Samsung came in for some criticism after it was revealed that the company is set to “region-lock” devices that are sold unlocked, so they can only be used with SIM cards from certain markets.
According to reports, devices sold without operator contracts in Europe and the Americas will need to be activated with a SIM card originating from the relevant region – it is unclear if this will also apply to handsets shipped into other markets. Inserting a SIM from a different region will lock the device, with a visit to a Samsung dealer necessary to unlock it.
What is not clear is if once a device has been activated, it can then be used with a SIM card from another region subsequently. This will be important for customers who travel frequently, for example, and buy an unlocked device in order to use local SIM cards when overseas in order to avoid roaming charges.
But the move will prevent middlemen buying devices in one (cheaper) market and then selling them on to a more expensive one, pocketing the difference as profit.
It will also enable it to better manage the flow of devices into specific markets, for example limiting availability of some handsets to some regions. The company often offers several variants of products, with differences such as LTE band support or dual-SIM capabilities, segmented by local demands.
Of course, the company will not be able to stop the flow of devices fully, although it will become a more difficult process.
Apparently, the SIM lock is in place on devices produced from the end of July 2013. Products involved include the Galaxy S and Note lines. However, it was also said that some existing devices have been included via a firmware update.