy this phone. So what the point to be a Samsung Service Center if you not help costumer who buy the Samsung phone.

    Now i think i have to wait till this thing be aware in Nederland.

    If someone also from NL whom have this phone. Do you have a same problem ?

    thank you for reading

  • tiep

    Hold your horses, this is not over yet…

    As suggested by RBell6 below we need further testing.

    There have been several posts from users on the web who have stated the home region unlock does not work. These users have been blocked from using local (out of region) SIMs when abroad even though they had first “activated” their handset with an in-region SIM before travelling.

    We need a test where the phone is “unlocked” in the home region (say Europe) with a home SIM, the phone is then taken abroad to a different region (say China) and a local (Chinese) SIM tried in the phone.

  • Louise Renney

    unlock website doesn’t work, is there another one you recommend… Thank you :o)

  • Onweel2

    And this the prove that it is not working….

  • Cemran Kırkpınar

    I have the same problem.. My uncle bought me an SM-N900 Unlocked Note3 from Orlando Bestbuy Store. Neither the salesguy nor Samsung mentioned/warned specificly about a “Region-Lock” while he was buying however he told that the phone is going to be used in another country (Turkey). So what i did was simply putting my Turkcell sim card in and unexpectedly the “network sim unlock pin” screen popped-up. I was shocked and called my uncle first to confirm he bought a sim-free phone for me and yep he did. I quickly gone through the forums in XDA, found the region lock away app from the respected Dev Chainfire, installed and ran it and buzz… No result ( didnt blame Chainfire though he noted its tested and verified only it Works in EU version) I had to root to phone to ran that app (i will come to that point in the end)..

    After that i delivered the phone to Samsung Turkey for unlocking, 10 days and no result. They told that they communicated with Samsung HQ and get an unlock code (somehow), but it didnt work. They told me to try “alternative” methods!! Say WHAT?? Samsung cant handle its own issue…

    I didnt gave up on it. I tried those unlocker sites that gave some codes for your IMEI number.. After some tries, i got the SAME codes from 3 different sites ( i wonder how it happened, maybe they are using the same database of something) and not just one code, 4 different headlined codes..NETWORK, PROVIDER, SUBPROVIDER, DEFREEZE codes.. But all of them didnt work and i posted some videos, screenshots to them about the errors.

    Finally, Samsung announced this… NOW; i did not activate my phone with sim card from that region as mentioned (now i demanded a US sim-card from my friend who is coming to Turkey next week and will try that method BUT i didnt not activate the phone with that card the first time so i am hopeless for that option also), my phone is rooted and the alternative methods are over on the net(as long as i install a custom-rom which is non-sense for a brand new phone if you ask me). From my point, my phone is dead as a brick now..Hooray Samsung for your brilliant marketing movement that “protects” your valuable customers…..

  • Sofs

    This is interesting – bought a galaxy note in London for my mum in Dubai. Did my homework and bought a T-mobile SIM a week before I travelled and used the phone a couple of times. I’m here in Dubai, UAE now, it’s 2.30 in the morning and I’m trying to figure out where I went wrong – I put in an Etisalat and DU sim, the only network providers here, and both prompt samsung to say it’s an invalid SIM card and I need to punch in a pin to unlock. So disappointed. I’ll make a trip to the local digital goods store and see if they can solve it. Massively feel let down with reassuring info! Boo! Unless…I missed something?

  • Aneosia Peterson

    I purchased Samsung galaxy note 10.1 2014 edition lte. I could note get it to work with ANY USA CARRIER in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It would not accept any Sim card they put in. It came to me Unlocked. I had to Return it. Does any one know why it would not work in Phila., PA.

    • solomon

      I have blackberry mobile this mobile is send sister ti Africa but it is not done say invalid sim and it is model 9700

  • jobex

    Is there any update on this???

    This was my experience back in October:

    Bought in the UK the Note3-N9005 a couple of weeks after it came
    out. Tried to use various foreign SIMs (China, HK) – nothing worked. Followed
    the instructions about using a UK SIM first, then others. Still nothing.
    Contacted Samsung – they told me to go to one of their service centre’s in
    London. I spent a couple of hours – and went there. They had no idea what I was talking about and couldn’t help me at all. Samsung couldn’t help – in fact I believe that no one there really knows how to deal with this.

    I eventually gave up – contacted the company I bought it from (which
    specialises in unlocked phones) and returned it to them.

    I got back to Asia – where I am based these days – and did not get a new

    I have been using smartphones for over 10 years. In recent years Samsung – was my preferred brand – but they have seriously screwed up, to the point where I lost my trust in them. This phone is aimed at high end business — as someone who travels on business – how can I use this?

  • Tan Maxx

    I bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 LTE variant from Dubia! It worked like boss in India on 3G! but when I came back to Nigeria I put Etisalat 3G sim card! It worked fine till 10 days after that it stopped catching any sim card signal! Anyone knows plzz Help!! I contacted samsung they told show it dubai! I will go to dubai next year I cant wait till! WiFi works! Everything except Cellular Signal Works! It shows Emergency Calls only!! Its working on Android KitKat 4.4.2 with stock TouchWiz UI!


    IF I BUY A UNLOCKED SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE 3 N9005 FROM USA . WILL IT WORK IN INDIA… currently i am in usa .. will be here for one year but after i go back to india ?
    will it work there ?