Most phones Samsung sells in Australia are region-locked to ensure that only network-certified models are sold here.
Samsung calls it ‘Made for Australia‘. Buying a region-locked phone is no issue for the average Aussie who buys from an authorised reseller.
In fact, its Samsung Galaxy S phones have been region-locked since 2015 and you would not have known!
As long as you activate the phone in Australia or with the carrier (if locked to a carrier – usually printed on the box) and use it for at least five minutes talk time, then everything is normal. You can use sims from any country after that.
eSIM versions are also region-locked and require activation here first.
Region-locked is not unreasonable!
Samsung is trying to protect our interests from unscrupulous grey market and parallel importers. These bring in phones from other regions that may be stolen, refurbs, second-hand, demos, seconds, or even counterfeit.
The majority of these have
- A non-genuine international round/flat pin charger
- Shrinkwrapped – no box (so you cannot check the original carton for the region or LTE bands printed on it)
- Do not support all 4G (or 5G) bands used here
- Won’t make a 000 emergency call without a SIM
- May not hand off properly from one tower to another (billing issues and dropouts)
- Won’t accept over-the-air firmware updates – ever!
- So, you end up with 3G for most use
But these grey market importers are wise to this. They activate the phone where they bought it (in Hong Kong or China, for example) before shipment to Australia. So, region lock does not affect these handsets, but they still have warranty issues and firmware update issues.
The more that I learn about different networks and countries implementations, the more I can see why Joe and Jane Average need this protection.
For example, in Australia, Telstra and Optus use band 4G LTE 28 for improved in-building and small or microcell reception as found in many rural areas. Without that, your expensive phone reverts to the standard global 3G voice-only UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) or CDMA (mainly China).
And most grey market phones will not access over-the-air firmware updates or security patches as these are region-specific.
No so-called bargain is worth the cripplingly slow data speeds you get over 3G.
Who to avoid? We name and shame!
Any Samsung grey marketer. Many will claim it is ‘Made for Australia’. Or it is an ‘international model’ and works with all major Australian networks.
They offer ‘warranty’ under obscure terms such as the Consumer Charter, but that only means the merchant, not Samsung Australia covers it. Samsung can only honour a warranty on Australian certified phones.
The main offenders are (in order of prevalence)
- Kogan/Dick Smith,
- MobileCity/ MobileCiti/Mobiciti
- Mobile Australia
- BecexTech Australia
- Amazon (marketplace sellers)
- Australian Warehouse
- Buy Mobile Australia
- eBay (marketplavce sellers)
- JC Browns Market
- OZ Mobiles
- ProdStop AU
- TobyDeals AU
- and hundreds more (many are a guise for the same companies)
And you may find low-cost computer suppliers also like eXpansys, Skycomp, Auditech and more flogging them too.
Samsung’s authorised reseller list includes
- Amazon (Samsung Australia online store only – not merchants)
- Australia Post
- BIG W
- Bing Lee
- David Jones
- Harvey Norman
- JB Hi-Fi
- Radio Rentals
- RT Edwards
- The Good Guys
GadgetGuy’s take – I like a bargain too but not at the expense of warranty and network compatibility.
I wrote this because a reader bought a so-called ‘New Australian/NZ model’ (see image below) Samsung Galaxy S10 after our review last year. He wanted a flagship at a discount.
He bought from Kogan/Dick Smith (link here). After severely chastising him (as Kogan/Dick Smith are among the rogue’s gallery of grey/parallel importers) we found
- It was supposed to be new, but the call counter said otherwise
- Was shrinkwrapped (no carton)
- No regulatory C-Tick
- Had a flat two-pin charger
- Did not support band 28
- Model G9730/DS (for China)
- It would not do an over-the-air firmware update (as it was not in China)
It was supposed to be SM-G973F/DS (S10 8/128GB). The F is Australia, and /DS is dual sim unlocked. We always note the genuine model number in our reviews.
Kogan staff flatly and rudely told him that there are no returns because “He made an incorrect purchase. He did not specify that it had to be a particular model number.” Oh well – he is off to Fair Trading to join the Kogan complaints queue!
Caveat Emptor! There is a good reason for region-locked
Have a read on the carefully wordsmithed Kogan Direct Import page. Would you buy a used phone from this man?