Galaxy Note 8 region locking, explained
If you're picking up a shiny new, unlocked Samsung Galaxy Note 8 in Europe today, you'll notice a sticker sealing the box. We've been here before with countless other Samsung flagships, and once again, the Note 8, as sold unlocked in Europe, is region-locked out of the box.
But it's only a temporary situation — and it's not as huge a deal as you might think.
The sticker on the Euro Galaxy Note 8 box spells out exactly which countries' SIM cards can be used to activate the phone — essentially any EU and EEA countries, and a handful of other territories: Switzerland, Macedonia, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino, Serbia and Vatican City.
To activate your unlocked Galaxy Note 8 for use with SIMs outside these countries, you'll need to accumulate five minutes worth of phone calls on the phone with a "European" SIM — any SIM from the countries above. It doesn't have to be a single phone call, just five minutes total. And once you've "activated" the phone, it stays that way even after a factory reset.
The sticker on the dual-SIM Note 8 doesn't specify which SIM slot the calls need to be made on, sugesting the five minute total apples across both slots for dual-SIM folks. (By the same token, the SIM lock should also apply to both slots.)
So in the grand scheme of things, it's not a massive inconvenience for regular Note 8 buyers, who'll almost certainly hit the five minute mark before they're inclined to travel anywhere outside Europe. The real intention here is to scupper gray importers looking to sell European Note 8s further afield. Samsung, like any large multinational electronics manufacturer, wants phones to be sold where they're covered by warranties, and where it can easily offer localized customer support.
Sure, individual importers can always open and activate region-locked Note 8s, but it's an additional barrier to entry which prevents mass distribution of Samsung phones outside of their intended area.
And for anyone picking up a Note 8 and then immediately hopping on a plane, just be sure to hit that five-minute mark before you go.
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Alex was with Android Central for over a decade, producing written and video content for the site, and served as global Executive Editor from 2016 to 2022.